Meet the formidable female figures of ‘Succession’

A woman sits at an office table with her phone in front of her in "Succession."
Sarah Snook plays Shiv Roy, who often regarded herself as next in line to run the Waystar Royco empire on “Succession.” She was wrong.
(David M. Russell / HBO)
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Over four seasons of “Succession,” women came and went through a revolving door rotated by volatile media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his inner circle. But a handful survived to the bitter end, maintaining their seats at the corporate table through a wily deployment of guts, guile and willpower. Although Logan’s daughter Shiv (Emmy-nominated Sarah Snook) regarded herself as heiress-apparent-in-her-own-mind to the Waystar Royco empire, she arguably paled in comparison to the formidable female figures operating on the periphery.

Armed with scathing lines of dialogue furnished by Emmy-winning showrunner Jesse Armstrong and his team, four chilly characters burned a hole in the TV screen, thanks to these performances from Emmy-nominated actresses.

Times staff breaks down the HBO series’ finale, including Shiv and Tom’s power swings, the Roy sibling rivalry, the company’s new CEO and more.

May 28, 2023

A woman wears all black at a somber gathering.
As Logan Roy’s third wife, Hiam Abbass had no love for his adult children
(David M. Russell / HBO)


Marcia Roy, wife No. 3
(Guest actress in a drama)

The gatekeeper: Marcia stands in the doorway of her home to block Logan’s kids from visiting their ailing dad. When the children want to move Logan Roy to another hospital after his stroke, Marcia tells Shiv, “I am his next of kin. I am his proxy. I am in charge. Thank you.”

Home base: A Fifth Avenue luxury townhouse merging the American Irish Historical Society (exterior) with a soundstage interior inspired by the Bronfman billionaire brothers.

Dressing the part: “Marcia is a woman of wonder and mystery,” says “Succession’s” