When she was first approached to play Siobhan “Shiva” Roy, the only daughter of a ruthless but ailing media tycoon, in HBO’s “Succession,” Sarah Snook was apprehensive of the project despite her obvious pedigree.
As an artist on the rise, thanks to a string of award-winning film and television roles in Australia and a well-received turn in the 2015 biopic “Steve Jobs,” Snook was wary of being marginalized on a show that At first glance, seemed to be about “a bunch of white guys in business”.
“Do I want to be a prop in this story that doesn’t focus on me at all?” She recently reminisced at a cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, near the apartment where she lived while filming “Succession.” “I read the pilot and went, ‘I want to watch it, but I don’t know if I want to be in it.’
Snook’s bewilderment is understandable, especially given the gender dynamics of prestige TV circa 2016, when, as she put it, “‘Game of Thrones’ was huge and there was a tilt across the board in TV for more female nudity. ” Thankfully, that also proved wrong: Shiva has proven to be an essential player in the cynical, male-dominated world of “Succession,” which returns to HBO for its fourth season — and, as recently announced, Final – Season 26 March.
The news that “Succession” would end with Season 4, first reported last month by The New Yorker, caught many fans off guard — and, it seems, some of the cast. Snook said that, despite indications throughout production that the show might be off, he was not officially informed until the final table read in January.
In a follow-up call from Melbourne, a few weeks after the Brooklyn meeting, she said, “I was very upset.” “I felt a huge sense of loss, disappointment and sadness. It would have been nice to know at the beginning of the season, but I also understand not being told until the end because there was still a possibility that it might not be the end.” Was.
“Emotionally, we all weren’t ready to end the show because we love each other so much,” she said. “But everything has to come to an end, and it’s smart not to let something become a parody of itself.”
Created by British writer Jesse Armstrong, the Emmy-winning saga follows Logan Roy (Brian Cox), a cantankerous self-made billionaire, and grown children desperate to win his approval and take over the family’s vast news and entertainment conglomerate Westar Royco. “Succession” offers viewers a glimpse into life inside a powerful media dynasty — of Mediterranean superyachts and tricked-out private jets, but also of the corrosive family dysfunction that can accompany extraordinary wealth.
Vicious sibling rivalry and thorny parent-child relationships make “Succession” relatable, even for those who have never set foot in Davos. Like his older brothers Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin) and Connor (Alan Ruck), Shiv has serious daddy issues, exacerbated by her status as the only female in the family. (His mother, played with bone-chilling detachment by Harriet Walter, is a spectral presence in his life.)
Sharp and merciless, just like his namesake, Shiva rivals his father with great gusto. Her Machiavellian exploits include preventing a former employee from testifying before a Senate committee about sexual misconduct at Waystar and leaking details about Kendall’s addiction and mental illness struggles to the press. But Season 4 finds Shiva in a predicament: ousted from the company and separated from her devoted husband Tom Wambsgans (MATTHEW MACFADYNE) after an unimaginable betrayal.
Snook, it’s fair to mention, is hardly less like Shiva: a fearless and self-deprecating Australian, she displays none of her character’s frosty entitlement in person, in a gray hoodie and weathered Blundstone boots. Appears in a quiet cafe. When a scheduling mishap sends me to the wrong borough for our meeting, she texts me the correct address and waits patiently in Brooklyn while I take a cab across the river.
Still, Snook has taken lessons from Shiva, specifically the confidence “that he’s allowed to be anywhere. She doesn’t believe in the glass ceiling, because she could afford the building.
Although you wouldn’t know it from her almost effortless American accent on the show, Snook grew up outside Adelaide – the city where Rupert Murdoch, the loose inspiration for Logan Roy, launched his newspaper empire.
The youngest of three sisters, Snook initially displayed a performing streak, winning a high school drama scholarship and—which may qualify as her first paid acting gig—as the entertainer for a children’s party called Fairy Lavender. is working in (She continued to hustle when she moved to Sydney to attend the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art, but had to change her name to Fairy Twinkle Toes; there was already a Fairy Lavender in Sydney.)
This job gave him an early lesson in winning over skeptical audiences. “You’ll get a lot of kids saying, ‘I don’t know if I believe you,'” she said. “That’s what Shiva does when he walks into a room and says, ‘You have to believe I’m capable of doing this.'”
After finishing his studies at NIDA, Snook worked steadily in Australian theatre, film and TV.
Hollywood immediately took note: She was one of the finalists to play Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (the role eventually went to Rooney Mara). In 2014, she starred alongside Ethan Hawke in the major sci-fi yarn “Predestination”, providing an audacious performance as an intersex character who lives first as a woman, then as a man. Snook’s male persona—who bears an uncanny resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio’s “less attractive brother”—was so convincing, his own mother didn’t recognize him on set.
“Finding a character like the hot surfer girl was easy for me,” she said. “To be a man? So wonderful.”
