Alexander Skarsgård thought his days on Succession were over. And then, show runner Jesse Armstrong called him with a pitch: “He broadly explained the storyline and pitched the idea,” says Alexander. “And then, at the end of it, he said, ‘Oh, and by the way, maybe there might also be an ex-girlfriend that Lukas keeps sending frozen blood bricks,’ and my heart just melted when I heard that. I was like, ‘This is gorgeous. This is delicious. I can’t wait to shoot this.’”
It’s the beauty of Succession, that you can absolutely never guess what is going to happen next… or what strange quirk a character might have. In this case, Alexander – who of course, fully came to the world’s attention when he starred on the hit vampire show, True Blood – says his character’s odd penchant for sending blood bricks to his ex-girlfriend (and current employee) could very well be “a nod to the good old vampire days.”
But, how are things going to end for eccentric Lukas on the show? Alexander isn’t giving much away, but he does say: “I thought it [the final] made perfect sense. I think Lukas gets what he deserves.”
Backing the truck up a bit though, we wanted to talk to Alexander about the last few (INSANE) episodes of the show – especially last week’s Tailgate Party episode. Here’s what he had to say…
Episode seven, Tailgate Party, was another great Lukas Matsson episode. He rocks up to the pre-Presidential election party that Shiv and Tom are hosting in their apartment in a bright, shiny bomber jacket. How integral for you was that coat in terms of how Matsson conducted himself in that gathering?
There was something about the juxtaposition between the Roys’ immaculately dressed, understated, classy wealth, nothing ostentatious – that world that Succession exists in. And not only of the Roys, but all their sycophants, everyone around them. Because they obviously dress like the Roys because they want to look like their idols. And I thought it’d be refreshing and interesting if Matsson comes in with a completely different energy.
Which has been his deal from the start, I guess.
We started a little bit last season when, in the big negotiation scene with Logan, Matsson rolls up in flip-flops and an old worn T-shirt and sweatpants. That set the tone for the character. That outfit was actually my personal clothes that I came to base camp in that morning. I really wanted something casual, because I thought it’d be funny if Matsson went into a big, massive negotiation between two media companies with bare feet, basically.
And we didn’t really find anything on the truck. Everything looked a bit like a costume. So I asked Jonathan Schwartz, the [assistant] costume designer, if I could just wear my own clothes that I came to set with that morning. And we showed Jesse and he quite enjoyed it. So that’s how I ended up in my own clothes… And that’s how we ended up with that golden bomber jacket.
Staying in Tailgate Party: there’s the scene with Kendall and his ex-wife, where he says he’s “breaking his back… on six continents… to make the world safe” for his kids. Which may not be entirely true. But what’s Matsson really in it for?
I kinda want to say the thrill of it all. He’s definitely not in it for the money. He’s a gambler. The higher the stakes, the more exciting for him. Hence, this whole merger, this whole deal, this whole acquisition: the thought of buying such a legacy, family-owned company, like Waystar Royco, is so juicy and so lovely for him. The fact that we can just buy them and pull them into GoJo. The financial incentive is not even top 10 for Matsson.
Again, it’s high stakes gambling, and that’s what drives him forward and moves him. He’ll always try to do the impossible, and push boundaries, and do something people say can’t be done, or shouldn’t be done. Because he is an agent of chaos and can flirt with that disaster. So it’s exciting for him.
Let’s talk about episode five, Kill List. Having Kieran Culkin tear into you: how was that moment to film?
Oh, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Matsson enjoys it so much because Roman’s unhinged. It’s a tense moment [while] they’re negotiating and Roman’s revealing too much. That’s why Matsson keeps pushing those buttons because he knows that if he can get Roman unhinged, he will admit to the fact that he’s trying to tank the deal. And Roman does.
Each episode in this final series is a consecutive day: 10 tumultuous days in the life of the entire cast of characters. How did that framework impact on the energy and focus on set?
It’s condensed, which heightens everything. You know that you can refer to stuff that happened two episodes ago and you know that it’s only two days ago. So there’s not a lot of downtime in between where other things could have happened. You know where your character has been, and what is happening, and what’s going on around him.
That was quite helpful to condense it to those 10 days and that one location – once they get back from Norway for Matsson stuff, it’s all right there and it’s real time.
What’s your take on the death of Logan so early in the series?
We’re accustomed to a certain narrative approach to killing off the main character – it’s a build-up, and it’s a climactic moment, and you can almost sense it coming. This is so unexpected, and it happens off-camera.
And you got to enjoy it like the rest of us…
I’m not in that episode, so I was watching it as an audience member. And I think I can say that, in my opinion, it’s one of the greatest hours of television ever made. It’s absolutely extraordinary. Because it felt so confusing. You felt like it really happened for real and you were there with the siblings. It had a very almost mundane quality to it, which was so eerie and uncomfortable and scary.
I think that also made it feel real, because that’s often how you find out about a very traumatic event that will haunt you for the rest of your life. It’s sometimes very trivial, the way you find out, and confusing, and you hear it when you’re just going about your day, and it’s out of the blue. Then you have a hard time comprehending the information you just received. And what do you do with that?
But he’s extraordinary, Jesse, the fact that, again, he kills off his protagonist that way, and then he ends this show after four years instead of just lingering and milking it and overstaying your welcome. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that decision.
There’s obviously been a delicious dance between yours and Sarah Snook’s character over this final season. What do you think a Shiv and Lucas future together would look like?
I’ve really enjoyed exploring that with Sarah this season. Because it’s also so beautifully written, and it’s so open to interpretation. I’ve heard some people say that there’s a lot of sexual tension and sexual energy – they think at some point they’re going to end up in bed together. And some people feel like Matsson is just playing her and taking advantage of her.
Some people feel like it’s the opposite, that she has no respect for Matsson and is just using him. Others have got a bazillion different thoughts and ideas of where this relationship will end.
Which must be thrilling for an actor to hear, right?
That excites me when I hear that, because that’s something we really wanted to try to accomplish when Sarah and I worked on that – obviously with Jesse and all the other writers and the directors of the episodes we shot. It’s always more fun when a relationship on screen is open to interpretation, because that makes the audience lean in and engage, and have their own interpretation of it.
I obviously can’t, or want to, speak to where that is actually going or where it’s heading. But, again, it excites me that people are interpreting it differently. Because then, if they do that, we’ve done something right.
Check out new episodes of Succession on Monday evenings on Neon.