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Shiv in ‘Succession’
changed Sarah’s life

Sarah Snook stole the show in ‘Succession’ Episode 6 last week. VIANNE VENTER spoke to her.

With 13 Emmys under its belt already, including Outstanding Drama Series in 2020 and 2022, Succession is now more than halfway through its fourth and final season, with new episodes arriving every Monday on Showmax in South Africa. 

The sale of Waystar Royco to tech visionary Lukas Matsson (Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgård from Big Little Lies) is looming ever closer. It’s a prospect that provokes existential angst and familial division among the Roy children as they anticipate their diminished cultural and political influence once the deal is completed.

Created by Oscar nominee Jesse Armstrong (Veep), Succession is currently the second most popular show worldwide on IMDb, where it’s the 61st highest-rated show of all time, with an 8.8/10 rating from over 180 000 people. Season 4 has 97% critics’ ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, with Vulture calling Succession “a shining example of the best qualities of TV” and Indiewire hailing it as “the end all, be all of TV.” 

We spoke to Sarah Snook about the show and her Emmy-nominated role as Logan’s only daughter and would-be Roy empire heiress, Siobhan, aka Shiv.

Why is Succession ending? 

Jesse is a pretty smart guy. When he sees that something is really good and hasn’t yet faltered or slipped or failed in a dramatic way, it’s pretty bold to take it out when it’s at the top. He’s never been pressured to make commercial decisions; that’s a pretty rare experience. And I think, yeah, he’s making the right decision. 

Kieran Culkin says when you were all told about the end of the show, you were hit pretty hard…

Yeah, I was! I was really upset. I’d only just finished reading the episode in the car on the way to the read-through. And it was strange, because I felt like, “Oh, well, it’s definitely done, seeing how it ends here [on the page].” But then, when I got there, Matthew [Macfadyen, who plays her husband Tom Wambsgans] was like: “So! Sounds positive! Doesn’t seem like it’s gonna end!” Then when we got in, Jesse told us it was ending. That’s hard to hear definitively. But also it was good, because I did all my grieving, and catharsis, and crying, then, and then was able to enjoy the shooting of episode 10 more. 

How satisfied are you with the conclusion of Shiv’s story over these final 10 episodes? 

As an actor, totally satisfied. Absolutely. There’s been so much complexity and interesting angles to play, and scenes and emotions. And there’s a sense, really, that the characters will go on beyond the final curtain. I really appreciate that from Jesse. 

Compared to her brothers, how does Shiv feel towards Logan at the start of Season 4? 

I don’t think she’s particularly more or less empathetic towards her father. I think she feels just as betrayed by him as she does by her mum, and also by Tom. She feels a little bit naked in terms of her family relationships. There’s not too many people she can turn to in the family. And she’s stuck with her brothers for the first time, in a way. And that’s unfamiliar territory.

Does she feel a deeper hatred because she’s the only daughter, and she’s been marginalised by the patriarchy more than her brothers? 

I think for sure, definitely. She’s very similar to Logan in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that Logan comes from a background of feeling like he was the underdog. He had to fight for what he got, he had to work his way up, and scrap and get to the top in the way that he did. Because he had something to fight against. Shiv, in a similar way, has that to fight against in her family dynamic. She’s got her father, and her brothers. And being the only woman in a male-dominated industry [means] circumstances are against her. And she has ambitions, so she has to fight against all those. 

How does Shiv feel about teaming up with her brothers this season? 

Shiv wants to believe she can trust her brothers but has – always in the back of her mind – just that little voice saying, ‘Watch out.’

This season Shiv and Tom seem to be headed for divorce but are also trying out games like ‘bitey’? 

I thought Jesse had just written it and then Lucy [Prebble], one of the writers, was like, ‘No, that’s a game my brother and I used to play.’ It was so much fun. It’s such a different route for them… in how they would solve problems previously, where he would be more subordinate to whatever Shiv desired. I’ve always felt that part of her attraction to Tom in the first place was that she probably knew that he was a bit of an asshole at work, and being able to have someone like that in her power is attractive. Weirdly it [bitey] doesn’t hurt so much; I strangely could stand a lot more pain of biting than I thought. 

You announced your own pregnancy at the Succession premiere; congratulations. Shiv is also pregnant; how is she feeling about that?

Shiv has some pretty complicated feelings about becoming a mother. She’s in some ways feigning indifference, because it’s one of those things that’s almost too hard to face, and Shiv doesn’t like dealing with emotions. It’s easier to repress things. There’s a competitiveness against her feelings with her own mother and her desire to better her own mother’s maternal qualities, but a fear that she probably won’t be able to do that. A fear and a frustration that all the things she’s working toward and aiming toward, she may not now be able to achieve because she will be a mother as well as a businesswoman and, how do these two things coalesce in her life? She hasn’t really considered that as a path for her life and so it’s quite a shock.

Why hasn’t she told Tom yet?

It’s too complicated, I think. It changes too much. There’s too much going on … Her father just died. There’s so many business machinations happening. To then bring Tom into it in a familial sense would confuse it again. She doesn’t know how she feels about it herself. In a way, I think she would prefer to decide what her own feelings are about this before she has Tom’s feelings muddy the waters.

Forty episodes, 40 hours: what’s been your favourite scene to film? 

Oh, there’s a lot! Anything with Matthew or Kieran have been highlights. They’re always the most fun. And any scene where we have the four siblings together. 

What can viewers expect from this final season? 

It comes out like a bull out the gate. It’s pretty relentless. There’s high drama, high stakes. It’s a very conflict-heavy season, and [full of] their attempts to resolve those conflicts. 

How did you feel filming your final scene? 

We shot out of order, so the final scene that we shot on the last day of shooting was one that was quite playful and fun. It was in a kitchen. It may not make the cut, but it was the right thing to end on, because there was a silliness to it, I guess. So, at the end, it didn’t feel like the stakes were as high as they would be with a scene that might have ended with us needing to cry or anything like that. Because once the camera wrapped, once they called cut, everyone was crying anyway! 

If you think back to that first table read for the first episode of the first season on the day of the 2016 US presidential election, how has being on this show changed your life? 

Enormously. Who I am now compared to who I was when I was 27, there’s been enormous changes in my own personal life as much as there have been on the show. And the show has been there the whole time. I’ve grown as an actor. I’ve grown as a person. I certainly have a different – well, hopefully! – career trajectory. I’ve had a different experience in what I’ve been challenged by in this job. And I’ve done so much travel with the job! I’ve met so many amazing actors and amazing collaborators and creatives! It really has changed my life.

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