Working with Hawke—who once adorned his sister’s bedroom wall on a “White Fang” poster—Snook felt she might have peaked too soon. He didn’t. In quick succession, she moved from “The Dressmaker,” a period piece set in rural Australia, to “Steve Jobs” (incidentally, both films starred Kate Winslet).
Then came “Succession”.
Casting director Francine Maisler, an early champion of Snook’s work, brought Snook to the attention of Adam McKay, who directed the pilot, and Armstrong, who was struck by the mix of intelligence, toughness, and humanity that he displayed in his audition. Had brought
“All of a sudden, you go from thinking, ‘Oh my God, will someone be there?’ “Oh God, I hope she doesn’t get an offer,” Armstrong remembered by phone during a break from editing “Succession.” “She was the only person in the world who could do it all at once. Could have.”
Shiva has evolved, if not actually evolved, over the course of the series. In Season 1, she was carving a path outside the family’s conservative media empire as an advisor to a Bernie Sanders-esque senator. Eventually lured back to Waystar, Shiva reinvents herself as a callow corporate feminist who helps guide the company through a sexual abuse scandal, only to be passed over for the chief executive job. Must be known and dismissed as a “token woman” by one of her brothers.
For all Shiva’s bravado, her journey offers a stark example of the malaise that even privileged women face. (Her style makeover has also been much talked about, cropping her bohemian waves into a sleek, strawberry blonde bob and adopting a wardrobe of Hepburn-esque trousers.) Snook believes Shiva has genuine centre-left politics . But, she added, “she understands that sometimes you have to bend your beliefs to get what you want in the long run.”
Snook’s abilities as a performer enabled such a dramatic character arc, Armstrong said. “The abiding feeling you have as a writer is the incredible confidence that you can go anywhere, at any level of emotional complexity, and not only will Sarah match that, but she’ll add three layers of her own, ” They said.
Shiva is married to the fickle Tom Wambsgans (McFadden), a hard-working sycophant whom she repeatedly humiliates – including on their wedding night, when she tells him she wants an open marriage – all in the power of About a show has been a particularly enriching vein for me. its forms.
Her centrality to the narrative was made clear in season 3’s parting shot, a stunning closeup of Shiva as he absorbs the terrifying realization that Tom—with his hands resting dangerously on his shoulders—took him away from Logan. Was betrayed in a showdown with. Snook said, “He does the one thing she believes he could never do, because he would never have the guts or the courage.”
In the scene, “you feel the earthquake of a power shift,” Armstrong said. “It’s like someone opened the door to a whole rather terrifying set of rooms that they didn’t know existed, one where the balance of power in his personal relationships is completely skewed” – all of which played in Snook’s face. Went.
The awe-inspiring moment was not scripted in detail: “succession” performers are often encouraged to improvise, revising their lines on the fly and allowing scenes to play out beyond what is written on the page, a style that lends to the show’s psychological and emotional realism.
“It’s made me less valuable about my performance. I’m more inclined to fail and mess up,” said Snook, who, like McFadden, faces the added challenge of ad-libbing in his non-accent. Is. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘I don’t know how to say this,’ but it works for the character. Instead of coping with Roman’s verbal diatribe, she’ll just stand there looking at him and that’s about it.”
“He has this amazing ability to harness the great sorrow and anger of Shiva. It’s the skill of being able to keep a lid on it,” McFadden said. “You watch it sometimes as spectators and see the lid firmly on these vast swirling depths beneath its icy exterior. “
Though its ratings are modest, “Heirship” has dominated the cultural conversation since its debut in 2018 because of how cleverly it skewers the billionaire class. But because the pandemic shut down the show for two years, Snook said she only recently became “aware of the noise” around it. This focus is especially pronounced in certain areas of New York, such as the Upper East Side, where it enjoys greater recognition.
“I think rich people should watch the show,” she said. “I hope they view it with good irony.”
With “Succession” now behind him, Snook, 35, is looking forward, with two interesting projects slated for release this year: “Run Rabbit Run,” a horror film for Netflix, and “The Beanie Bubble,” which will be adapted from the Netflix original. Inspired by the bizarre story behind the Beanie Baby craze of the ’90s for Apple TV+. She also directed a short film during the pandemic and is keen to get behind the camera again soon.
She’s also enjoying time with her husband, comedian Dave Lawson, who lovingly waved at us from the cafe’s window as we talked. After years of platonic friendship, the couple fell in love during Australia’s strict COVID shutdown and married in 2021 in Snook’s backyard in Brooklyn. Romance.
Snook’s domestic happiness is another way she differs from her character’s, but she sees parallels in their experiences. On Instagram, the actor recently watched a clip of Shiva from Season 1 and was impressed by the “growth of a woman in her 20s, 30s and coming into adulthood”.
She added, “There was a girlishness to Shiva at that time, but she has turned into a woman, and that reflects my own journey as part of the series.”