Succession Is King Lear for Our Era of Ravenous Corporate Media

Frank Rich

Succession, the HBO drama about a Rupert Murdoch–esque billionaire and his dysfunctional family, is ending this weekend. Executive producer Frank Rich discusses the show’s critique of corporate media and what’s made the series so compelling.

Brian Cox as Logan Roy in Succession. (Max, 2023)

Interview by
David Sirota

HBO’s award-winning drama Succession — simultaneously a family drama, a biting satire of the ultrarich, and a realistic depiction of corporate media — will air its season finale tonight. Last week, Jacobin editor at large David Sirota sat down with Frank Rich, the New York magazine and former New York Times columnist who has served as an executive producer for the show since season one. The two discussed the making of Succession and various themes the show has explored, from the critique of legacy media to the frailty of American democracy. This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

David Sirota

I want to ask a question about what the meaning of the show is, in the sense that it’s a show about a media company, and the succession of the kids, and a media mogul. Is this show about the wealthy? Is it about the media industry? Is it about me? What do you think this show centrally is about, beyond it just being a show about a rich family?

Frank Rich

I would answer the question sort of in reverse. You start with characters in a story. We start with a family — forget about what profession they’re in, or even their economic bracket — a family where there’s a father who doesn’t want to let go, who is a lousy father, who plays his kids off each other to succeed him in the business, and also for his love as a father — who he loves most, if at all.

The other aspects are themes that arrive, as they do in all good drama, from the characters themselves and their relationships. So a lot of people have certainly discussed — we’ve discussed it in the room and so on — obvious resemblances in some ways to King Lear. But it’s not like we started and said, “Let’s do King Lear.”

That comparison is somewhat heightened by the fact that Brian Cox, as a stage actor, did one of the great King Lears of the past, probably of the post–World War II era. But a modern production could set King Lear at a media company and do the same play, and you say, “Oh, it’s about a media company.”

We wanted to tell a story of a family. We wanted to do it in this world, which has such an impact on everybody’s lives in this era — this continuing era of burgeoning mass media that, even in the course of the six and a half or seven years we’ve been working on the show, has expanded its reach.

But I think the show works because of the characters as well, both as they’re written and as they’re acted. Sure, it has things to say about the media, about politics, about inequality, about class. But at its heart, it’s about three siblings and a parent and a father, a patriarch.

David Sirota

Your background is at the New York Times, at New York magazine; you clearly have a lot of experience in the political media world that this series depicts. Does the writing team turn to you when discussing plots about the news business or how a newsroom operates? In other words, do different writers have different specialties that they bring to the table when writing something like this?

Frank Rich

I’m not a writer on the show; I’m a producer. Do I have ideas or lines that sometimes end up in there? Sure. So I’m there. If there were a journalistic equivalent, [my role would] almost be like an editor, to some extent, in reading scripts, talking about scripts.

People ask my two cents, but frankly, the level of detail that the writers want — starting with Jesse Armstrong, who created the show — is so intense that I can’t hold myself out as a particular expert. From the very beginning, we were going to consultants who were billed in the credits for various areas.

For instance, we’ve had a consultant, Marissa Mayer, who for many years covered the media beat, businesses in media for the Wall Street Journal. She helps us with very specific questions about the media and the corporate side of media that I don’t know anything about — or I know about as a reader of newspapers or hearing gossip around the Times when I was there or whatever.

Then this season, when there’s a very heavy orientation toward ATN, the fictional network, we brought in — and we used last season too — Jon Klein, a former president of CBS News and CNN; because it involves a contested election, Ben Ginsberg, a Bush v. Gore George W. Bush lawyer; Eric Schultz, who is a strategist and media adviser to Barack Obama and still is post-presidency — you know, all sorts.

We’ve even brought in people who know how to write chyrons, because we’re all media junkies on the show. But I’d say that what most distinguishes the writers — distinguishes my passion for the show and Jesse’s and all the writers’ — is the characters.

Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy in Succession. (Rotten Tomatoes TV / YouTube)

Take a writer that I helped recruit who worked on the past two seasons, Will Arbery. Will Arbery is a really brilliant young playwright; he was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize right before the pandemic. He comes from a very conservative, intellectual, religious Catholic family. His breakthrough play is set in the world of that kind of right-wing Catholic intellectual. So he knows a lot about that. But the reason why I wanted him to join us — it’s not so much that expertise that’s helpful, but because he writes these heartbreaking characters, some of whom have hateful politics.

Lucy Prebble, who’s a brilliant British playwright who works on the show as a writer, wrote the play Enron that was done on Broadway. But she’s also a media junkie and a comedy writer. So people are well rounded. What we’re not doing is a docudrama. By the way, if you look at Jesse’s previous work, a lot of it has nothing to do with politics or media, including his hit British series. Although I first met him when he wrote one episode on Veep, the last episode of season one. That’s where we started our creative relationship.

Getting the facts right is important, and we really want them to, and we spend a lot of time on it. But that’s the more journalistic and less creative part of putting together the show. [You can] get all the facts right and have a dead show, if the characters don’t have passions and hearts and minds that you care about independently of the subject they’re discussing.

David Sirota

The series is really an incredible critique of capitalism, corporate media, and obviously, speaking of the characters, the people who run those machines and those institutions. It feels like one meta takeaway from Succession is that in order to swim in those waters and rise to power, there has to be something inherently broken or inhuman about the way that you operate, the way that you treat other people.

Do you think there’s any aspect of legacy media, elite media, whatever you want to call it, in real life that this series defends? Or is it all one giant condemnation?

Frank Rich

It’s not really the way we look at it; it’s a very dark view of it. And we’re trying to let the characters go where the characters go. We’re not predetermining how people are going to act.

Indeed, one of the big exercises in the room is . . . so the story is happening with, say, Tom and Shiv and Greg or whoever. What if Greg felt this way about it? What if Roman felt this way about it? We actually play it out, try to find the human truth. Because really the easy part is, “Oh, they would do this. They would manipulate the course of an election.”

That’s the easy part. But how everyone behaves in that moment is what gets us there. It’s not ever predetermined. And one of the exciting things about the show is that everything’s always been on the table, constantly evolving. It feels like a living organism. It’s been enhanced by a cast that by the end of a season, has so internalized the roles — and we’ve so internalized them — that while they’re not writing their own lines, in case someone improvs a line, that becomes part of this organism too.

Take something like Logan’s death. We actually discussed killing him off in the first season when we made the pilot, which ends with his having a stroke. We had not decided yet that he would live on. Then when the show was picked up by HBO, we had a three- or four-month period; we started a writers’ room and started producing scripts, and it remained a lively topic for a little bit.

We’ve talked, we thought about killing him off last season, and we played out the various permutations . . . and then if we did kill him off, what episode? And maybe not. . . . Jesse’s idea was always that we don’t do it in the last episode of the season, with everyone gathered around the deathbed. We sort of did that when he was thought to be dying in episode two of season one anyway.

Everything is open-ended rather than predetermined. And there is a bigger view, I think, that becomes clear, of the meta picture of where the series ends up. But it’s nothing I can talk about, because it will become clear to audiences in the series finale.

David Sirota

I will say that these characters all seem human in the sense that very few of them are two-dimensional. They’re able to surprise you; they’re nuanced.

Some of the politics of the characters themselves . . . Kendall, for instance, you get a sense that he’s caught between the corporate world and his father’s politics, which are kind of Rupert Murdoch — but he also has an estranged wife and a family who are presumably more liberal. He understands what his father’s politics are, but he also has kind of his own politics, and he kind of goes back and forth.

Then Shiv is obviously very clear: she’s a Democrat. Let’s talk a little bit about that choice, because that’s one of the most profoundly important choices the show made. Shiv is inside of this Rupert Murdoch–ish world in which she is known in the press, in public, as a Democrat, to the point where she was at one point essentially a Democratic consultant for a prominent Democratic senator.

That choice doesn’t seem like an accident. I wonder what the choice matrix was behind that, if you can give us some insight into that — why it was important for her to be a known, out-there Democrat.

Frank Rich

I think for drama purposes. I don’t think there was any great deliberation about it. You don’t want every character to be the same, because you sacrifice drama if everyone’s the same. Someone like that could exist in a very conservative family, even in a conservative media family. And keep in mind, she’s not the most loyal Democrat; she’s somewhat of an opportunistic Democratic centrist, the way I describe her.

Whether it be the Murdoch daughter who’s trying to be a liberal or the Disney niece who’s trying to be a liberal — all these families have that person, and it just makes it more interesting. And I think you characterize the other politics you mentioned correctly.

But look at a character like Roman, who increasingly seems in this season aligned with Jeryd Mencken, this sort of populist, quasi-fascist presidential candidate. Is that what he really believes? I don’t know if I can tell you the answer.

David Sirota

One of the things that comes out is that their politics are transactional, or if not transactional, they’re just sort of . . . she happens to be a Democrat, he happens to be a Republican or aligned with the Republicans right now, because that’s what fits.

I don’t think they’re ideological at all. Although — let’s take a moment to explore that. You’ve seen all of these characters who have politics, but the politics are what helps them navigate what they want in the corporate world. But on the election night, Shiv actually expresses some sort of core ideology, at least about democracy itself there. It actually did get to something core, at least in her.

And then of course Roman says, “Nothing really matters,” which I want to go into for a second. But there was a bit of an admission that there is like a core in there, which frankly was a little bit surprising. Because for a while you’re like, “I’m not sure these people have a core.” I’m not sure. I don’t know where the core is.

Frank Rich

On the other hand, if Lukas Matsson is ready to cozy up to Mencken, she just might lose her core, so . . . it’s complicated. I think the important thing you said is, it’s transactional. Kendall thinks of himself as having a core. He has children of color, and he doesn’t want them to have a racist president. When he’s fighting with his ex-wife, rather, you feel that he really believes it. But then something transactional presents itself. I think that’s the real lesson.

It was fascinating to me that the very conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote this argument that I stumbled upon a few days ago where he said lot of good things about the show: it captures the crazy, especially online, right; it captures the Menckens of this world; it captures the cynicism of Murdoch-esque executives who at least pretended to like their stuff before. But he said that what’s left out of the show is — he used the phrase “the normal Republicans,” who don’t like the crazy, don’t like MAGA basically, but still participate in conservative media because they still are more scared of the Left than they are of the crazy right.

The normal Republicans in this show, to my mind, are Kendall, Karl, Hugo, Gerri. They’re there, and they’re presented as complete quislings to this horrible thing that’s going on at their own company.

Justin Kirk as Jeryd Mencken in Succession. (Max, 2023)

I thought it was fascinating. That kind of person — Peggy Noonan or whoever — is in the show. We’re not literally basing it on her or any editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal. But that’s exactly the kind of normal Republican who aids and abets the rise of a Trump and aids and abets the rise of a Jeryd Mencken. So maybe you feel very good about the political positioning of the show, because it really got on the nerves of someone who didn’t see that his own group was represented right in front of his eyes by a half dozen characters.

David Sirota

Now I want to talk about Mencken, because I find him to be not as odious a character as he is referred to in the show. I don’t consider myself to have politics aligned with Jeryd Mencken, but I’ve been dying to ask you this question: there’s not a ton of you seeing Jeryd Mencken be a horrible right-wing fascist, right?

He’s referred to as a right-wing fascist, like he’s this horrible person. And there’s a lot of assumptions baked in. There are some parts when he’s talking to Roman and he’s sort of wheeling and dealing, but in public, he is presenting himself as this principled, ideological, “You may not agree with me, but I’m here to tell the truth” kind of guy, which contrasts with the other characters on the show, who are these sort of transactional, “I have no real compass” kind of people.

You can almost see the appeal of a politician like that in a world where people perceive the elites to have no moral compass at all. In other words, “I’ll vote for somebody who’s got principles, even if I don’t agree with them,” to essentially detonate a bomb on a completely corrupt corporate blob.

Frank Rich

There are times when it’s clear he’s quite right wing, particularly in that last season — that conversation in the hotel bathroom with him and Roman. But what I like, and this applies to several other characters on the show, is that you have an actor of tremendous wit and charm in the form of Justin Kirk in this case, a great, great actor who I’ve followed since he was a young actor in the theater.

For years, we’ve been talking about: What if there were a Trump who really were seductive and not a fucking bully, an asshole in public? These are my words, not the show’s words. Mencken is the tonic version of someone like that, who is smart and witty and tough. That’s a much more interesting villain, and he is not a buffoon. He’s not Roger Ailes; he’s not Trump. He’s not even Josh Hawley.

So I think you’re right to feel that way. But it’s the same thing with some other characters on the show, including at times Kendall, at times Logan — who is sometimes the smartest in the room, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and has some kind of self-awareness. Again, I think the decision there is just to not make Mencken the cliché, fire-breathing . . . to not make him Brett Kavanaugh and not make him Trump, not make him one of those thugs.

David Sirota

I do think — I wouldn’t say a liberal vanity of the show, but I do think there’s something baked in that is. . . . I said this to Adam McKay, who was involved in creating the show: the thing that freaks me out about Jeryd Mencken is that the show is portraying the election as close, but if the Republican Party nominated a Jeryd Mencken, there’s a world in which that election is not close, where that election is a four hundred electoral vote . . .

Now, maybe not because of the red-blue map, but what I’m getting at is . . . a lot of people in the election episode took away, they remember the election night, Donald Trump 2016. By the way, that hit me pretty hard because I was actually hanging out with some of the cast that night, because they were in New York for the table read at Adam’s place.

Frank Rich

Yeah, we had the table read that morning. The reason I was at that party is I had to write about the election for New York magazine on deadline that night.

David Sirota

I saw Jeremy Strong at the opening of Don’t Look Up, and I didn’t know if he’d remember me. He came right up to me and was like, “Man, I still think about those conversations we had in 2016. You and McKay freaked me out — you said it looked like Trump was going to win. I didn’t want to believe you. And it actually happened.”

What I’m getting at is that a lot of people seem to take away, “Oh, I remember. It’s the night of 2016, how scary it is, and it was all close, and who’s going to call it?” Part of what I took away from that episode was, you’re being nice to me by saying this would have been a close election.

But I see in Jeryd Mencken, if the Republican Party ever actually figured it out and could create a nominating process where they could get a Jeryd Mencken, who on the surface seems likable, charismatic, principled, and so on. . . . That’s a nightmare scenario for the country.

Frank Rich

And I’ve always said that and wrote about it. If we have to have a Trump, thank God it’s Trump, who is unappealing and incompetent for the most part. That said, you can’t do a literal translation to our fictional world, because you don’t know anything about Daniel Jimenez, his opponent. For all the audience knows, Jimenez is Jack Kennedy times three, his charisma and so on. He’s hardly even seen in the show. So I get your thesis, but I think it’s sort of apples and oranges, to compare it to a fictional world like ours.

By the way, just to question the premise a bit, it may be that those two things don’t really go together. It may be — you know, Hitler was a comical lunatic. I’m not making a glib Hitler comparison to either Mencken or Trump, but . . . Joe McCarthy was a crazy person and came across that way on television.

It’s all very speculative. But the fact is also, we look at the Republican Party, and it feels they don’t have that person. Ron DeSantis is not. Ron DeSantis, I think, thinks he’s that person. But he comes across as a child really.

David Sirota

McKay and I were debating this a couple of years ago. I was like, “If the Republicans figure it out to go one or two clicks more normal from Trump, a kind of smart authoritarian, that would be dangerous.” McKay was like, “I don’t think the Republican Party’s nominating process can produce that. I think they’re going to produce, like, Marjorie Taylor Greene, or someone even more circus and even more zany because that’s the sort of arms race on their side.”

