Behind-the-Scenes Facts About HBO’s Succession That’ll Give You a Whole New Perspective

Emma Smith | Sun May 14 2023

HBOs Succession is the hit family drama that everyone’s talking about. The unpredictable storylines, stand-out performances, and sneak peek into the realities of a family empire are all too good to miss. But there’s a whole truckload that goes on behind the scenes that shows the hit TV drama in a whole new light.

Image: Twitter / WAYSTIAR

From writing room secrets to actor quirks, take a look at all the interesting things you probably didn’t know about the show. Off set, there are just as many intriguing details revealing what it really takes to create such a compelling and impactful series. You may find that the actors and the storylines mirror reality more than you realized.

The Roy Family Is Inspired By Real Families and Stories

Screenwriter Jesse Armstrong is responsible for the script, and he has disclosed what his biggest inspiration is when it comes to writing about the Roy family. Armstrong has stated that the major media-owning families like the Murdochs are in mind, along with some other magnate families. “A lot of research went into Succession,” Armstrong declared.

Image: Fast Company

He continued: “There’s the writing room, which everyone informs with their stories and backgrounds. We thought of famous media families like the Hearsts, to modern-day Redstone, John Malone, Robert Fitz of Comcast, Murdoch, and Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who founded Breitbart. Lots of real-life moguls. We collected a myriad of these kinds of relationships that we knew about.”

Anchorman’s Will Ferrell Produced the Show With Long-Time Partner Adam McKay

Actor Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have been producing partners for a number of projects, such as The Big Short, Step Brothers and Anchorman. They teamed up once again for Succession but in April 2023, McKay revealed that the family drama would be the last project they do together, after a falling out with Ferrell over casting decisions.

Image: Far Out Magazine

McKay explained to Vanity Fair that he had cast actor John C. Reilly in Winning Time for a role that Ferrell was meant to play. And he did it without telling him: “I fucked up on how I handled that. It’s the old thing of keep your side of the street clean. I should have just done everything by the book. In my head, I was like, ‘We’ll let all this blow over.”

But Adam McKay Thinks Will Ferrell Will Never Talk To Him Again

But McKay underestimated how Ferrell would react. “Six months to a year, we’ll sit down, we’ll laugh about it and go, It’s all business junk, who gives a shit? We worked together for 25 years. Are we really going to let this go away?’ [Ferrell] took it as a way deeper hurt than I ever imagined, and I tried to reach out to him, and I reminded him of some slights that were thrown my way that were never apologized for.”

Image: Society of Camera Operators

Unfortunately, the old friends weren’t able to move past it after all. McKay added, “I said, ‘Well, I mean, we’re splitting up the company,’ And he basically was like, ‘Yeah, we are,’ and basically was like, ‘Have a good life.’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck, Ferrell’s never going to talk to me again.’ So it ended not well.”

The Writer and Executive Producer Come From a Comedic Background

It isn’t all drama in Succession, however. Tons of funny moments provide the audience with a much-needed sense of comic relief, and it’s all thanks to the fact that Jesse Armstrong has a background in comedy writing. He’s actually the scriptwriter behind the cult British sitcom Peep Show alongside British writer Sam Bain.

Image: Facebook / No Film School

And much like Peep Show, Succession is full of darkly humorous moments. Frank Rich is also the executive producer and he has his own comedic credits. He was the executive producer on HBO’s political satire comedy series Veep. It’s no surprise then that viewing Succession can feel awfully reminiscent of watching The Office.

A Lot of Improvising Takes Place on the Show

With so many clever details to the show, it may be surprising to learn that much of the dialogue is improvised by the actors. This just goes to show how important it is that the right people are cast for the role. “They’re all brilliant, and also they’re all natural stand-up improvisers,” Jeremy Strong told Thrillist about his on-screen family actors.

Image: Instagram / Arian Moayed

Strong continued: “They all really know how to follow a scene in an interesting direction,” adding, “Having them all around a dinner table, and having a couple cameras running, and saying, ‘Do the script but then do some bits around it’ — I love that way of shooting. It’s a little bit more of a comedic, loose way of shooting, but I think it works really well for a drama like this, as well.”

The Family Had To Be In the Media Business

Adam McKay and Will Ferrell may have recently fallen out, but it’s a good thing they lasted long enough to see Succession through. McKay explained in an interview that he was certain that if they were going to portray the inner drama of an extremely wealthy family, they had to be a family that profited off of the media industry.

Image: Instagram / Arian Moayed

Waystar Royco just wouldn’t be the same if the family business was anything else, and McKay recognized that. Speaking to Variety, he stated, “Media families were the most interesting and the most dramatic,” so he knew that exploring a family dynamic within the confines of a journalism empire would give them plenty of room to play.

The Whole Series Is FIlmed In the Heart of New York City

Something that Succession managed to achieve that many other productions struggle to is that they were able to film in the heart of New York City, where most of the show narratively takes place. It wasn’t easy for them to get permission, however, but the show makers were adamant that they needed it to feel authentic.

Image: Town & Country Magazine

Logan’s infamous luxury apartment is located on Billionaries’ Row (in the show, we’re shown that Logan’s apartment is situated on Fifth Avenue.) Apparently, the creators said that they wanted the apartment to have an exclusive view of Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to add to the exclusive and privileged air of the Roy’s.

Logan’s Manhattan Duplex Is Fake and Filmed on a Set

While they did film some all-important exterior shots in New York, the apartment interior was often times completely fake. We’re shown aspects of the Billionaires’ Row duplex, such as marble floorings and spiral staircases, but those aren’t actually features of the real luxury apartment in New York – they were recreated on a set elsewhere.

Image: Pinterest / autidanir

The set is located in Silvercup Studios down in Long Island, making it far more affordable than renting the apartment on Fifth Avenue. The production designer, Stephen Carter, explained that when it came to furnishing the interior, he looked for inspiration from the billionaire Seagram family members Edgar Bronfman Sr and Charles Bronfman.

The Network Behind Succession Had Themself a Real-Life Merging

The merging of Waystar Royco with other companies is a significant plot in Succession throughout the seasons. Strangely enough, the actual network that’s responsible for the show, HBO, went through a merger after the first season of the show was released. And similarly to the show, this merger was fairly controversial.

Image: Instagram / Arian Moayed

At the time, HBO’s parent company was Time Warner, and they were being taken over by AT&T. In 2016, AT&T released a statement that said this merge will give “New company with complementary strengths to lead the next wave of innovation in converging media and communications industry.” But lots of people weren’t convinced.

They Sourced Props From Several High-End Antiques Stores

If you’re wondering where the show makers sourced their Roy family props, you may or may not be surprised to learn that most of them were not brand new. Much of the props were taken from antique stores in Connecticut, ensuring that the sets had that old-money feel. But, just because the props were second-hand doesn’t mean that they were cheap.

Image: Instagram / Arian Moayed

George DeTitta Jr., the set decorator, confirmed where he sourced his expensive-looking props. He revealed that the antiques hailed from places like “Newel Props (an offshoot of Newel Antiques and the go-to spot for set decorators) was used for establishment pieces along with 1stdibs, John Street Antiques, and The Antique and Artisan Gallery in Stamford, Connecticut, as well as antique shops in Westport, Connecticut.”

The Waystar Royco Offices Are In the One World Trade Center… Sort of

Just like with the residential accommodation on the show, the corporate spaces needed to be representative of Waystar Royco’s leading position in the industry. That meant that they needed to be located in some prime location, and that’s exactly where they are. At least for the purposes of the story.

Image: Twitter / gerrialert

Waystar Royco is situated in the One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the United States that is located in downtown Manhattan. Some shots are captured from inside the tower, mainly for the purpose of providing the audience with some amazing views of the city. But many of the scenes with actors are actually shot in a studio.

There a Good Reason Why Roman Roy Looks So Familiar

There are a couple of good reasons why Kieran Culkin, the actor who plays Roman Roy, might look familiar to you. For one, he’s the younger brother of another very famous actor, Macaulay Culkin, the star of the Home Alone movie franchise and Ritchie Rich. The brothers certainly are more than a few of the same facial features.

