[This story contains spoilers for Succession season four episode five, “Kill List.”]
Succession is unlike many of its HBO peers in that it doesn’t kill characters off with reckless abandon, and yet, given the shocking death of Logan Roy, one could be forgiven for walking into an episode called “Kill List” holding their breath. Luckily, everybody survived the hour, even if their job prospects are on decidedly deadlier ground.
Following their ascension to CEO status, Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) lead the wayward Waystar Royco on a journey to Norway, to sit down and renegotiate the company’s sale to GoJo. The episode sees the final season’s first appearance of newly minted series regular Alexander Skarsgård as obscenely rich man child Lukas Matsson, the Scandinavian equivalent of the Roys in some respects. In other ways, he’s more than their match, battle-tested in the dealmaking trenches with the likes of the late Logan, among others. “Kill List” tracks the back-and-forth dealings between Matsson, Kendall and Roman, with even Shiv (Sarah Snook) sneaking in to carve out some possible pathways of her own, beyond relying on her brothers and their turbulent track records.
In the end, despite doing their best to tank the deal and retain ownership over Waystar, Kendall and Roman instead find themselves facing an even better financial deal than anyone anticipated — due in no small part to Matsson wanting to torture the Brothers Roy, now that all their enmities are on the table. If Kendall and Rome still want to do away with Matsson, they’re going to have to get very creative, or else expose their naked desire to retain Logan Roy’s throne, even at the expense of an anxious board, eager to close the deal.
Perhaps not every higher-up wants to see the sale through to the finish line, however, given the final moments of “Kill List,” in which the episode’s title comes into play. On the other side of Matsson’s latest offer, the company learns the names of various important figures who will likely lose their jobs after the sale goes through: Hugo (Fisher Stevens), Karl (David Rasche) and Frank (Peter Friedman), to name a few. Hugo and Karl are particularly rankled by the news. But Frank? As usual, mostly unbothered.
Maybe it’s because Frank’s been here before, fired in the Succession pilot as a means of clearing space for Roman’s ascension, and fired again midway through the first season after Kendall’s failed coup. Really, it’s a wonder why Frank is still in the picture at all, given the horrific way the surrounding Succession ensemble tends to treat him. It’s a mystery to the man who plays him, Peter Friedman, for whatever it’s worth — and given the actor’s terrific contributions to the series, especially as executor of Logan’s will — in the final season, it’s worth quite a lot.
As Succession crosses the midpoint of the fourth and final season, Friedman chats with The Hollywood Reporter about the five episodes aired thus far, Frank’s relationship with the ascendant Kendall and the departed, if not dearly, Logan Roy.
Frank has been a fixture in this series since the earliest days, despite getting fired in the first episode. What do you make of his journey up to this point, and why he’s still in the mix?
I look forward to being illuminated on that, sometime in the future. (Laughs.) I often wonder that! What keeps this guy, who we think may have some moral code, hanging with the sharks? He loves them, and he has for decades, but I don’t know if that’s the answer. He might like being close to power, and all that it affords. We just haven’t seen him on his shopping trips. We just don’t know much about the guy.
HBO had an electronic press kit during the second episode of the very first season. They asked me about the character. I had to go, “Ah… I just got here!” And not much has changed. I gather more about my character from what people write on different lists, what their surmises are, than I know about him. But I think he is warm and avuncular, but there must be something that is attracted by these fellows.
Do you play Frank as staying around because of that power, or is it the relationships? I’m thinking specifically of what he says about Logan as he’s dying, that they have “40 years of history.” That’s not nothing.
I would have thought so, that it’s my affinity for Logan, from maybe the first decade. Maybe he’s waiting for that guy to reappear. I haven’t seen him in quite a while. That’s what I would figure.
Obviously, that guy isn’t showing back up.
How difficult was this secret to keep?
I’m so glad that it actually happened, that people were surprised! Just think of the millions of people who work on this thing, all the extras at the funerals… they must have known something! I don’t know if they had to sign anything or were sworn to secret. But it was an incredible secret.
I was in Norway, and [a cast member] made me laugh when we were doing a scene on the cable car. I came back to the hotel, and told my wife, who was traveling with me, and she said, “What do you mean? Is Logan dead?” And I put my hands on my head. “No! I blew it!” It just got past me.
It didn’t leak, so it all worked out in the end! What was your reaction when you found out Brian Cox would leave in this manner, three episodes into the final season? Were you shocked?
Of course. Of course. Because Brian is such a draw as an actor. It’s a bold, bold, bold choice. It was incredible. They had a couple of Zoom meetings where they split these large groups into two and told us what it was going to be. We chatted a lot amongst ourselves over text going, “Can you believe this?” It was exciting. It’s so not done, and they did it.
