HBO’s darkly comedic family drama Succession returns for its much-anticipated third season this month. The Emmy-winning series follows the power struggles and petty squabbles of a super-rich family of media moguls that includes patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox, 75) and his four children: Connor (Alan Ruck, 65), Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Shiv (Sarah Snook). If you haven’t been watching, you’re missing out on a tale of loyalty, corruption and greed that makes it a worthy successor to HBO’s past Sunday night dramas like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones. Here’s everything you need to know about the show before the third season premieres on Oct. 17.
The Roys are not just the Murdochs
Many viewers look at the billionaire Roys — who own cable news networks, newspapers, theme parks, a film studio and a cruise line — and immediately think of the Murdochs. While it’s true that show creator Jesse Armstrong, 50, has written a still-unproduced script about Rupert Murdoch, 90, and his kids, he says that Succession draws from a wider net of influences. “We thought of famous media families like the Hearsts, to modern-day [Sumner] Redstone, John Malone, Robert Fitz of Comcast, Murdoch, and Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who founded Breitbart,” Armstrong said in an interview with HBO.com. In a fun twist, a few members of these inspirational families have admitted to watching the series. Rupert’s granddaughter Charlotte Freud told Tatler magazine that scenes feel “plucked from [her] childhood memories,” and his fourth wife, model Jerry Hall, 65, counts herself as a huge fan.
The Succession cast has deep ties to Broadway
For such a quintessentially New York show, it should come as no surprise that much of the cast is drawn from the Broadway talent pool. A theater legend in the U.K., Cox has nonetheless crossed the pond to appear in five Broadway productions, most recently starring as Lyndon B. Johnson in 2019’s The Great Society. Jeremy Strong appeared in A Man for All Seasons, while Kieran Culkin starred in This Is Our Youth by playwright-screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan (58). In a fun twist, Lonergan is married to J. Smith-Cameron, 64, the Tony-nominated actress who steals scenes as Waystar RoyCo’s general counsel Gerri Kellman. Other Tony-nominated cast members include Peter Friedman, 72, who plays COO Frank Vernon, and Arian Moayed, who plays Kendall’s college friend Stewy.
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Brian Cox knows a thing or two about playing King Lear types
There are plenty of parallels between the Roys (Old French for “king”) and the royal family at the heart of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, which traces a king’s downfall after his succession plans go awry. Cox played the tragic king in an acclaimed production at London’s National Theatre in 1990, and the experience was so impactful that he wrote a book called The Lear Diaries about the physical and emotional toll the role had on his life.
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Some cast members are faking an American accent
You’d never know it from her impeccable American accent, but Sarah Snook, who plays youngest Roy child Siobhan (pronounced SHIV-AWN, nickname “Shiv”), was born in Adelaide, Australia. In her home country, she starred in a number of TV shows, movies and plays, including — you guessed it! — King Lear, in which she played the king’s tragic youngest daughter, Cordelia. Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Shiv’s people-pleasing husband Tom Wambsgans, hails from England, and you might recognize him from his role as Mr. Darcy, opposite Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet, in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice.
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Nicholas Britell is responsible for that fantastic score and theme song
It’s impossible to watch an episode of Succession without noticing the propulsive and dramatic theme song, which combines elements of classical music and hip-hop. You can thank composer Nicholas Britell, who grew up playing piano before joining a hip-hop band in college and cites such disparate artists as Quincy Jones (88), Dr. Dre (56) and Philip Glass (84) as influences. His scores can be heard in The Big Short, Cruella, Vice and many other films, and he earned Oscar nominations for his work in Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Britell wrote the score for every episode of Succession, and his theme song won the 2019 Primetime Emmy for outstanding original main title theme music.
The show makes great use of some very impressive mansions
The Roys are always jetting off to some quite luxurious destinations, including the family’s country house in the Season 2 premiere, “The Summer Palace.” Production designer Stephen Carter told Vulture that, while his team originally scouted a mansion on the so-called Gold Coast of Long Island (where The Great Gatsby is set), they instead landed on a more modern Hamptons estate, built in the 1960s for Henry Ford’s grandson. The style, Carter thought, would better align with what someone Logan’s age might find trendy. The show did end up filming in the Gold Coast two episodes later, when Otto Kahn’s 109,000-square-foot Oheka Castle — the second-largest private home in America — stood in for a Hungarian estate in the episode “Hunting.”
Brian Cox and Logan Roy share the same Scottish hometown
While the character of Logan was originally supposed to be born in Quebec, writers later changed his birthplace to Dundee, Scotland, which happens to be Cox’s own hometown. Scotland’s fourth-largest city is an appropriate stomping ground for a media mogul character: Historically, the industrial town was known for producing “the three J’s” — jute, jam and journalism — and it’s home to DC Thomson, which publishes a slew of prominent magazines, newspapers and comics. In the second season episode titled “Dundee,” the whole family returns to Logan’s ancestral homeland to celebrate his 50th anniversary as CEO, and scenes were filmed in and around such landmarks as the Magdalen Green Bandstand and the impressive new V&A Dundee museum.
Season 3 will see the introduction of some exciting new cast members
The sprawling ensemble cast continues to expand: Season 2 welcomed characters played by Danny Huston (59, son of director John Huston) and Holly Hunter (63). The upcoming batch of episodes will see the addition of even more big names you might recognize: Alexander Skarsgård as a tech CEO, Sanaa Lathan (50) as a high-profile lawyer, Oscar winner Adrien Brody as a billionaire activist and Hope Davis (57) as the daughter of Logan’s rival, Sandy Furness (Larry Pine, 76). Think of them all as new pieces added to the chessboard.
Emmy voters love this show
After picking up two Emmys for its first season (for writing and theme song), Succession became an awards juggernaut in its second go-round. At the 2020 Emmy Awards, the show received 18 nominations, winning seven, including for best drama series, lead actor (Strong), writing, directing and guest actress (Cherry Jones as Nan Pierce, the head of rival news organization Pierce Global Media).
You can hire Cox to curse at you on the Cameo app
Over the past two seasons, Logan has developed an expletive-filled catchphrase: According to an article by TheDipp.com, the potty-mouthed patriarch has told his employees, rivals and relatives to “f--- off” two dozen times. If you want to get in on the action, you can book a personalized video message from Brian Cox on the Cameo app for a cool $325.
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.