You can’t make a Tomelette without breaking some Greggs, and you can’t get through an episode of ‘Succession’ without a few rounds of riffing, at least according to Nicholas Braun (who plays Greg Hirsch) and Matthew Macfadyen (who portrays Tom Wamsgans).
“We basically improv in probably every scene to some capacity,” says Braun. Though the majority of the scenes are written to a T, the actors also get “freebies” where they are given creative freedom and allowed to veer off in a direction that feels right. Macfadyen says when he rewatches episodes months later, he “can never remember what was improvised and what was scripted” but admits that he thinks “most of it is scripted.”
Braun and Macfadyen’s characters are the Roys’ personal scapegoats and after two seasons of trauma bonding in the HBO drama — which ends its second season Sunday — the actors’ rapport is a lot smoother off-camera than on. Much of the screen time that the pair shares is tense, and some of it even involves physical harm, but that doesn’t hinder their relationship. “We just giggle at each other and we decompress at craft service, and have a laugh and go home” says Macfadyen.
Both actors deny ever having their feelings genuinely hurt following a tough or emotionally degrading take (“No, because it’s just acting” says Macfadyen with a laugh), but Braun reveals feeling “real shame” while shooting the infamous Boar on the Floor scene. “Whenever you have a passionate moment, or fierce contentious moment with Brian [Cox], it always feel like a true thing. Getting selected as one of the boars on the floor, I had to walk over to that area with Tom with real shame. I think that scene was written perfectly because everything just made sense like it actually felt s—ty to play that game.”
Brian Cox, who plays patriarch Logan Roy, is not the only looming presence on set. Braun chalks up his character as “meaningless” to Roman Roy (played by Kieran Culkin) and says their lack of rapport causes their interactions to feel intimidating. But Braun is used to receiving the short end of the stick. “I don’t give a lot of people s–t, but I get a lot of s–t. I get it from all sides.”
Macfadyen can relate. In the second episode of season two, Roman and his girlfriend invite Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Tom over for a grown-up dinner party. The Roys play house for five minutes before defaulting to childish antics. “As soon as the Roy siblings get together, they go into sort of bully mode, and they did then. Roman is sort of attacking Tom because he feels slightly jealous that Tom is doing well for a little bit and then Shiv immediately sides up with her brother and they gang up on the weakest, they sort of suss out who the weakest one is and gang up on him or her, in my case, me” Macfadyen says.
The weakest links are undoubtably Tom and Greg, which makes them such a match made in ‘Succession’ heaven, not to mention fan favorites. Braun doesn’t hate being the butt of jokes, and even appreciates them from time to time, citing Logan’s “Ichabod Crane, you Ichabod Crane f–k” as one of the best.
As for when Greg will fully bite back? That’s still up for discussion, though he seems to have dipped his toes into insults. Braun thinks Greg has an arsenal of affronts stock piled, the farthest his character has ever crossed the line is telling Tom to shut up. “He’s figuring out what he can get away with. I feel like maybe he should practice on Frank because I feel like Frank is the best punching bag for everybody.”
Even when Greg tried to “break-up” with Tom in ‘Safe Room,’ he kept it cordial. Of course, it escalated quickly and resulted in pelted water bottles to the ribs. Forget Gerri and Roman, Macfadyen calls their relationship the “big, romantic, subplot” of the series, “it may blossom one day, who knows.”
Going into the season finale, nobody knows who the sacrificial lamb will be, but big bets are on Tom and Greg both. You can’t make a Tomelette without breaking some Greggs, but you definitely can make a Tomelette without swallowing your own load.