(This story contains spoilers from the second episode of Succession‘s fourth season, “Rehearsal.”)
First they stole their father’s birthday gift. Now they are after his birthday future. Following the final Succession season premiere‘s tense bidding war for Pierce Global Media, the second installment sees the siblings Kendall (Jeremy Strong)Shiv (Sarah Pike) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) conspiring against Logan again (Brian Cox) with a particularly cutting plan: vote against the imminent sale of the family business and force their father into a fawning position against buyer Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård).
It’s a big thorn in Logan’s paw, wounding so much that he humiliates himself with an impromptu appearance at Connor’s oldest son (Alan Rick) equally impromptu karaoke bachelorette party. Sadly, Logan doesn’t quite sing for his supper, but he makes a pained case for his kids to back out – a case that comes as way too little, way too late for Kendall and Shiv, but seemingly ends up with Roman, ready to return to his father’s side at the end of the episode.
Present for it all: Logan’s friend/assistant/advisor Kerry Castellabate, played by Zoë Winters. The multihyphenate (who is also almost certainly Logan’s lover) spends the episode playing yet another title: news anchor. The episode reveals the very ambitious designs of the very ambitious Kerry for a top job at American Television Network, complete with a test role that is no more than a formality. At least, that’s how Kerry sees it. Logan sees things differently, clearly capitalizing on Kerry’s lack of talent for the job, let alone her lack of qualifications.
In an attempt to refuse Kerry the job without getting his hands dirty, Logan completes the task Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) breaking the news, who in turn passes the baton to cousin Greg (Nicholas Brown). Kerry soon sees Logan’s directives coming from Cousin Greg’s clumsy mouth, but before she can contain her anger, she must help Logan through the latest crisis with his kids. The kids, for their part, also see Logan’s cowardice towards Kerry and call it out in kind. By the end of the episode, Logan probably regains Roman’s loyalty, but also loses Kerry’s trust – at least a little trust. As Winters says The Hollywood ReporterKerry isn’t the type to go down without a fight.
come on, THR talks to Winters about the rise of the mysterious Kerry, her ambitions at ATN and much more.
Kerry is a very powerful figure, so much so that she often finds herself face to face with Logan and speaks to others using his voice. Where does that power come from?
I think Kerry saw in Logan how he became a winner in her eyes. I think she adopted some of that behavior and approach. As Logan says, “It’s a great world. You have to be a killer to succeed.” I think Kerry strongly believes in that. So much of the culture of these media conglomerates is about fandom. There is an obsessive fandom of who is on top and how they win. I think she’s a big fan of his and mimics a lot of his approach, and is hugely ambitious. I think she went for it. Even in times when it may have felt like a risk, she has chosen the path of having an opinion and speaking her mind.
When I first auditioned, Kerry had these lines in season two for Shiv… it was a very small part, but [the lines] were around bringing some news. But I did it with a lot of attitude. The way I would approach being an assistant would be to do the job and not get in the way. So I wanted to choose a version that not That. What if she’s an assistant who decides to get in the way?
How much of Kerry’s backstory did you make up versus what Jesse Armstrong and the writers gave you?
We definitely had discussions and I talked to [director and executive producer] Mark Mylod also a lot about who she is. I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I have a 500 page Word document on Kerry. Last year it was 400. I was talking to a castmate, and I told them about it, and they were like, “…but you don’t have any lines?”
It was all in jest and fun. (laughs.) But I do a lot of backstory. I’m a person of the theater and I believe in developing a really rich history so that when you show up, you can come up with your full story.
When we were filming the phone scene in episode one, and Kerry is trying to get the kids to call their dad for his birthday, Mark Mylod pulled me aside and said, “Let’s talk about Kerry.” We talked for half an hour about her being a double major in political science and journalism, and about her family, and blah, blah, blah… or something like that, and I asked Mark, “Do you feel all that? [back story] in there?” So I’ve developed a rich history for her.
They have given me so much room to bend and play. They’ve given me such an incredible arc. I’ve had many conversations about her journey and her relationships with people. But I also created a lot with who she is and what her backbone is. My big thing was, I wanted her to be a bad assistant.
Kerry’s ATN ambitions are revealed in this episode. I wanted to ask if this turn of events surprised you, but given what you said about her background in political science and journalism…
Yes, I think she’s always had political motives. I was not surprised that she wanted to become a political commentator.
She has big opinions about the presidency in season three’s “What It Takes.”
Precisely. Season three sees her pushing Logan towards a fascist alt-right candidate, so she clearly has political leanings that are dangerous and terrifying, and she’s not afraid to expose it. But I think Kerry is very ambitious. I think what she wants more than money, more than anything, is power. There’s a huge sale going on from WayStar, but they’ve pulled this from ATN. What she has been promised is this position. I think the audition was just a formality according to her. She wants a voice in this crucial and groundbreaking election. She wants a platform on the international scene as these highly contested elections take place. She thinks it will give her a lot of strength. She has always had those tendencies and ambitions.
Let’s talk about the role of Kerry, which must have been fun to film, since you have to act badly on purpose to some extent, right?
…What do you mean?
I’m kidding, I’m kidding!
Cousin Greg? Can you come in here and finish the interview?
(laughs.) It’s fun, because you want it to be bad, but you don’t want it to be So bad… I mean, it is bad, but you want her to get through it. You don’t want to comment on the joke. You want to sit in it.
Right, because it’s definitely not a joke to her.
No. I think she’s aware that she’s uncomfortable, but I don’t think she thinks she’s as bad at it as she is. I also think she has enough ego if she thinks, “Okay, let’s get this chore out of the way.” She sees it as a chore because she doesn’t want it to look like favoritism, even though she really thinks, “This is mine, I’m going to take over and I’ll be excellent.”
I prepared for it and watched a lot of Laura Ingraham, Tomi Lahren and a number of conservative political commentators. But I also wanted Kerry to have her own version of it. My point was, I think women have this pressure to have charm, and that’s magnified on television. So you see these political presenters and commentators with charm, and I think what we’re seeing here, and what I appreciate about Kerry, is that she’s not interested in charm. Instead, she struggles to present what her idea of charm looks like, failing and feeling awkward. Her hair is combed, she’s in this bubblegum pink dress, she’s standing on this platform, she probably used bleach strips that morning, and everything on the outside tells her she must be this thing that she naturally isn’t.
I’m a theater nerd, so I think of Nina in Chekov’s The Seagull, and when she realizes she’s a bad actor, she says, “I didn’t know what to do with my hands.” There’s a lot there with Kerry not knowing what to do with her hands. To be nicer to TV reporters, a lot of this is about connecting with your audience, and I don’t think Kerry knows how to connect with a lot of people. I don’t think she’s interested in that.
She bonds with Logan, but we get to the crime scene at the karaoke bar where the kids welcome her to the “You Got Effed By Logan Roy” club. By the time Kerry and Logan leave, you can really tell the relationship has changed on her end.
Absolutely, that’s what I was going for during his incredible speech as they walked down the alley. What’s going on for her is she knows she’s screwed, and now there’s a distance.
Did she enter the karaoke bar knowing what had happened, or did the kids wake her up?
I think she knew when she talked to Cousin Greg, who she says has no power. So that means it’s from Tom, and Tom is too smart to do anything that would put him at odds with Logan. So that leaves Logan. I think she’s on the defensive in that scene with Greg, but inside it’s extremely embarrassing and she feels shameful. From that scene, she walks straight into the office where she knows Logan is there. I think on that walk, which we don’t get to see, she puts the puzzle pieces together. When she walks into that room, her momentum of anger and shame is hijacked by this bigger issue that the kids will vote “no” on the sale and change the trajectory of the vote. So there’s no way she can work it out with Logan. I’m not sure she would. But that moment is ended because something more serious enters the room.
When they go to karaoke [to confront Kendall, Shiv and Roman], I think it’s her idea to be softer on the kids. Her wheels are still turning. She can’t say “Fuck you!” She can’t get mad at him. She still needs him. And I don’t think she’s one to give up either, just like Logan doesn’t give up. I don’t think she accepts defeat. So I think she still feels like she can get out of this.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
New episodes of Succession release Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. Follow along THR‘s SuccessionN coverage of the last season.