Image: Tumblr / gerrikillallmen

On top of that, Kieran has been acting for a while. At 40 years of age, he’s appeared in a number of productions and has been doing so ever since he was six years old. You may recognize him from movies like Father of the Bride, or She’s All That or from TV shows like Fargo or Gaming Wall Street.

Brian Cox Has Never Watched Back His Performances of Logan Roy

While audiences and critics alike hailed the performance of Scottish actor Brian Cox as Logan Roy, the family patriarch and media company magnate, he himself admitted that he doesn’t allow himself to watch his performances back. That doesn’t just go for Succession, however, but it also includes any other production he has been involved in.

Image: HBO

From The Bourne trilogy to Churchill, Cox simply can’t bring himself to look back upon his applauded work. In 2016 he admitted that he had watched some performances in the past, he revealed: “I did when I was younger. When you get older, it becomes depressing because you see yourself gradually aging on screen. I don’t think I’ll watch anymore.”

Kieran Culkin Almost Played the Part of a Different Character

It can be hard to believe, considering how perfectly he plays the part, but actor Kieran Culkin wasn’t actually meant to play the part of Roman Roy at first. Before all the stars had been cast, the actor had actually gone in for the part of Greg until he realized that Roman was much more relatable to him.

Image: Instagram / Nicholas Braun

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Culkin admitted: “I didn’t feel like I clicked with [Greg], but I liked the script enough to continue reading… Roman walks in the room and says, ‘Hey, hey, motherfuckers!’ There was something that clicked with me and this character that’s something I still don’t understand, and probably don’t want to understand, considering the kind of guy he is.”

Sarah Snook Didn’t Break a Sweat About AUditioning For the Role of Shiv

Perhaps it comes as no surprise considering how headstrong the character of Shiv Roy is, but actress Sarah Snook wasn’t nervous about auditioning for the show back in 2017. It wasn’t because she was so confident that she would get the role; rather, she assumed that she wouldn’t be picked for the part. If there’s nothing to lose, what’s there to be nervous about?

Image: Instagram / Nicholas Braun

At least, that’s what Sarah Snook was thinking at. thetime. She gave an interview to GQ magazine in which she stated, “I really just was like, ‘Eh, this is out of my league. I’ll just come and do it and get out of here. Free trip to L.A. for a weekend and see my friends,’ ” In the end of course, she was the perfect choice for the part of Shiv Roy, and we can’t imagine anyone else playing that part.

Alan Ruck Almost Didn’t Get On the Show Due To a Timing Mismatch

While Sarah Snook wasn’t worried about her audition for Succession, the actor who plays her on-screen brother has his own funny story. Actor Alan Ruck, who plays the part of eldest brother Connor Roy, almost missed his audition for the HBO show altogether. To be fair to him, he had a very good reason for almost missing out.

Image: Pinterest / vilovestv

Speaking to Awards Daily, Ruck revealed that “We took our boy to the music class. It’s one of those classes where you leave your phone outside. And when I got out, there were seven messages that said, ‘Just go to Adam Mckay’s house.’ I drove over there and told him I didn’t even know the material.” Luckily, he got the part regardless.

Adam McKay Has Worked With Jeremy Strong Previously

When it comes to the part of Kendall Roy, the actor who plays the part, Jeremy Strong, already had a working relationship with producer Adam McKay. They had a history that stretched back to the movie The Big Short, according to Strong. In an interview with GQ Magazine, he explained how he came to join the cast of Succession as one of the most important characters.

Image: Reddit / SuccessionTV

Strong stated: “I went to lunch at his house, and he said that he had this script that was kind of loosely about the Murdochs—sort of a King Lear–meets-the-media-industrial-complex kind of thing. It sounded really compelling to me, and I read the script and fell in love with it.” Now, we can’t imagine the role of Kendall being played by anyone else.

Hiam Abbass’ Role As Marcia Roy Is Her Biggest One Yet

As the wife of patriarch Logan Roy, Lebanese-born Marcia Roy has a significant part to play. Shockingly, however, the actress who plays her doesn’t come from a mainstream acting background. In fact, Hiam Abbass’ role as Marcia is her first major television role, having starred in smaller productions or worked behind the camera as a director.