Logan’s gone, but after “Honeymoon States,” his son is rising, as Kendall is getting Logan-esque in his own right. I’ve always enjoyed the relationship between Frank and Kendall. Frank is Kendall’s godfather, and he often feels like the real father Kendall never knew he had. How do you read their dynamic? Does Frank look at Kendall like a son?
I think he might. Especially because of the waywardness of Kendall, and how much nurturing and controlling the kid would need, and has needed for his entire life. There’s something pitiable about it. I’ve tried to join with him on certain legs of his journey. But it’s hard… what I’m given are merely the scripts, just like everybody else. One can infer from those. But in terms of embellishing from there, I wouldn’t dare. I have to go with the bare bones. If I only seem to have words with him every long once in a while, I suppose that’s true. I suppose that’s maybe what it really is between them. Our universes only click in the hallway, or pass by briefly, and every once in a while, I’m in a position where I’m having to deliver a certain amount of news, or I’m asked for a certain judgment, and he’ll come to me.
There’s a longstanding warmth that remains, from those earliest years, and it’s sort of like me and Jeremy in life. We were in a play together a few years ago, Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan. He was lovely. Here we are on the set. His work is so admirable, but when we meet on the set, we rarely have scenes together, and there’s rarely a chance to spend time. When we do have a scene, it really is about the work. Whatever warmth comes through, it’s me saying, “I’m so glad to spend this time with you,” because I like him!
The scene between Frank and Kendall once everyone clears the room is so powerful, between Kendall asking if Logan ever loved him, and Frank’s reassurances, these “ice shelves that are going to take our heads off…” Do you have any specific memories from filming those scenes?
I do, because, of course, like most scenes, there’s stuff cut, and I only remember the stuff that’s cut.
What the ice shelves actually cut!
Right. (Laughs.) There was a point where I joined him on that little seat he was on, and there was another encouraging, warmer, quieter thing… but they didn’t need it.
The piece of paper, Peter… are you team underline, or team cross-out?
Gosh. It’s a prop! (Laughs.) It’s a prop! Somebody created it, and Jesse took his pencil and went: [Makes a noise meant to represent a pen stroke.]
What does it say about the fixation on this show, though? There’s so much chatter about a piece of paper!
I know! I know. I also picked up that people are jumping on Kendall’s name: Kendall Logan Roy, K-L-R, Killer. (Long pause.) … Okay?
Look, man. It’s hard out here. We’re bored.
Just picking at stuff! Picking at bones! It’s funny, right? But I don’t have any thoughts on that, no.
And you all never debated this kind of stuff on set, right?
What are the group huddles like when Frank, Karl, Gerri and the rest come together?
The things I remember most are when we would go up to each other and say, “Oh, that was good. That was fun. You were good. How’d you do that?” It’s not even about the script. It’s more about the trade, the work. “Wasn’t that fun?”
In “Kill List,” everyone goes to Norway, which filmed on location, right?
Yes. No cities. Fjords, mountains and gorgeous scenery. Exquisite. Wonderful. We were there maybe 10 days, 13 days, something like that. Meeting the Swedish cast, and some were Icelandic, the Scandinavian actors, they were so cool. We spent a long time in a huddled green room cabin they kept for us between what was a pretty cold shoot.
There’s one shot of Karl and Frank in your bathrobes, outside the sauna…
It was okay! They had us in sweat pants and sweatshirts beneath it, cut low and all that. It was originally supposed to be a scene in a hot tub, but they cut away from that. But there was a hot tub just a few feet away from that sauna. It was a very beautiful, comfortable evening, getting inside to get warm every once in a while.
The GoJo deal is tenuous. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Are you playing Frank as someone who is confident in Kendall and Roman’s ability to get the deal done?
I haven’t seen the episode yet, and don’t know what scenes happened before or after which scene, but [I remember thinking] Karl and I are looking at each other like, “Look at it! The kids did it! Hey! Surprise! Okay! Onward to our golden parachutes!”
On the flight back home, we learn about who is on the titular kill list. Some react more poorly than others. Frank feels fairly nonplussed about the whole thing!
Yeah! Well, if Logan’s out, the company’s attraction is out, for me. It’s time to start the rest of my life. I do worry about Kendall and the kids, I guess, but it’s time for me to stop worrying.
Whether or not Frank’s on the way out, Succession certainly is. What will you miss most about playing with this band?
It has been really, really fun. I’m going to miss the excellence. Not to put down anything I’m about to do that I don’t even know about yet, but this was a high bar. Nobody was a schmuck. I loved it. I loved it.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Succession releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max. Follow along with THR‘s Succession final season coverage.