‘Succession’ Director Mark Mylod On Finding The Balance Between “The Epic And The Emotional” For Logan Roy’s Funeral
It was time to say goodbye to Logan Roy during Sunday’s penultimate episode of Succession.
Episode 9, titled “Church and State,” puts Logan to rest with a massive affair that takes place inside a Manhattan cathedral. It’s 80 minutes that are heavy with a mix of emotions as the Roy siblings are finally confronted with the reality that their father is gone. In the five episodes that led to this moment, they’ve managed to shrug off their grief with the distraction of the looming GoJo deal and the presidential election. But now, there’s nowhere left to hide.
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Their grief bubbling to the surface is clear from the beginning, when Kendall (Jeremy Strong) lashes out at his ex-wife Rava (Natalie Gold) for taking their kids out of the city for fear of violent protests as the contentious election continues to play out. Then he lashes out again at his assistant Jess (Juliana Canfield) when she reluctantly tells him it’s time for her to move on. Shiv (Sarah Snook) chooses this day, of all days, to inform her siblings and her mother that she’s pregnant. But perhaps the most gut wrenching moment comes when Roman (Kieran Culkin) takes the podium to give a eulogy on behalf of all the siblings. He can barely utter a sentence before he leaves the stage and collapses in the arms of his siblings. He sobs as he says, “Is he really in there?” (referring to Logan in the casket before them).
“Roman says that he’s pre-grief right after the death of his father. Some people do feel that way. Right? They feel numb and they don’t feel the wave of grief that they’re expecting and that can be a sort of guilty relief,” said creator Jesse Armstrong during Episode 9’s edition of Controlling the Narrative. “Oftentimes, it does come at an unexpected time. And it’s not funny at all, but it has the structure of the joke really, of like ‘I’m not feeling anything’ and then a huge wave of feeling.”
And it wouldn’t be Logan Roy’s funeral if everyone didn’t try to capitalize on who they were sharing the pews with (from GoJo founder Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) to conservative presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) to all of Logan’s lovers. Even Kerry). Deals were being spun on the future of Waystar Royco as its founder lay in the casket at the front of the room.
Hitting each beat, emotional or not, required a bit of a balancing act from director Mark Mylod.
“I thought that structure was so intriguing and so emotionally fraught. With those hyper emotional scenes, there’s just a trust that’s involved. The challenge was getting the right combination in the church of the epic and the emotional, and a very real logistical challenge of just getting it all shot,” he said. “We had a huge page count in the church. We had very, very limited availability…with our normal two camera way of shooting, there was just no way we could get through this fast page count. There’s so many incredibly important beats. Unless we did something extreme.”
To pull it off, Mylod had to return to the early days of his career, which involved multi-camera shoots for live television and variety shows.
“So we devised a four film camera system,” he said. “So the cameras wouldn’t be shooting into each other, so that one camera could be on whoever’s eulogizing, one camera could be on the siblings, one camera could be picking up reactions. And again, we did that roll and reload system that I spoke about earlier in Episode 3.”
Mylod previously explained the process behind the 30-page scene in Episode 3 that was shot in one continuous take from the moment the Roy siblings get the call at Connor’s wedding that Logan isn’t well until the boat docks back in Manhattan. To do so, he devised what he’s dubbed the “roll and reload system,” which involved having rolls of film and multiple camera bodies stashed around the scene so that the camera operators could continue shooting without much disruption.
“From the moment the casket is brought into the church right through its procession through all the eulogies, we ran that all as one big chunk,” he explained of Episode 9. “That was an attempt to give the cast as much emotional flow as possible which, in my opinion, they always benefit from.”
The final episode of Succession airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and is available on HBO Max at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET.
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