It’s a credit to the unpredictable storytelling in Succession that Cousin Greg, whose introductory scene saw him puking through the eyes of a dog costume while working at a Waystar Royco theme park, is now the average punter’s pick to be the last man standing when the series comes to an end.
“A lot of people come up to me and say ‘you’re gonna get it all, you’re gonna get the whole thing’, and, ‘oh man, take ’em, take ’em all down,'” actor Nicholas Braun, who plays Greg Hirsch in the HBO drama, tells RadioTimes.com.
These fans expect Greg to climb his way to the top of Waystar Royco and ultimately succeed Brian Cox’s Logan Roy as the head of the company.
While at the moment it seems like only Logan’s direct descendants are truly in consideration – Shiv (Sarah Snook), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Kendall (Jeremy Strong) are the only true runners, with Connor (Alan Ruck) mounting a presidential election campaign – there are signs to suggest that Greg, who has tactfully attached himself to Shiv’s husband Tom (Matthew MacFadyen) like a limpet, could rise all the way up.
Over the course of a season-and-a-half, Greg’s glow-up has been remarkable. In season two, he has gained a wardrobe full of sharp suits, a breathtaking Manhattan apartment courtesy of a down-and-out Kendall, and a senior position at FOX News equivalent ATN.
“What’s so great about this character is he started from nothing, smoking a ratty little joint in his mom’s car in the pilot episode,” Braun says, “and it’s great to see him in season two wearing nicer suits and, like, levelling up, making a decent salary and stuff.”
We’ve seen that Greg knows how and when to employ the leverage he gathered in season one – evidence of the company burying stories of sexual assault and possibly even murder on their cruises – while doing Tom’s dirty work.
And, each time he shows his cunning, the Roys seem to grow fonder of him. “You little Machiavellian f***,” Kendall tells him in the season one finale after he drops hints about the power he holds over them, “I see you.”. In the fourth episode of season two, Tom meets his blackmail warning with more than a hint of pride. “You’re a f***ing slimeball! Atta boy!” he says.
But could Greg really go all the way to the top?
“It’s up for grabs. I don’t know, I would love to [see Greg as head of Waystar Royco],” he says. “I know that [series creator] Jesse Armstrong is so smart about the way that he does things and he never wants to give you the full dessert, the full thing. He gives you a chunk but then he also takes away a chunk from everybody, so I don’t think it’ll happen in any kind of way that anybody thinks. And he has never spoken to me about it.”
By the sounds of things, though, we haven’t seen the last of Machiavellian Greg for the season.
“Without spoiling anything about the rest of the season, he’s definitely finding his moments,” Braun says. “He found that moment at the end of the [season one] finale with Kendall and he has this moment with Tom where he’s trying out his sort of muscling. He’s gonna try and throw some elbows in there.
“I like that Greg is starting to equip himself with some weapons and some sort of strategy. I don’t think he’s as much of a blob as he probably seems to the rest of the family – he’s taking in a lot of the way that they do things, watching Kendall manoeuvre and watching Tom manoeuvre, and I think he knows when it’s time to step up and play his own cards.”
Greg wouldn’t be where he is now without Tom, who showed uncharacteristic loyalty to him in an early episode of season two by opting not to tell Logan that Greg spoke to the author of an unauthorised biography about him, even when it could have saved his own skin. Braun says their connection is a result of them both feeling “alone”, as two outsiders who have burrowed their way into the Roy dynasty.
“I think they’re both sort of starved for connection in this world,” he says. “I think when both of them can share a moment of camaraderie, it feels right for them, and it’s such a dark world, you’re always on the chopping block.
“Logan is always circling, Roman is not a guy that’s ever gonna be a safe space for you, so you’re always kind of on edge, and there’s always risk and it’s always dangerous, so I loved that moment ’cause it was kind of like two people acknowledging like, ‘Hey, this is kind of a hard world sometimes, so thank you for having my back in it’.”
He continues: “But how deep it actually runs I don’t know. It’s hard. Sometimes it feels like those moments are, like, Tom and Greg has reached a new level of their relationship, and then Tom will do something disgusting towards Greg, or bullying or something, so it’s just an ongoing kind of mess of a relationship.”
Real or fake, maintaining a positive healthy relationship will be vital to Greg’s rise. The sky is the limit…
Succession season 2 continues weekly on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV