[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Succession, Season 3, Episode 7, “Too Much Birthday.”]
While he may have been searching for a party high, brother Roman (Kieran Culkin) was busy trying to connect with GoJo’s main man Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård). Wooing him for Waystar, Roman went to extreme lengths to land the potential business associate at the shindig and pushed some buttons along the way, particularly big brother Kendall’s after he pushed the birthday boy to the ground.
Below, Culkin weighs in on Roman’s motivations, actions, what it was like welcoming Skarsgård to the team, and his thoughts on the Roman-Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) dynamic.
Roman lashes out at Kendall in this episode by pushing him to the floor. Do you think he has any compassion for his siblings or is it all a game of winning over Logan (Brian Cox) to Roman?
Kieran Culkin: Yeah, compassion, feelings, love even… he would never say that. But that’s there [for his] siblings. I think it’s tough for him to navigate because there’s family, and then there’s the business, which is also family. He wants to destroy and eviscerate them and win, but is also like, “Hi, happy birthday. I love you.” I think that’s still there for him. I don’t think that ever leaves. It gets a little more complicated with Kendall sometimes, especially when it comes to him and dad, because I think there’s just a built-in loyalty to dad with Roman. So the love is there. He doesn’t have as much access to it.
When you read a script with a party like Kendall’s, does it feel like one big giant playground for you?
It’s like, how on earth are they going to build the set? That script came in really late. We were going to start shooting it in a couple of days when we got the script. So a lot was put on our set designer. I don’t know how they threw it together so fast. But then [I couldn’t] wait to see it. You kind of forget that day [when you’re] getting to set, trying to figure out your costume and make adjustments and [then you] look up and go, “Oh, my God, they built it. This very strange thing that’s all about Kendall. All about himself.” It made it a lot easier to just look up and be like, “Oh, I am actually walking out of my mother’s vagina.” Nuts.
Roman is really insistent with Lukas about his involvement with Waystar. Is that part of Roman trying to prove himself to Logan?
Yeah, because he feels that people view him unfairly, including his dad, Frank (Peter Friedman), Karl (David Rasche), or even Gerri who sort of see him as a bit of a buffoon. “Of course, he blew the one mission we gave him. The one project we gave him, he blew it up.” But I don’t think he sees himself that way and probably considers himself a bit of a victim of circumstance. He is coming into his own and having a little more competence to make the choices that he’s making and follow through with it.
It’s a lot less about trying to prove something to dad at least. Maybe it is, but it’s actually more about coming into his own of what he actually wants. I think when it comes to pitching, it’s coming from a real place. But landing the Matsson thing is great, because I know that’s something that dad wants. And I go, “I can do that. Yeah. Let me in the room. I can do it.” And it turns out I’m actually pretty good at it, I think, is the feeling.
What was it like working with Alexander Skarsgård? Can you tease what’s to come with his character Lukas?
He is fantastic to work with. I would always imagine it’s kind of hard to jump into a show like this in the third season, where everybody kind of is already doing it. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and we work at a very fast pace, in a very specific kind of way, for someone to just come in and just hit the ground running, he just fit.
We did one very quick rehearsal, which was fun. And then we started shooting the scene, which was just us in the bathroom. We tried all sorts of different things. It was fun. And then our director, Lorene [Scafaria], after a couple of takes, came up and said, “How long have you guys known each other?” That first rehearsal is when I met him. And she’s like, “That’s crazy,” because it just seemed to really work right away, which you don’t get all that often. So it was like, “okay, that was fun. I hope there’s more of him in these next episodes.” And there is more of him in eight and nine, which I’m happy about.
Roman’s torn up about his mother’s impending wedding. Is there any correlation between that and his draw to Gerri? Should fans be reading into that? There’s been some hints of jealousy towards Gerri over her dating life in Season 3 as well.
In terms of the jealousy thing, it’s funny. I don’t know if it’s jealousy, just the uncomfortable feeling that mom’s getting remarried. On top of that then, you can think to connect that to the jealousy that Roman feels about Gerri going on a date. Maybe that’s similar, but I don’t know. Definitely, with Gerri, it’s jealousy. It’s, “don’t go out with that guy, go out with me.” And with mom, it’s more of Roman being uncomfortable.
Succession, Season 3, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO