‘Succession’ Creator Was ‘Terrified’ by Jeremy Strong’s Improvised Moment Cut from Final Scene

[Editor’s Note: The following story contains spoilers for the series finale of “Succession.”]

“Succession” showrunner Jesse Armstrong may not have been worried to end the Emmy-winning series, but he was “terrified” over lead actor Jeremy Strong’s Method acting dedication to the series finale.

Armstrong revealed during NPR’s “Fresh Air” that Strong’s nearly jumping into the Hudson River for the film’s final scene — in a take that did not make it into the episode — caused alarm on set.

“I was terrified. I was terrified that he might fall in and be injured,” Armstrong said of a moment improvised by Strong in which he stood on the railing and looked down into the water. “He didn’t look like he was going to jump in. But once he climbed over that barrier, when you film, there are generally a lot of health and safety assessments made, and that was not our plan that day.”

Strong detailed how co-star Colin (Scott Nicholson) ran over and “stopped” him from jumping into the water. Armstrong also addressed the production logistics in the case that Strong’s suicidal fate for Kendall would have been filmed.

“If we’d even been thinking of that happening, we would have had boats and frogmen and all kinds of safety measures, which we didn’t have,” Armstrong clarified. “So my first thought was for his physical safety as a human being, not anything about the character. That’s what I felt on the day. Good Lord, above.”

However, Armstrong added that Kendall would not have tried to kill himself in the context of the series.

“For me, no,” Armstrong said. “I think for me, Kendall, at the end, one of the things he lacks is even the freedom to determine his own course through life. The name and the wealth around him — to lots of us, obviously it seems extraordinarily fortunate, and it is. But I do believe there is a certain kind of tragedy to a royal name, to a huge business name, to being a Disney or a Windsor or any of those kinds of names, and he can never, ever escape that. And one of the ways he can’t escape that is to have a bubble of protection around him…Even if he is contemplating it, I don’t think it could ever happen to him. And yet, for me, that’s not the way the story goes for this kind of person.”

Armstrong also addressed the “chilly” ending between Shiv (Sarah Snook) and estranged husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), who was newly appointed CEO of Waystar Royco. Tom offers his hand to Shiv in the backseat of a car as they ride into the unknown under the GoJo buyout.

“For me it was a moment of equality, which has never been the case in that relationship before,” Armstrong said. “Tom has always been subservient. Now he has this status, but his status is contingent. That’s kind of what the whole episode has been about. Shiv’s status is as all the kids are — secure. It’s secure in a financial sense. She has billions of dollars. She has wealth that could never diminish, whatever happened to the world. And she also has a name, which will sort of haunt her and make it interesting, to a certain degree, for the rest of her life, and that can’t be taken away from her. Whereas Tom’s position could be taken away in the click of fingers.”

He added, “So for me, there’s a very terrifying equality in that, a remarkable dry hand on hand. It’s not really even human contact. It’s a sort of two pieces of porcelain or something. So that’s what it is for me. That isn’t what it would be for everyone. And certainly you could see the situation being a clever stratagem by which Shiv remains in play. Maybe that thought will occur to her tomorrow or the day after. But for me, the show’s ended at this point and the story is over and that’s where I think they end up.”

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