Jeremy Strong’s Method Acting Worries And Vexes Some Of His “Succession” Castmates
Serious method ACTOR Jeremy Strong has emulated and idolized Daniel Day-Lewis ever since he was a teenager and had a poster of him in My Left Foot on his bedroom wall. And whereas DDL won an Oscar for his performance in that film, it’s unlikely he can brag about being to, to this day, masturbate without using his hands. But I bet Jeremy can, given the seriousness with which he takes his craft! And based on the comments from some of his Succession castmates that accompany a new profile of him in The New Yorker, he’s really fucking annoying with that shit. Like DDL, who Jeremy went on to work for as an assistant, is probably so embarrassed for him right now he’s asking his agent to get him a role as a blind hermit or something so he can pretend not to see him next time they run into each other.
The profile is titled “On Succession, Jeremy Strong Doesn’t Get the Joke.” For those who don’t fuck with Succession, Jeremy plays Kendall Roy, the drug-addicted prodigal son turned mopey Judas who, under the guise of being a whistle-blower, turned on his dad, Logan Roy (played by the utterly fuck-less Brian Cox), in a ploy to gain control of the family’s Fox News-like media company. He’s desperate for his father’s approval (as are all the Roy siblings) and is a poster boy for privileged, sheltered elitism. Kieran Culkin, who contributed to this profile, plays Kendall’s younger brother Roman Roy. It’s funny. It’s satire. But according to Jeremy, “the stakes are life and death.” This is totally something Kendall would say. According to The New Yorker:
He speaks with a slow, deliberate cadence, especially when talking about acting, which he does with a monk-like solemnity. “To me, the stakes are life and death,” he told me, about playing Kendall. “I take him as seriously as I take my own life.” He does not find the character funny, which is probably why he’s so funny in the role.
Kieran Culkin told me, “After the first season, he said something to me like, ‘I’m worried that people might think that the show is a comedy.’ And I said, ‘I think the show is a comedy.’ He thought I was kidding.” Part of the appeal of “Succession” is its amalgam of drama and bone-dry satire. When I told Strong that I, too, thought of the show as a dark comedy, he looked at me with incomprehension and asked, “In the sense that, like, Chekhov is comedy?” No, I said, in the sense that it’s funny. “That’s exactly why we cast Jeremy in that role,” McKay told me. “Because he’s not playing it like a comedy. He’s playing it like he’s Hamlet.”
It’s confusing because this is exactly how Kendall talks so it’s unclear if he’s still in character for this profile or if he’s always like this. Don’t ask his wife, I don’t think even she knows.
JEREMY STRONG'S WIFE: He's intense but makes room for a normal home life
JEREMY STRONG: My normal home life is a performance, a lie I have committed to pic.twitter.com/r3DRp40ZMi
— allison (@allisongeroi) December 6, 2021
Apparently, Jeremy gets so far up his own ass embodying the Legend of Kendall, that he refuses to rehearse with the rest of his castmates.
He often refuses to rehearse—“I want every scene to feel like I’m encountering a bear in the woods”—despite the wishes of his fellow-actors. “It’s hard for me to actually describe his process, because I don’t really see it,” Kieran Culkin said. “He puts himself in a bubble.” Before I interviewed his castmates, Strong warned me, “I don’t know how popular the way I work is amongst our troupe.” Since Kendall is the black sheep of a warring family, Strong’s self-alienation may be a way of creating tension onscreen. Though the cast is generally loose and collegial, Strong, during Season 2, began going to the makeup trailer only when no other actors were there—“which I remember making everyone else roll their eyes,” a cast member told me.
I mean, if it works it works. If you’re playing Hamlet. But the show’s not called Kendall, just as it’s not called Roman’s Pandora’s Box of Dicks, as much as I wish it were. Brian Cox explained it this way:
When I asked Brian Cox, who plays Logan, the patriarch, to describe Strong’s process, he struck a note of fatherly concern. “The result that Jeremy gets is always pretty tremendous,” he said. “I just worry about what he does to himself. I worry about the crises he puts himself through in order to prepare.”
In Season 1, Kendall gets stuck in traffic on the way to a board meeting and sprints through the streets. Strong wanted to be sweaty and breathless for each take, and he fractured his left foot running in Tom Ford dress shoes. “It’s the cost to himself that worries me,” Brian Cox told me. “I just feel that he just has to be kinder to himself, and therefore has to be a bit kinder to everybody else.”
I feel like Brian is really holding back here. I can’t wait for the post-Succession follow-up to his memoir called “It’s Called Acting, You Twat.” And Jeremy’s method, which he calls “identity diffusion,” isn’t limited to his work in Succession. When he was playing civil rights activist Jerry Rubin in Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of The Chicago 7, he asked to get sprayed in the face with real tear gas. Which would have been fine had the scene been a monologue.
While shooting the 1968 protest scenes, Strong asked a stunt coördinator to rough him up; he also requested to be sprayed with real tear gas. “I don’t like saying no to Jeremy,” Sorkin told me. “But there were two hundred people in that scene and another seventy on the crew, so I declined to spray them with poison gas.” Between takes of the trial scenes, in which the Yippies mock Judge Julius Hoffman, played by Frank Langella, Strong would read aloud from Langella’s memoir in silly voices, and he put a remote-controlled fart machine below the judge’s chair. “Every once in a while, I’d say, ‘Great. Let’s do it again, and this time, Jeremy, maybe don’t play the kazoo in the middle of Frank Langella’s monologue,’ ” Sorkin said.
Sounds like Jeremy really inhabits every asshole he inhabits. And Kendall Roy is a beautifully realized asshole. But if you see him on the street, make like DDL and pretend that you are blind!