Red Carpet Premiere
The Succession Cast Defines Ambition
By Bradford William Davis
The show’s cast — Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, Natalie Gold and more — on making the first season, and how to pursue success.
What’s the key to achieving greatness? “You need to understand the ‘why’ in life,” said actor Rob Yang.
Yang was speaking to HBO at the premiere of Succession, an ensemble drama that follows an ultra-wealthy New York family chasing power at any cost. The cast and crew celebrated the series at the Time Warner Center in New York, where actors Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Alan Ruck, Nicholas Braun, Natalie Gold, J. Smith-Cameron and Yang discussed the show’s portrayal of ambition and gave advice on pursuing excellence without ruining your life.
HBO: What does ambition mean to you?
Natalie Gold (“Rava Roy”): Knowing what you want and finding your way to get there. Hopefully without knocking people over on the way.
J. Smith-Cameron (“Gerri”): For me, there are all kinds of applications for ambition. There's healthy ambition, like a student trying to write a good term paper. But in Succession, ambition is a hunger that can never be achieved, almost like a Greek tragedy. In this story, ambition is the greatest flaw of its characters
Rob Yang (“Lawrence”): Ambition can be a healthy thing if it gets you out of bed and makes you want to do things. It becomes unhealthy if it becomes your identity. For me, ambition is a power that can be used for good or evil.
HBO: How do you achieve success without destroying yourself?
Brian Cox (“Logan Roy”): Follow your bliss, do what does you good, and tell the truth. Don't get too distracted. A lot of us get distracted and that takes us off course.
Alan Ruck (“Connor Roy”): Do whatever makes your heart sing, because the rest of it is bullshit. You need to do something that makes you feel more complete.
Nicholas Braun (“Greg Hirsch”): Make whatever you pursue something authentic to yourself. Try and be successful in ways that feel personal and authentic.
Rob Yang: One of the greatest gifts you can have is knowing the “why” in life. A lot of people chase the things in front of them without answering that question. Think about what you want to do and contribute in life.
Natalie Gold: Surround yourself with loving people. My husband and daughter keep me sane.
HBO: What’s been the best part of working on Succession?
Brian Cox: It's a morality tale. It's good to do something that really reflects the now. And I love our ensemble cast.
Kieran Culkin (“Roman Roy”): I love the freedom of playing a character like Roman that’s a total a**hole and doesn’t care about it! Roman says and does whatever he wants. In real life you're not supposed to do it. You don't make friends that way. It's not nice. In fact, it’s shitty. When I’m Roman, I get the freedom of making fun of someone and improvising how. I can just rail into someone for anything I feel like and its not me, it's Roman. I admit, it’s fun to tell people to f**k off and be removed from it.
J. Smith-Cameron: It's terrific fun to work on because the writing is unusually good. Another thing: The show is really topical. It feels like this show is right for this exact moment.