Image: Television Academy

Abbass studied photography in her younger years, explaining in an interview: “Photography was a very important parenthesis in my life. It allowed me to refuse to go towards something scientific as my parents wanted because I understood that my place was more in the art world. But being in a village where the opportunities are really small and where the artistic horizon is not really open to a girl like me, when I heard that there was a photo school, I jumped on it because I thought it might get me somewhere.”

Nicholas Braun Has the Height of Some of the World’s Top Athletes

Greg Hirsch is responsible for providing much of the comedic relief on the show with his naive approach and goofy demeanor. For us viewers, he seems fairly tall compared to the other characters, but you may not have realized just how tall the actor really is. The actor, Nicholas Braun, actually stands six feet and seven inches tall!

Image: Instagram / Arian Moayed

That’s the height of some of the world’s top athletes, including Deontay Wilder, Kawhi Leonard, Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman. Despite his impressive stature, the actor admitted that it can be hard finding acting jobs some of the time. But in the case of Greg Hirsch, it’s actually a merit as his great height build a “looming energy.”

Jeremy Strong Uses His Own Life Experiences To Inform His Acting

Jeremy Strong has admitted that he draws on many of his own life experiences to effectively play the part of Kendall Roy. Allegedly, he has drawn upon his own experiences of feeling different from everyone else and channeled it into his performance. Strong, who hails from Boston, did indeed go to a private school in his youth, just like his character.

Image: The Hollywood Reporter

In an interview with The Hollywood Report before the release of season four, Strong explained that he felt “I’ve gotten to play one of the great modern antiheroes. But in an arc, you can only have so much catharsis and so much tragedy… Although, just when I thought I couldn’t go any lower, enter season four.”

Shiv and Tom’s Lavish Wedding Happened In a Real-Life Castle

If you travel back in time to Shiv and Tom’s wedding at the end of season one, you’ll remember that the Roy’s were taken out of New York City for the elaborate social event. In reality, the whole cast and TV crew were flown across the Atlantic Ocean to Eastnor Castle in England to film the occasion. That’s right; the wedding took place in an actual English castle.

Image: Pinterest / arianadanie18

Not only that, but Eastnor Castle isn’t as exclusive as the name would suggest. The castle is open to the public and available for visits! Built during the 17th century, the Georgian Castle is sat in a 5000-acre estate in a place distinguished as an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.” What could be a more fitting location for the wedding of Logan Roy’s only daughter?

The First Ever Read-Through Took Place on Election Day In 2016

The show is careful about not naming certain presidents of the United States outright. But that being said, the first-ever read-through of the script with all the cast members took place on Election Day in 2016! It made for the perfect backdrop and politically-charged climate to kick off the family drama.

Image: Instagram / Casey Campbell

According to writer Jesse Armstrong, there was something about gathering together for the first read-through on Election Day that made Succession and the inheritance of power feel all the more appropriate. After all, US politics does has a very strong presence in the show at certain times.

Sarah Snook Almost Turn Down the Role As She Was the Only Woman In the Main Cast

Unbelievably, Sarah Snook nearly didn’t play the role of Shiv Roy. She was chosen to play the part by the showrunners, but something made her almost turn it down despite the opportunity. Snook was concerned that as the only woman on the show, her part to play would be relatively small and insignificant.

Image: Twitter / WAYSTIAR

“There’s so much sexism and so much misogyny towards you. Women ‘. ” Shiv explained in an interview, adding, “When I was first offered the role, I said no. If the world is interested in a bunch of white men talking business, and if I’m the only woman in it, then I’d probably back off and be kind of supportive.”

Actor Matthew Macfadyen Who Plays Tom Is Actually British

English actor Matthew Macfadyen is the person portraying Tom on the show. We never would have guessed it, but this role marks the first time he’s ever played the part of an American – a midwestern American, to be exact. Outside of his role in Succession, he is known for playing the part of Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, which he starred in opposite Kiera Knightley.

Image: Instagram / Arian Moayed

Snook has revealed her true feelings towards the actor, telling The New York Times that “I don’t know how he’s managed to make such an obsequious and bullying character likable, but he has.” She continued: “He’s one of those actors who’s got such love and empathy and compassion and curiosity for the world that he can really fashion a character into anything he wants.”