While Connor Roy’s three half-siblings—Kendall, Roman, and Shiv—vie for power, Connor has spent the last three seasons of the hit HBO show Succession on a quest for happiness and self-actualization. He has followed his curiosities, investing in aquifers, a New Mexican ranch and Napoleon’s severed penis. He has spent almost two years in the throes of a one-sided relationship with sex-worker-turned-playwright Willa Ferreyra. And now he is running for president of the United States, polling shockingly close to one percent. (“That’s four million people,” he points out at Kendall’s birthday party in the middle of the third season.)
Watching Connor try very hard to be a functional human being—and Willa try to make sense of why she’s still with him—is one of the great joys of the show, because no matter how ugly the Roys’ conflict becomes, the family’s resident space cadet is there to put it into context. Though his politics are terrifying and he might be the most outwardly damaged of Logan Roy’s children, he’s the only one actively pursuing a life outside the family. Played with aplomb by Alan Ruck, Connor spent the season three finale celebrating his impending marriage to Willa and wielding a butter knife whilst proclaiming that he is in fact the eldest son of the family, implying that he’s done being underestimated. “You can do a lot of damage with a butter knife if you're committed,” said Ruck on a Zoom call earlier today with Justine Lupe, who portrays Willa. And Connor is certainly committed.
Here, the duo behind Succession’s most delightfully delusional contenders talk about their character arcs, season four power rankings, and the transactional relationships driving the show.
Connor and Willa have expressed a lot more agency this season. He’s running for president, he doesn’t take his coat off at Kendall's birthday party, then he’s wielding this butter knife. And Willa asserts herself more and decides to marry into the Roy family. I’m curious how you think their arc has evolved since the beginning of the show.
Alan Ruck: Against Willa’s better judgement, she’s developed some feelings for Connor. Maybe she's not in love with him. Maybe this marriage thing isn’t the best idea. But at the beginning of season one, it was clear this was a business arrangement, and Willa was very much like, What the fuck have I gotten myself into with these people? Connor is very sweet to Willa within his limited view of how the world works. He really loves Willa. Maybe she’s not in love with him, but I think she likes him more than she ever did.
Justine Lupe: I agree. I was so glad they put that line, “You’re a nice man, Con,” in that proposal scene. I see it as someone who really does care for him, is endeared to him, and is kind of evolving into having a stronger attachment to this relationship. That said, it’s like, What am I signing up for? That last look [as she gets into the car] is loaded, but I never thought of it as a tragic thing.
On the show, romantic relationships have a transactional charge to them. Shiv and Tom, Logan and Marcia, even Roman and Gerri were very transactional, at least on Gerri’s end. I wonder if Connor and Willa’s marriage might be simpler because it’s more outwardly transactional than some of these other relationships.
AR: That’s a really good observation. There’s a great documentary called Born Rich that a lot of us watched before we started shooting the show, covering stuff that most of us will never have to deal with. Not that we should feel sorry for [the uber rich], but they live in a very strange world. A prenup is mandatory because you have to protect the family fortune. It’s a business arrangement for most of these people who live at that level. Maybe you’re right, maybe since our relationship was so upfront, it was business first, and now we’re actually finding some companionship.
JL: I imagine that their relationship has also given Connor a little bit more agency.
AR: It’s a sad comment on all the relationships in this show that ours is probably the most successful arrangement. For the challenges Connor has—all his delusion, and A.D.H.D. and living on another planet—he may be one of the happier people in this story.
Connor gestures to this idea that he was sidelined after Logan’s first divorce from his mother, and that the three other children became the “golden children.” Now we’re finding out that Logan is trying to have a baby with Kerri, and maybe Kendall, Roman, and Shiv might be sidelined in the same way that your character was. They might be able to empathize with you a little bit more there.
AR: I think that the scene where I bring over the maca root and stick it in Roman’s nose is me rubbing his nose in shit and saying, “How does it feel?”
JL: I loved watching that moment, because he felt like one of them in that moment. It was such a different thing out of that character.
AR: He’s never been able to compete with the other three because they’re just really smart and really mean. They’re like, the way you get ahead is: be the smartest one in the room. If you come in second, you’re still a loser.
I’m curious about your process as scene partners. Do you guys rehearse together?
AR: I’m not always a great fan of rehearsing a lot because I think you can beat the life out of it when you’re filming. We do improvise a lot on the day to keep it fun and to keep it exciting. But we trust each other that way. It’s like playing jazz.
JL: Because there’s so much time sometimes between the Connor and Willa scenes in the season, we touch base as to like, where are they emotionally? Because it’s such a mysterious dynamic. Alan’s the best. Outside the scene work that we do, he's such an incredible friend. He’s the biggest cheerleader.
In another interview published today, one of your castmates was quoted as saying, “Season Four is the siblings versus everyone.” I’m curious, how do you think Connor and Willa fit into that? What are the power rankings right now?
AR: I’m not sure which way Connor will fall. He’s historically always gone along with the old man.
JL: I feel like no matter what I think might happen, it never happens. I never in a million years would have thought Tom would be where he is right now. But then you look back on the season, and think of course, this guy's been beaten down.
AR: You’re never going to out-guess [the show’s creator] Jesse Armstrong.
Where did we leave it with the presidential race? Is Connor still running for President?
AR: Yes, he’s very much running.
JL: That’s what I love about this couple, the level of relentless delusion.
AR: Like Scarlett O’Hara at the end of Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”
I personally would love to see a Connor Roy vs. Gil Eavis presidential debate. It would be the spiritual sequel to the “Mo Lester” funeral eulogy.
AR: We’ll tell Jesse.
Please do. Justine, does Willa appreciate the level of access that she has as a playwright? Is that the big reveal at the end, that she’s been writing about the Roy family this whole time? Writers are mercenary observers, and she hasn’t fully come into that beyond her failed play.
JL: It’s another one where I’m kind of curious to see what [the writers] do with it. It’s definitely been planted in the season. They had me writing in a journal as if I was a fly on the wall. But yes, I imagine that this family gives quite a bit of good material.
Last question. In the finale, Willa asks, “How bad could it be?” regarding her marriage to Connor. Truly, how bad do you think it could be?
JL: I don’t think it’s going to be!
AR: Being married isn’t a walk in the park, at the best of times. Really happy couples go up and down and up and down. So I don’t think it’s actually going to be bad. I mean, somebody read something this morning that said Connor doesn’t deserve Willa.
JL: I got an email saying, “I hope she poisons him.” I didn’t even know what to say to that.
Lupe’s hair by Clariss Rubenstein, makeup by Denika Bedrossian. Ruck’s hair and makeup by Kerrie Urban. Photography assistant: Chris Yates; fashion assistant: Tony Alto.