Frank Rich

Adam may be right about that or not. Look at the whole thing that is going on now with abortion in suburbia. They don’t know what the hell they’re choosing.

But I would go back to your original premise. If someone like a Mencken, played by someone like Justin Kirk, with that kind of mixture of Christian gravitas and conservative politics were running against a generic Democrat — say, Joe Biden — it might not be close. But he’s running against Jimenez, and he doesn’t really exist in the Republican Party, and for all we know, Jimenez survives an assassination attempt or whatever.

David Sirota

Let me ask you a question about the media reaction to the show. This show has a particularly big and very online and very excited-to-be-a-fan-of-the-show audience among the media, which is not surprising. There’s the old Broadcast News line: “Never forget we’re the real story, not them,” which is one of the great, great lines in all of movie history, in my view.

The question that sometimes comes up for me is, does the elite legacy media, that sort of blob, not understand that there’s a deeply cutting critique and simmering anger at this media blob that they’re in?

Frank Rich

You know the answer to that, and I suspect it depends on who you talk to. Because there’s also, as you know as a journalist, a certain kind of masochism to being a journalist anyway. Maybe you want that.

But I think it’s hard to generalize about that. I can’t imagine anyone thinks it’s glamorizing, unless they work for Fox News. I’d be fascinated to know what people who work for Fox News or Newsmax or whatever think of it.

David Sirota

If I’m not mistaken, there’s not one character in this show who’s an intrepid journalist, right?

Frank Rich


David Sirota

There’s a difference between media and journalism, right? This is media.

Frank Rich

You’re right. We don’t have an intrepid journalist. We have media, we have anchor people. We have a Tucker Carlson–esque, you know, opinionator. It’s not a show about journalism really. It’s about an empire that controls journalism, or tries to.

David Sirota

Is there any consternation, or . . . do you want the media to like your stuff? Everybody likes approbation. But is there any, like, “Wait a minute, I don’t want you to like this, because it’s kind of about . . .”

Frank Rich

No, we don’t. There are people who don’t like it. The first season we got really crappy reviews both in the Times and the Washington Post. That’s not the way I think about it. Maybe other people do.

Also, you just can’t generalize. I have a lot of friends in the media who are fans of the show, and I think they’re sophisticated viewers of it and like the show even if it attacks them, and they’re not saying, “I like the show because it glamorizes our business.” I think it expresses some of their own complaints about the business, and not just about people like the Murdochs or others like them.

David Sirota

At least among these specific characters — but obviously, these characters are in some ways placeholders for larger forces — to go back to this question of amorality, their transactional ideology: this vision of corporate media is a vision of people who make these decisions. . . . They have fairly fluid principles; they have fairly fluid political affiliations, fairly fluid ideologies that change in different circumstances.

If that’s the vision, that’s a pretty dark vision, as we said. Is that just the reality, in your view, having worked in media for as long as you have? Is that the reality that’s going to be an unchanging reality, or is there a different version, in an alternate future or in a different country, a different society, where media looks different than this, where it’s not so dark?

Frank Rich

I can’t say I know the answer. Media is changing and evolving so fast, it’s hard to know. Let’s take the Times, for instance. The Times is one of the last of these big companies that’s still owned by the original family, which may violate its principles at times, but fundamentally is quite principled. Although we have a family that’s slightly Sulzberger-esque, the Pierce family, in Succession, Nan Pierce, for the the right amount of money, is like the Bancroft family who sold out the Journal to Murdoch.

Look at the Times, which is thankfully in a very successful period right now commercially. It’s had real bumps during the course of the digital transition, but it’s a success, particularly with games and recipes underwriting a lot of the news gathering, which is fine. There’s nothing unprincipled about that; it’s a way to survive. But it’s an indication to me about how much things are changing.

That’s the last thriving family-owned company, and what lies ahead? Who knows? Who would have thought what happened to Time Inc., to the Tribune Company, to CBS News, to CNN? They’ve all been terribly compromised. They’re way removed their original mission, for the most part.

The Washington Post also had one of these great families, the Graham family. Obviously, it’s now Jeff Bezos. It’s doing ok, and it hasn’t been compromised. But how long will that last if that billionaire loses interest in it or decides, you know . . . next it’s in the hands of either Elon Musk or [the now late] Sam Zell or whoever, we don’t know.

And all the rules are changing so quickly, it will be different. Some of it may well be honorable. Now there are many good things happening in journalism, if you know where to look. And there are plenty of principled people who are in it for the right reasons, not necessarily the owners, but occasionally an owner or two.

But do people even want what we think of as the news media, ten years from now? Or would they rather, in the clichéd stupid version, get the news from TikTok and extrapolate what the facts are from the culture? I just don’t know. I never could have predicted half the things that have happened.

David Sirota

By the way, the Matsson character kind of gets at this. He’s this kind of weirdo; he doesn’t have real media experience as far as you can tell from what his company does. This is just a business play for him.

You’re like, at one level, you’re kind of ridiculous. You’re going to own a giant media company from Rupert Murdoch, or the Rupert Murdoch–esque characters. Say what you will about him, Logan is a media professional, a media builder, a media expert. Matsson comes as a novice, and he seems ridiculous. But he also actually kind of seems like the future, right?

Frank Rich

That’s another character on the show I’m very proud of, because that guy is not a Silicon Valley cliché. He’s not Elon Musk. He’s somewhat like Mencken — not in terms of his politics necessarily, to the extent that he has any, but he has a lot of charm and wit. And Alexander Skarsgård is a fantastic actor.

In thinking about the show, everything isn’t predetermined. The politics, the themes, the moral judgments. One of the most interesting things for me, watching this show and creatively being in the process now for almost seven years, is that it’s a living organism; it really does evolve. There’s a history in the show of actors who were cast in secondary and tertiary roles who are so good and make it so alive that we end up building out the roles for them.

For instance, the classic example is J. Smith-Cameron, who plays Gerri. That character was originally conceived of as a man: he was Jerry, J-E-R-R-Y. Then we thought, it’d be good to mix it up, have a woman executive be with this conservative, hidebound corporation. You have this brilliant actress who’s been a great stage actress for years in New York, and it becomes really interesting in her relationship onscreen with Kieran [Culkin]; they’re friends. Smith-Cameron’s husband, Kenny Lonergan, is a great playwright and screenwriter, and they both acted together in things of Kenny’s.

A more recent example: there’s an actress named Zoe Winters, who plays Kerry, the last mistress of Logan. She was invisible to most audiences because she was in the show beginning maybe late season two, but just as a nameless, faceless aide to Logan, usually carrying a phone behind him. We saw her in a play by the aforementioned Will Arbery off Broadway, and we were thinking about giving Logan a younger mistress that would thicken the Succession stew, and we said, “Shit, let’s just make the mistress this character, because this actress can do it.”

Alexander Skarsgård was always going to be a high-profile person on the show, but I think Jesse Armstrong, as the rest of us were, was so taken with what an unclichéd and fresh version of this character he did that we built him out. And to some extent that may even be true of Justin as Mencken.

There are other examples too, and what that says about the show to me is that it’s not ideological, and it’s not about fitting people to a message. It’s about the people having lives of their own, and the message evolves out of the most truthful presentation we can make of these living characters, both in how they’re written and how they’re acted.

David Sirota

You are somebody who I came to know through your writing during the Bush and the Obama years. I’m not just saying this because you’re here: you were one of the very few people who I would read and be like, “Thank God someone gets it.” It was for thinking people who didn’t just want red-blue stuff, who wanted a deeper, more honest analysis. I felt you were like a beacon of light in a really dark time, both through the Bush years and into the Obama years, the financial crisis.

So you were doing this, then you move into this kind of work where you’re helping create these shows, which are portrayals — in Veep, of the political world, in Succession, of the corporate media world.

What was that transition like, of weighing in every week very publicly in the political world, and then transitioning to the world that you’re in now? Do you miss weighing in? Is this a different way to weigh in? I just wonder about your own work satisfaction, how you think about that transition.

Frank Rich

I’ll try to give you the short answer. First of all, I grew up in Washington, DC, around politicians. My family was not in politics, but I was always a news and political junkie. But I was also a theater nut, and I was obsessed with theater and still am. Indeed, before I was an op-ed columnist at the Times, I was the chief drama critic for thirteen years. And in a period of the Reagan era, a lot of the big plays I reviewed — for instance, Angels in America and August Wilson plays — were dealing with politics.

As a columnist during the Bush years, I felt very strongly about this, as you were just saying. I felt very strongly about Obama, including when he was less successful than one might want. But at the time someone asked me if I wanted to join a group of several journalists who work at HBO on the side — it was a side gig when I was still a columnist at the Times — to talk about programming at a time when they were going through a big transition. I didn’t think it would necessarily lead to anything.

I have to say that I fell in love with the work, and I was bored writing a column. It’s been fourteen years now that I’ve been involved in this stuff. I never miss drama criticism. I don’t miss being a columnist. By the way, I kept writing serious and, I hope, even deeper opinion pieces for the Times and New York magazine as I began this career.

But ultimately, the work, particularly in Succession, kicked in on top of Veep, became so enormous that I had to cut back. I started writing one piece a month for New York magazine. Then it was one piece every three months. I’m still on staff there and may yet write again. But this just combines my own idiosyncratic interests, love of the theater and the American scene and commenting on the American scene.

One other thing related to journalism about this. One of the things I missed in journalism in the later years was the newsroom. I’m sure you felt the same way. I like walking in. I like the camaraderie, the kind of front-page-ish atmosphere. Once digitalization happened, it vanished. There was no reason for a newsroom. No one had to come in to turn in their copy. You literally had to physically turn it in when I began at the Times, or do it on a dedicated word processor in the newsroom.

You go on a set for a show, there are 150 people. There are brilliant people, there are artists, there are camera people who are artists, there are makeup people, there are stagehands or actors. There are people who are hacks or people who are divas and all of that, and it felt like a newsroom to me. But the best thing is, you can make it all up!

So it’s just been a blast. I think like for a lot of people in Succession, it’s been such a great ride — it’s hard to let it go. But I think we’re letting go in the right way and getting off the stage before we start repeating ourselves too much.

David Sirota

One of the best little commentaries I saw on social media was whether the show is ending by making the characters so horrible that the viewer is ok with it ending. It’s like, dude, I can’t take anymore of Kendall or . . .

Frank Rich

No, I think not. I think that Jesse always had an idea of where the show would end, and I’m not talking about story points here. I mean thematically, what his final verdict was on these people and this corporation. It’ll become very apparent in the finale.

We always knew that destination. The question was always about getting there: how many times can you have a conversation about who’s going to succeed Logan? At a certain point that can wear out its welcome.

Both people in the television or movie business and other people I know — when we announced this was the final season, people said, “Oh, you had to change the ending.” And I said, “No, we always knew what the ending was.” We’re not killing everyone off in an earthquake. You know what I mean? It’s not that kind of show.

So the question was, what was the best way to get there to be true to the characters? I don’t think we ever had a discussion, “Oh, these characters are so hateful that people will be sick of them,” because people love them. Go figure, but people love Roman, and they love Cousin Greg, they love Logan. So no, I think people are sorry to say goodbye to them because they’re very human, very flawed humans, very unlikable in many ways. But you follow them because at some level they’re human.

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Frank Rich is an executive producer on Succession and a writer-at-large for New York magazine. He previously served as executive producer of Veep and wrote for the New York Times.

David Sirota is editor-at-large at Jacobin. He edits the Lever and previously served as a senior adviser and speechwriter on Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign.

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