Kieran Culkin talks to ET about Roman's latest power play and worrying politics as the family chooses the next presidential candidate.
As Succession season 3 begins to wind down, with only three episodes remaining, an increasingly overconfident Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) is starting to make power plays of his own. And this time, his influence within the family and fraught choices may have an indeterminable impact on life beyond Waystar Royco, especially when it comes to picking the next president of the United States.
And for once, the game that Roman thinks he’s playing with his siblings, Shiv (Sarah Snook), Connor (Alan Ruck) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong), may have real consequences. “Roman loves playing the game,” Culkin tells ET while breaking down Roman’s political moves in episode 6. “But it’s funny, you know, because Roman puts a great deal of effort into trying to crush his siblings. And then the moment they’re crushed, he just feels awful.”
[Warning: Spoilers for Succession season 3, episode 6, “What It Takes,” written by Will Tracy and directed by Andrij Parekh.]
After Waystar Royco successfully survived the shareholders meeting thanks to Shiv’s last-minute deal with Stewy Hosseini’s (Arian Moayed) private-equity partners, Sandy Furness (Larry Pine) and his daughter, Sandi (Hope Davis), the company is now faced with an even bigger problem: choosing the next president of the United States, after the current one designed to resign after one term and is no longer interested in putting up with the Roys’ constant meddling in his administration.
Now, with the pressure on Logan (Brian Cox) to choose the Republican party’s next candidate, the Roy family find themselves in Virginia where they attend a conservative political conference to suss out various hopefuls. And it’s not long before Roman becomes smitten with Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), a far-right, slick-talking congressman, who woos the youngest Roy with his “neo-neo-conservative” ideology.
Later, the Roy family reconvenes to go over their potential picks: the safest, if not weakest bet, Vice President Dave Boyer (Reed Birney); Shiv’s choice, Rick Salgado (Yul Vazquez), a modern Reaganite with blue-collar appeal; Roman’s controversial candidate; and Connor, who feels it’s his time to take the mantle and save his dad.
And while the inner circle debates over the best choice, for Roman, it’s not just about making sure Jeryd is selected. It’s about them recognizing he has a place in the room. “I think he’s been trying to tell people he can do it,” Culkin says. “Like, he is smart, he can do it. And people still don’t see him coming. They see him as, you know, a little f**kwit. Nobody quite takes Roman seriously.”
Culkin adds that “when it comes down to it, he can do the job.”
And as a fan of the show, the actor says it’s fun seeing Roman “find his voice a little bit more. Like, get his confidence.” Especially after Roman wavered in front of his dad in episode 1 and squandered his chance of being named CEO over Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron). “It was so frustrating to watch him come so close and then just not make it,” he says of the moment “he shot himself in the foot,” adding that Roman “is definitely jealous” of Gerri.
“But there are times when he does succeed, and episode six shows that,” Culkin says. Not only does Logan end up choosing Jeryd as their top pick, but kicks off a string of high-profile moves that demonstrate just how far Roman has come since season 1. And according to the actor, “it’s not just about trying to make his dad happy, it’s what Roman really wants and what he thinks is best for the company.”
When it comes to Jeryd’s politics, it’s frightening to see Roman so comfortable with supporting him, especially when Shiv points out just how dangerous he might be for America. But Culkin says that for Roman, Jeryd is just someone who he thinks will revitalize the base and play into the family’s dealings. “It’s more who Roman thinks could actually be the guy and who they have in their pocket,” he explains.
And if there’s any fear that Roman is actually displaying any fascist tendencies, Culkin shuts that down. “No, not at all,” he says. When it comes down to it, he says that Roman is actually a “closeted version of sort of leaning towards where Shiv is.”
Beyond the politics, the episode also sees Roman distracted by the unexpected news that his mother, Lady Caroline Collingwood (Harriet Walter), is getting remarried and that her nuptials to a businessman named Peter Munion will be taking place in Tuscany, Italy, in a matter of months.
“It feels real. It feels right,” Culkin says of Roman’s reaction, which sees him constantly bringing it up to all his other siblings, even Kendall (Jeremy Strong), who all seem to not really care. “I think Roman actually does try to hold onto this real idea of family more so than anyone else. He really thinks that they’re a unit.”
And so Roman sees the news of his mother’s wedding “as a change” he has to adjust to. “Oh, Mom’s marrying someone. So, now I have to get to know him. Is he my stepdad? What is he? I don’t even know what to call this guy. I don’t like it. I don’t know,” Culkin says.
In the meantime, Roman has many more deals to make rather than worry too much more about his mother’s wedding. “And that’s real fun to play,” Culkin teases.
Want to watch Succession? The series is now streaming on HBO Max and new episodes air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. (We may receive an affiliate commission if you subscribe to a service through our links.)