Awards Daily talks to Succession director Cathy Yan about directing the Emmy-nominated episode “The Disruption” and what it was like shooting these four iconic moments.
Succession director Cathy Yan enjoys withholding action from the audience. In her Emmy-nominated episode “The Disruption”, a new scene starts with Greg (Nicholas Braun) disturbed by a booming voice saying, “FBI!” —before the camera reveals it’s Tom (Matthew MacFadyen). Then in a later scene, Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) face reveals the imposing existence of a security guard before the audience even sees the guard.
“Generally that’s what I like to do,” says Yan, “as opposed to the more expected coverage. I think reactions and reaction shots say so much. Especially the Kendall one, that was very deliberate. Let’s linger on him and let the presence be so much greater. I think we shot over the shoulder so we’d get a little bit of his shoulder, because Kendall’s reaction says it all.”
And yet while Yan conceals the action in these scenes, “The Disruption” is filled with a lot of iconic moments, from “Good Tweet/Bad Tweet” to Kendall’s Disruption breakdown.
Tom’s Sacrifice to Logan
Tom, thinking he’s going to prison, tells Logan (Brian Cox) that he’ll sacrifice himself as the scapegoat for all of the company’s illegal deeds—in the hopes that Logan might have some influence in lessening his prison sentence. It’s a small scene on the surface, but given how Season 3 ends—with Tom betraying Shiv in favor of Logan—it’s very telling on a second viewing. Was this scene the beginning of the end?
“No one knows, besides Jesse [Armstrong] and the writers, what’s coming up. I might have been able to read one other script after mine, but I certainly was as surprised as anyone else watching the finale. I was thinking [back to my episode], ‘Wow, that’s so interesting!’ It’s really wonderful and incredible to just see Jesse and the writing team lead these storylines and calibrate and feed things in. I don’t know if it was completely deliberate, but it does seem like it was the beginning of it, right?”
Also, given how aggressive Tom is with Greg, even in this very episode (re: that ‘cyanide pill’ scene), maybe if Logan saw that side of his son-in-law he might have appreciated him sooner.
“I think Logan absolutely rewards aggression. So I’m don’t know why Tom hasn’t revealed that side of himself yet. But I also secretly think [Tom] loves Greg, too.”
Good Tweet/Bad Tweet
“We shot it in a limo, so it was in fact very claustrophobic. That’s just the style of the show, which I love. You just run and gun and get it. It’s almost docu-style. Everything has to feel very realistic, so we just stuck two camera guys in a limo and went for it.”
However, the challenge of the scene was keeping the energy up, which included music and some improvising.
“What’s great about the show is that everyone is such a good improv-er. So it was really, really fun to see new tweets come up. There are always writers on the side thinking of new tweets as well. Every take, I’ll try to get another new tweet just to throw a wrench in it, so it won’t get stale.”
Kendall’s Disruption at the Town Hall Makes Shiv Spitting Mad
“Sarah and I spoke about that a lot. The siblings are obviously always talking shit to each other, but I think there was always a bond between them. [This moment] was really the first time you see a strong separation between them. That was very important to me. That was what the episode was about, also the disruption of this sibling bond. They always seem to have each other, in the face of Logan and an absent mother, all of that. I think it’s embarrassment [on Shiv’s part] and I do think it’s something deeper. For Shiv, there is this burden of being a woman. She feels like she finally got her shot, she’s kind of up there as a bit of a beard in a way, it just highlights all of that. It highlights her insecurities, her female rage, and it highlights that her older brother would do something like that.”
“We shot the whole scene, from the march all the way in. I think it was five or six [takes]. She’s surrounded by boys, and there’s a toughness to her. She would be the one to spit. As soon as I read it in the script, I thought, this is so great because it’s so weird.”
The Disruption Implosion & Kendall Roy’s Long Hallway Walk
“It was nice to hold on him. When we were location scouting, I’d say, ‘This hallway isn’t long enough!’ I very deliberately tried to make that walk as long as possible. For a show that I think has oftentimes a frenetic energy—you’re always cutting to reactions to people—I think just being able to hold really allowed us to be with him and allowed him to be vulnerable.”
Yan admits that even though Kendall is probably the most openly vulnerable character on the show, she felt it was important to show this moment.
“It was scripted that he walks and he walks for a while, but I really wanted to protect that and make it frankly as long as possible, because I knew Jeremy would give it his all and it would be really interesting to stay almost uncomfortably long on him so he would have all this time, and then some, to really process it. We’re witnessing the process. We never shot any coverage. We never did the reverse. We just did that one walk a few times.”
Succession Season 3 is streaming on HBO Max.