TOM LEONARD gives the lowdown on Succession

Hiring out private jets and castles, striking similarities to a real-life family and trying to throw the paparazzi off the scent of THAT dramatic twist: TOM LEONARD gives the lowdown on Succession

Since the first episode of HBO’s Succession in 2018 viewers have been unable to take their eyes off the in-fighting Roy family.

The saga follows the progeny of domineering Logan Roy as they vie to take over from the ageing multi-millionaire as head of his media empire.

Whether it’s his children, a son-in-law or long-time colleagues, the show takes pleasure in showing the depths people will plunge to in order to get their hands on the prize.

This week’s episode drew universal acclaim as the show, which is on its fourth and final season, took its most dramatic twist yet when (spoiler alert!) Logan died suddenly, throwing the race to succeed him wide open.

Still not sure what’s going on? Read our explainer below for the full lowdown on one of TV’s most talked about shows.

Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy, Sarah Snook as Siobhan ‘Shiv’ Roy, Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy in Succession


Billed as a ‘satirical black comedy drama’ about the Roy family, owners of New York-based media conglomerate Waystar Royco, Succession is in its fourth and final season.

The latest episode on U.S. channel HBO on Sunday night drew a record audience of 2.5 million (just 582,000 watched the first episode in 2018).

The ‘first-night audience’ is usually a fraction of the total number of viewers who eventually watch the show. (Figures are not yet available for Sky Atlantic, which broadcast the episode on Monday evening.)

Succession has garnered 13 Emmy awards (and been nominated 48 times). It’s had five Bafta nominations, winning Best International Series in 2019; and British star Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Logan’s scheming son-in-law Tom Wambsgans, won the Best Supporting Actor award in 2019.

Even its title music, a memorable dissonant melody, got a Grammy nomination.


The show has a very British stamp and many of its producers, writers, directors and leading actors (including Dundee-born Brian Cox as Logan Roy and former Spooks star Macfadyen) are from the UK. Its creator Jesse Armstrong, 52, who’s from Shropshire, cut his comedy-writing teeth on Channel 4 sketch shows Smack The Pony and Peep Show, and later worked on The Thick Of It and Veep.


Dundee-born Brian Cox as Logan Roy 

Succession is believed to be one of the most expensive TV shows ever made, with the first two series estimated to have cost $90 million.

When you’re as rich as the Roys, locations are expensive, along with the private jets and helicopters that the family use like buses. An upstate New York mansion and a house in billionaires’ playground The Hamptons each cost around £100,000-a-week to rent.

A Roy family wedding in Season 1 took place at £5,400-a-night Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire; while Villa Centinale, a 17th-century, £80,000-per-week Tuscan estate was used for the nuptials of Logan’s ex-wife in Season 3.

Vacant offices in Manhattan’s towering One World Trade Center doubled up as Waystar Royco’s HQ.

‘Wealth consultants’ were employed to advise cast and crew on how the mega-rich live — including how to get convincingly out of a helicopter — and on the ‘stealth wealth’ wardrobe of designer clothes and accessories.


The show’s creators, no doubt encouraged by their lawyers, have downplayed the connection to any real people, but similarities between the Roy family and the Rupert Murdoch clan are glaring.

They include the older child from an earlier marriage who plays no role in the family business; and the three younger siblings — two boys and a girl — who continually jockey for position.

There are obvious similarities between Roy’s conservative-leaning broadcaster ATN and Murdoch’s Fox News.

There’s even a sneaky reference in the opening credits to the claim Murdoch gave away his daughter’s Shetland pony as a readers’ prize in one of his UK tabloids.

Succession creator Jesse Armstrong once wrote a screenplay entitled ‘Murdoch’ that imagined his family gathering for his 78th birthday.

Brian Cox insists he ‘didn’t channel anybody really’ when playing Logan Roy.


Succession Season Two: On the Roys’ grand Mediterranean yacht, Roman shares his hesitations about a new source of financing

If some of the actors seem perfectly cast, that wasn’t the intention. Kieran Culkin, younger brother of Home Alone star Macaulay, is a brilliant fit for foul-mouthed youngest son Roman. But he was originally asked to audition for Roman’s sweet but blundering cousin, Greg.

Actor Jeremy Strong, who auditioned to play Roman, ended up as troubled older brother Kendall Roy.


Succession relies heavily on improvisation. ‘We improv in probably every scene to some capacity,’ according to Nicholas Braun who plays cousin Greg.

The series makers also withheld some storylines from the cast. When Kendall performed a truly awful rap tribute to his father, the cast were filmed watching it in horrified silence for the first time.


According to one of its British team members, Georgia Pritchett, Succession’s writers were told a year ago that Logan Roy was going to die suddenly.

Brian Cox says he tried to throw outsiders off the scent by turning up to the filming of Logan Roy’s funeral. If he hadn’t, he said, photographers staking out the location would have noticed his absence and drawn the conclusion the ceremony was for him.


Connor Roy 

The only child from Logan’s first marriage (right). He feels his father rejected him, and has little to do with the family firm, instead indulging delusions of grandeur by running for U.S. President.

Odds of succession: About as high as his winning the White House. Not even an outsider.

Connor Roy (played by Alan Ruck) in HBO’s Succession

Roman Roy

He’s the foul-mouthed, family court jester who felt his father didn’t take him seriously.

Odds of succession: 7/1

Clever, devious but surely too cynical, unfocused and sexually incontinent for the top job.

Kendall Roy

Intense eldest of the three children from Logan’s second marriage. He was heir apparent but battled drugs abuse, had a traumatic marriage and messed up deals before denouncing his father over a scandal in their cruise business. He then plotted to bring him down.

Odds of succession: 4/1

Pretty good on paper, but he’s fragile so it’s uncertain how he will cope with the loss of the key figure in his life.

Siobhan ‘shiv’ Roy

Logan’s only daughter and periodically the apple of his eye. ‘You’re the one,’ he once told her. In terms of Machiavellian guile, she leaves her siblings standing.

Odds of succession: 6/1

Logan had doubts. Perhaps too calculating for her own good.

Gerri Kellman

WayStar Royco’s chief lawyer (right) who is also Shiv’s godmother and Roman’s sexual obsession. Under-stated corporate eminence grise.

Odds of succession: 10/1

Would depend on Waystar Royco’s board and shareholders deciding that a family succession is a prospect too awful to contemplate.

J.Smith-Cameron as Gerri Kellman in Succession Series 4

Greg Hirsch

Logan Roy’s sweet-natured but hapless great-nephew. The only genuinely decent person in the Roy family.

Odds of succession: 50/1 outsider 

Worth rooting for just to see the look on his cousins’ faces.

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