Sarah Snook talks wealth and playing Shiv on HBO’s Succession
Sarah Snook has just arrived at an undisclosed location when I catch up with her. She’s in the midst of shooting Succession and she tells me, “We start to find out what drives Shiv and what her fears are.”
We talk about Snook playing Shiv, Logan Roy’s only daughter and dive into what drives her. We talked about what it was like to play a character where extreme wealth is taking a helicopter to work. We also discuss meeting Shiv’s mother in the season and Snook teases a little bit where she can about what we’re going to learn in season two.
How did they approach you, and what was it about this that appealed to you?
It came out as a self-tape. I had no hope or expectations about getting the role. I wasn’t even going to audition. I was doing another audition for another film and she was helping me with that, then she suggested I do this.
I didn’t want to do it. It’s the old adage of not wanting to be rejected again. In the sphere of that, I wasn’t willing to do it, but my friend convinced me to and it just turned out to be a good thing. I really wanted it, but I feared I couldn’t do it when you get something like that that you really want to do.
And here we are.
I did the pilot and it was really fun.
Between all the guys, I love Shiv. She’s so refreshing. We get into her around episode 7 and the cracks of who she is, start appearing.
That’s the thing I like discovering in a character. You’re playing someone so buttoned up and so in control and now the cracks start to show. That’s what’s fun for me, finding where the cracks are, and to find her flaws and exploit them to make her feel uncomfortable or what it is that puts her in a compromised position. I think we do that more in season two, we start to find out what drives Shiv and what her fears are.
How do you find her humanity?
In the end, you have to treat them as the complex human beings they are. I did a lot of research into what wealth was in America and what I could perceive that it does to a person. No matter what economic background you come from or financial station, you’re still fundamentally human. You have all these flaws, wants and desires. In particular, for the Roy children, they have this looming shadow over them. That’s the constant thorn in their side where they want their father’s love, but don’t want to be under the power of him. That’s the most interesting part for me that you can be this very wealthy and very powerful person, in among your social and business life, but then where your family life is concerned you become a child again. Amongst your siblings, you can’t help but behave like a child.
Shiv and Tom are together. He’s such an outsider, does she genuinely love him?
I think she does. I think she genuinely loves him. I think part of that is terrifying for her because it’s an excruciating vulnerability that she doesn’t really want to give into. He fits into her plan, and he’s a safe bet. He’s never going to get bored of her. If she has to choose someone like Tom or her father, I don’t know what kind of person she’d be if she were with someone like Logan. I think someone like Tom is a safer angle for her. He’s not scary for her.
I loved seeing her mother. What was that like having Harriet on the set ?
It was so great. When we met Harriet and she folded into the world of the family, it was one of those wonderful moments where everything suddenly made sense. I understand why she is the way she is, and this is where the bite comes from.
Maybe the bark is from dad, but the wit and the bite is from her mother. They lucked out having her on board. She will be back in season two and we go and shoot in Scotland.
Shiv is the least messed up of them. Did you create a backstory for her?
I think she’s better at hiding it. I think she has that mental acuity like her father to sit back and observe and come in for the kill.
I’ve always thought she was most like Logan. Being the youngest sibling, I think she was the only female, I think her mom left when she was a lot younger so she wasn’t fully aware of that separation. I think she was more conscious of being raised by nannies.
I think she had a different path through her childhood and chose to take a different path for herself just to protect herself as she’s seen what it has done to her brothers.
What’s it been like for you coming from Australia and learning about the obscene wealth? We don’t have that in England or Australia, but here people take helicopters to work?
It’s a different kind of wealth and something that I haven’t really been exposed to in Australia. A friend of mine works in SoHo and opposite the place she works is a Rolls Royce on call 24 hours a day no matter what time of day you come out. It’s sitting there idle.
There’s a different kind of wealth that’s astronomical, and it’s displayed as well. There’s a different kind of attention in what it can afford in convenience and lifestyle. in Australia and England, we have different attitudes that prevent us from being too showy or too overt with our displays of wealth. Particularly in England, there’s that aristocratic old money where you don’t show off how much wealth you have, but everyone knows from the quality of the fabric. There’s politeness.
In America, wealth is present and used.
Do you have a favorite line from the season?
I loved Tom saying to Greg when he comes in and says, “Oh boat shoes? Forgive me, but are we talking to each other on the poop deck of a majestic schooner?” I was like, he’s such a bonehead loser, but it’s so funny.
Succession returns to HBO in August.