‘Succession’: Jesse Armstrong on the Season Finale’s Stunning Twist

‘Succession’: Jesse Armstrong on the Season Finale’s Stunning Twist

You know, me and Jeremy talk a lot, and at a certain point, yeah, he did. Because, you know, his preparation for his performance and his engagement with the character is really extraordinarily deep. It didn’t feel like a dereliction of duty not to lay it all out from the very beginning, but at a certain point it did feel like he should know where he was going. So yeah, we discussed that stuff before the episode was written.

When did he learn he was going to get to rap?

Right before the read-through! [Laughs.] No, I actually can’t remember when. But we clearly discussed how it should work, and I think we both had the same feeling, that it might be that other people found it ludicrous, but that Kendall himself shouldn’t. Therefore the lyrics, the music, the stuff around it should be as good as someone like him should be able to achieve. Which is pretty decent!

Did it surprise you how much the rap took off on social media? Do you pay attention to any of that?

A lot of that really isn’t useful to have in your head. But there’s always a few bits in each season where we think, “Well, tonally, I think we got it right.” I remember having the rocket explode in the first season’s finale. Initially I wanted to do it on big screens at Shiv’s wedding, and then one of our writers, Jon Brown, came into the writers’ room having been away for a few days, and was like: “You’ve all gone completely crazy. It’s going to ruin the show.” [Laughs.] We ended up having it on Roman’s phone, which was rather a better way.

Similarly, I remember suggesting the rap and there being a certain, like, “Yeah, right … This could be the end of the show that we’ve all worked on so hard.” But if you get those things right, they have that kind of queasy sense we know so well from the world right now. That “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?” feeling.

What inspired the structure of the show, where you’re in a different location nearly every episode?

Maybe it comes a bit from the fact that most of my career in TV has been in situation comedy. I love the breadth and space you get to explore character in so-called serialized TV, the novelistic element of maybe being able to find out who people are. But I also very much like the sitcom discipline of having a self-contained episode that you could conceivably, I hope, be able to enjoy in and of itself. My desire is to have a completeness to each episode.

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