Arian Moayed, famous for his role of Stewy on HBO’s Succession and now an Emmy nominee, is incredibly grateful and thrilled to be part of the critically acclaimed drama. Here, in an interview with Awards Daily, he reveals that the way the words of the show are written gives him a lot of insight into his character while also giving him room to express the character. He also considers the creativity of the show to be the kind he has always looked for in all of his projects and has been a major part of the work he has done in theater for over twenty years.
Awards Daily: How have you approached getting into Stewy as a role?
Arian Moayed: To be real with you there is so much of Stewy now that we are in our fourth year that he is a trust between what I am bringing to the table and Jesse (Armstrong) and the writers. Meaning there is so much trust and understanding that the words are going to be the thing that sets you free. In a way, when I get ready to get on this ride again, one of the things I have to trust, and I do trust, is the incredible ambiguity and sharpness of Jesse’s words. And I think that is where the character really starts, with the words. Then there are a couple of other small things. Stewy comes into these huge situations and huge messes and really wants to make certain he has the power as well. So there is a relaxed nature about him that is really key to balancing the orchestra of the cast. You have a lot of different instruments out there all doing their own thing, and it’s cool to have someone who is a relaxed engine in the midst of all that. So I really am trying to lean in on the words and leaning in on lowering the temperature. Then sometimes for fun (actually often) on the day of the shoot, as I am getting up for the shoot at 5am, I listen to the soundtrack. It gets me right back in there, just listening to Nicholas’s (Britell) unbelievable music. I really feel like it syncs me into that place again and reminds me what kind of show we are making.
Awards Daily: Stewy has been a thorn in the Roy family for three seasons and now he is inside the company. Do you think this will change how he proceeds further?
Arian Moayed: I think that Stewy’s told us what kind of thorn he is going to be, the one that wins. If he is going to be the thorn that wins he can flip on any which way as long as the end prize is going to be his. I say this often and I mean it. I really do think he is one of the most honest characters in the show. He just tells you he is going to screw you instead of trying to do some backdoor, let me talk to him, let me talk to her kind of thing. He is just going to tell you to listen: money talks. He repeatedly says that. So in a way it’s actually kind of freeing for Stewy because, no matter what, he is going to be on top or thinks he is going to be on top. If that means he is going to be a thorn in the Roys’ behind then so be it. That also means he is going to be a rose for the rose if they have a better deal. There is that one moment at the end of season two where he says to Logan and Kendall, if my side is making just a little bit more than your side is (I am paraphrasing because I can’t remember the line) then I am going to pick that side. It really is kind of refreshing. Now obviously he could be wrong, but so far the reason I think he is still around and, like you said, still a thorn, is that he is picking the other side so far.
Awards Daily: You’re right. He is the most honest of the group on the show. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Yes, he is very up front.
Arian Moayed: He just tells you how it is. And you can take that as whatever. You can take that as conniving. But at least you know, can you trust me? No. I am going to be a little bit better on this side because this side is a little bit better than you guys. I think there is a line that was cut or improvised but it was with Logan and Kendall. I was thinking, you are coming to me for money so you obviously aren’t on the winning side. Otherwise I’d be coming to you because I think you’re going to win. There is a little bit of that energy and I think it is refreshing on the show to have someone like that. He is also just super whip smart and quick, even getting in the door took genuinely seconds because he got an offer about what Waystar Royco was going to be.
Awards Daily: What has it been like getting your first Emmy nomination?
Arian Moayed: There is a real excitement about it. It’s one of those things when you are acting you can’t really even think about. To be honest until this happens it doesn’t even occur to you that this is something to go after. But what is really cool about it for me is that my first Emmy nomination is attached to Succession. That makes me so thrilled, I love this show as a fan and I am just so honored to be along for this historic piece of art.
Awards Daily: I also saw you did some writing and directing, most recently The Accidental Wolf miniseries. Is that something you would like to do more of?
Arian Moayed: Yeah, I started in the theater in New York City and we were writers, we were directors, we were actors. Twenty years of my nonprofit Waterwell has led me to these other exciting opportunities and a voice. I am an Iranian immigrant. I grew up in Iran and Dubai and the United States and I have all these different stories to tell. To be honest with you, I do not do well with someone telling me no. If someone says I do not want to do this, I just find a way with a bunch of amazing artists to just try and make it happen. That’s what The Accidental Wolf was. It’s not that I want to do more of it, I will just continue to do. I am working on a bunch of projects right now. And the last film that I wrote, The Courtroom, just premiered at Tribeca. I just think it’s more than just writing and directing or acting is (as gross as this may sound); it’s being involved with amazing, engrossing stories that shift the narrative a little bit. That is what I want to do. If it’s as a writer, director, or actor, that is what my life mission is.
Awards Daily: You touched on this about founding the Waterwell and what it does for you. But what made you want to found it, and is there anything else you have been working on with it?
Arian Moayed: Waterwell really came about on the heels of 9/11. Tom Ridgely and myself were in university and were fascinated with what theater is meant to do and what it has done for generations and generations. We really let the embodiment of what the change of theater and art can be and then 9/11 happened, and we dedicated our lives to making this theater company that tells these engrossing stories with complex civic questions and tackle it through a bunch of different realms. We do it through theater, we have a huge education program for a performing arts school in midtown Manhattan. We also do that through all these other stories in the communities that we work alongside. To be honest with you, the reason I am even probably talking to you is my first three or four years (it’s been twenty years now) I was so dedicated to working with Tom and the group of artists to make this work. From 2002-2005 and along the way I just got signed by an agent! (Laughing) Then because I was more interested in all this other stuff, acting didn’t have the same pressure as it once did. It wasn’t that I had to get this job, I just went in and tried to do my soul, and that led to more theater and more films and led to Succession. I really do think Waterwell was the catalyst for all this.
Awards Daily: You have two films coming up, Retribution and Beth & Don. Is there anything you can tell us about those?
Arian Moayed: Retribution is this amazing movie that I made with the incredible Liam Neeson and Matthew Modine and a group of amazing artists. I am excited about when that movie comes out, I think it is coming out this fall. Beth & Don just wrapped, I got the complete honor of being in a Nicole Holofcener film, who I have known since the 90s. I got to work alongside the incredible Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who I have also known since the 90s. Just learning from Tobias (Menzies) and Julia and Michaela Watkins and Nicole is really one of those memorable moments that I will not forget.
I have had this amazing pleasure of working off Broadway with Robin Williams for six months, I have been in a Bill Murray movie, I worked along with Jon Stewart. And now I got to work with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. To me these are the things I am going to learn the most from, these amazing comedians who really know how to craft a joke and craft humanity.
Awards Daily: Is there anything you want to leave our readers with?
Arian Moayed: The only other thing I want to say is that it is amazing to be nominated but this really (and I am sure a lot of other people have told you this) is an orchestra of amazing artists and actors in a room trying to make s*** happen. It doesn’t feel as individual to me as other projects. This feels really like an ensemble of geniuses working alongside and trying to tell a beautiful story. I really do mean that, it’s not just something you say. It feels like you are in an ensemble, when you have those big group scenes it feels like it’s an orchestra that is perfectly calibrated by everyone in the room. The crew, cast, writing, directing. It’s such a rarity what this show is. I mean that, so much of that is why the show is so amazing. It’s because of everybody.
Awards Daily: Kieran Culkin said something similar when I talked to him earlier.
Arian Moayed: It’s weird; we come in and everyone does their part. It’s like beautiful basketball or a beautiful ballerina. It’s mesmerizing and you can’t stop watching all the moves and the machinations. It is just amazing.