Jazz Tangcay Talks To Nicholas Braun About Succession and playing the outsider
Nicholas Braun is on location. In Dundee, Scotland and he’s done all things visitors to Scotland need to do. He’s tried haggis – just don’t tell him what’s in it. He’s tried Irn Bru too.
Braun plays Cousin Greg on HBO’s hit show Succession. The outsider to the filthy rich Roys. The best scenes and most entertaining are when Tom and Greg are on screen together. While Tom and the Roy heirs are spoiled rich brats, Greg is left to take care of the Theme Parks, but he’s normal compared to them. He’s not a rich, bratty kid who tears up million dollar checks. He’s just the nice guy, the nice kid. And who better to validate him than Logan Roy?
I caught up with Braun to learn more about his acting partner, playing cousin Greg and all things Succession.
Everybody loves Cousin Greg, did you ever think you’d become a meme?
No. Definitely not. I don’t think you can ever anticipate that stuff and for it to happen. It’s awesome. I feel like people connect to what I connected to when I read it. He’s just a guy who is so unequipped to be in this world and yet it’s somehow going ok. I just think something really resonates with people about being in this highly intimidating world and trying to talk the talk and sometimes doing it well. He’s lucky, but he’s also ambitious. He’s basically in his own corner in this world.
What was your first impression and what did you think about him when you first saw him on the page?
I liked the way he talked. His thoughts are kind of incoherent when they come out. I felt I understood the timing of his jumbly, stuttery kind of speak. The first scene he’s really high in the amusement park and the episode leading up to that is about deal-making and corporate lingo and it’s intense. Then you meet Greg and he’s off in this whole other energy high. He’s lying to his mom on the phone. I felt how different from the rest of the ensemble that Greg is. I liked that he talked differently and thinks differently. I think I knew how to play him – he’s written very funnily, but I understood the humor of it without being, ‘Look how weird this guy is.’ He’s odd, but I think he’s genuine, naive and sweet. There was so much that I loved about him.
What is it like playing a character who’s on the outside looking in and also to play someone who’s socially awkward?
I think one of the challenges is when I’m in a scene; everyone is cooler, they’re better dressed, they’re more serious, and they have stature. In order to be Greg and what Greg is in this family, I have to not be any of those things. I have to tap into my uncomfortably and my own nervousness and embrace that and it’s not always easy to do. I have to just stay in whatever that energy is because I think that’s what Greg is. He’s just not doing the same thing.
How does Greg view Logan?
Logan to Greg is the first male father-figure that embraces him and gives him hope and makes him believe that he is capable of things. I don’t think Greg’s grandfather does that for him. I don’t think Greg has an actual father who’s around. We don’t learn too much about his mother, but she’s definitely a bit of a pill-popper. I don’t think he’s had anyone really tell him he’s worth something and Logan does that for him, and in the pilot, he gets some affirmation of that. I think he looks to him as a guiding light even though Logan stands for something that he doesn’t stand for and Greg has to come up against some moral stuff. I think Greg is a moral compass that no one else has on the show. I also think there’s something that Logan probably does for everyone and that’s making them feel like they’re worth something and that’s what Logan does for Greg.
We simply have to talk about your relationship with Matthew and acting opposite him when you have lines such as “pigman?”
He’s really one of the greatest acting partners I’ve ever had. We don’t ever talk about how we want a scene to go. We don’t prepare much. From the first episode, we just did it; we never talked about it. We both understand what that relationship is because the writers have made it perfectly clear and perfectly ambiguous. It’s so fun. We get to read these scripts and see these lines come in. We text each other and see each other on the set, and we will laugh about what we get to do. It’s hard to get through scenes with him. It’s hard. [laughs]. We’ve gotten to the point where we can do the lines of the scene, but if we start to break off and improv, it’s too fucking fun.
There are so many scenes where they let us improv and we can get through some of it, but it’s hard to not enjoy it because Tom is such a specific weird dickhead guy. The relationship has so much to it. Every time I get to work with him; it’s just great.
You’ve got pigman and Tom says, “A chimpanzee can do it, Greg.”
A little chimpanzee could do it.
What is that like to work with Adam’s style and just say what you want?
I love it. When you’re doing these scenes – the writing is so good, it puts you into the character and these circumstances. It makes you relate to the person you’re speaking to really easily. The writing lends itself to improv because it’s so real and funny. When things come out, they don’t feel like you’re trying to get a laugh. I think they’ve assembled a group of actors who know we’re not trying to get laughs, but we’re trying to just be these characters in this situation. So, whatever comes out of your mouth will work in some way.
Do you have a favorite Tom/Greg exchange?
I was just thinking about it as it’s been a while since we shot it. It was out on the balcony during Thanksgiving when he says, “A little chimpanzee could do it.” Greg is high, and he’s cornering me into that corner. I feel he could probably smell the weed, and he’s assigning me this really covert task. I think it’s the beginning of Greg loathing Tom a little bit. I think that’s where it started. Around episode three and four. I think that scene was full of stuff, and it was hard to get through, but it has a lot of good moments.
What are we going to see for Greg in season two?
He’s going to continue to try to move up and move forward. He’s questioning his relationship with Tom. They ended episode ten with this place where Greg is thinking I know I know who you are and you know who I am so let’s just be there with each other. I think Greg is continuing to try to trust him, but it doesn’t always happen. I think Greg is also struggling with what is his identity in this company and this moral stuff he has to face in order to stay inside of it all.
There needs to be a Tom and Greg spin-off.
I’m on board. I’m in. Let’s do it and let’s start our own company. Logan could be our angel investor and set us free. [laughs].