Warning: The following interview contains spoilers about the season 3 finale of HBO‘s Succession, “All the Bells Say”
Et tu, Tom?
Well, the Roy siblings just didn’t see this one coming. In a riveting, unseen, and chilling cliffhanger, Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) husband, Tom Wambsgan (Matthew Macfadyen) decided he wouldn’t be played for a fool no more. After the emotional rollercoaster Shiv has put him through over three seasons, along with Tom obsessing over whether he’ll be the sacrificial lamb for Waystar Royco, and thrown in jail in a DOJ investigation, the middling exec took the reigns and sided with papa big bear Logan (Brian Cox) in a deal which sees the Roy kids sidelined in a pending merger with tech company GoJo that would give Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgard) control over them. It was Tom who tipped Logan off that Kendell (Jeremy Strong), Shiv, and Roman (Kieran Culkin) were heading his way to thwart a corporate marriage between Waystar Royco and GoJo. And then, if there was ever any indication that Tom is anointed, and indeed the turncoat, it was in Logan patting his son-in-law on the shoulder. Moments before Tom arrives at Logan’s villa, he’s already tipped off and invited Roy relative Greg Hirsch (Nicholas Braun) to be at his side in an ascent of the corporate ladder.
We spoke with Matthew Macfadyen this morning about what went down behind the scenes.
How long did you know about this? When did Jesse Armstrong and the writers let you know that this twist was coming?
We had a conversation early on before we started shooting, which outlined a possible scenario for the end. It’s a funny one, I listened to it, then forgot about it, because things might change, and whatever they want to do is great. I wasn’t hanging my hat on it, and I was just waiting for the script to come in.
Did it make sense to you that Tom would pivot and go against Shiv? Was he that upset with her inside?
Yes, it made sense to me. It’s an accumulation; it’s a pivot by a thousand cuts. From the very beginning, he’s had to take a lot. She speaks of an open marriage on their wedding night; it hasn’t been an easy ride for Tom, he’s had to take a lot of shit from the brothers and from his father-in-law and everybody. And then there’s the real terror of potential jail time. I think something flipped. But when I read the last episode, I was like, ‘This makes sense.’
Tom literally trusts Logan more than he trusts Shiv?
Yeah. Shiv let him down, and I think after that scene in their suite during the wedding when they’re playing that game, and she implies she doesn’t actually love him and she talks about freezing their babies.
Have you been let in about anything for season 4?
Not at all, and I’m not sure how much the writers know of season 4.
And we don’t know how big this divide will be between Shiv and Tom?
No, idea whatsoever.
Is there a world where the siblings and yourself have reign over Waystar Royco without Logan’s meddling, or that’s just never possible in the world that is Succession?
I don’t know. Logan is the lone star. That’s the fun of it. I’m so fascinated to know what they come up with. We don’t get the episodes until the day before we start shooting them, which is the day before the table read. Every episode is ‘Wow’. You can’t plan anything and I love that way of working.
Take us into that final scene you play. It was so nuanced. When you know your character so well, was that a fairly easy scene to play?
It’s not even about knowing your character. I don’t think Tom knows himself. There’s that little moment and there’s so much going on. You allow the audience to project it all onto you in a way.
How do you see Tom? Is he the clown, but the clown no longer?
He’s a collection of things. He’s a big ruffle bag of different stuff. He’s literally like a different person with everyone he meets. His status goes up and down. All the way up to 10 and down to 1 depending on who he’s with. He can be terribly spineless, and then there’s something weirdly noble about him. There’s lots in there. It’s what makes him fun to play. He’s a weird shapeshifter.
Is Tom in love with Greg?
I think Tom really likes Greg. In many ways, Greg is the one he has the healthiest relationship with. They know they shouldn’t trust each other. Tom likes the idea of being some sort of mentor, and likes the back and forth and treat him as a punchbag and therapist. I don’t have all the answers as Matthew and I don’t think Tom does. They were both in terrible jeopardy with this looming jail time hanging over them. Tom winds up going to Greg a lot of time for solace and the Nero and Sporus story. They’re quite openly venal, and quite openly ambitious. They say ‘We can’t trust each other, but let’s stick together’. In many ways, (their relationship) is quite healthier than him and Shiv.