(Editor’s note: The following story contains spoilers for the series finale of “Succession”.)
“Succession” showrunner Jesse Armstrong may not have been concerned about ending the Emmy-winning series, but he was “terrified” by lead actor Jeremy Strong’s dedication to method for the series finale.
Armstrong revealed during NPR’s “Fresh Air.” the fact that Strong is nearly leaping into the Hudson River for the film’s final scene — in a shot that didn’t make it into the episode — caused alarm on set.
“I was terrified. I was terrified that he might fall and hurt himself,” Armstrong said of an impromptu moment from Strong in which he stood on the railing and looked down into the water. “It didn’t look like he was going to jump in. But once he jumps over that barrier, when you’re filming, there’s usually a lot of health and safety assessments done, and that wasn’t our plan that day.”
Strong detailed how co-star Colin (Scott Nicholson) ran over him and “stopped” him from jumping into the water. Armstrong also addressed production logistics in case Strong’s suicidal fate for Kendall would be filmed.
“If we’d even thought about that happening, we’d have had boats and divers and all kinds of safety measures, which we didn’t have,” Armstrong clarified. “So my first thought was about his physical safety as a human being, not about the character at all. This is what I heard that day. Good God, above.
However, Armstrong added that Kendall would not attempt to kill herself within the context of the series.
“For me, no,” Armstrong said. “I think for me, Kendall, ultimately, one of the things he lacks is even the freedom to determine his own course in life. The name—and the wealth that surrounds it—to many of us obviously seems extraordinarily fortunate, and he is. But I think there’s a certain kind of tragedy in a real name, in a huge business name, in being a Disney or a Windsor or any of those kinds of names, and he can never, ever escape that. And one of the ways he can’t escape is by having a bubble of protection around him… Even if he’s contemplating it, I don’t think that could ever happen to him. Yet, to me, that’s not how the story goes for this type of person.
Armstrong also addressed the “cold” ending between Shiv (Sarah Snook) and estranged husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who was just named CEO of Waystar Royco. Tom offers his hand to Shiv in the backseat of a car as they travel into the unknown under GoJo’s takeover.
“It was a moment of equality for me, which had never happened before in that relationship,” said Armstrong. “Tom has always been submissive. He now he has this status, but his status of him is contingent. That’s pretty much what the whole episode was all about. The state of Shiv is like all children are: safe. He is financially secure. He has billions of dollars. He has a wealth that could never diminish, no matter what happens to the world. And he’s got a name too, and it’s going to kind of haunt her and make him interesting, to some extent, for the rest of his life, and that can’t be taken away from her. While Tom’s position could be taken away with a snap of the fingers.
He added: “So for me there’s a really terrifying equality to that, a remarkably dry hand in hand. It’s not even human contact. It’s kind of like two pieces of china or something. So that’s what it is for me. Not what it would be for everyone. And you certainly could see the situation as a clever ploy for Shiv to stay in the game. Maybe that thought will come to her tomorrow or the day after. But for me, the show is over at this point and the story is over and that’s where I think they end.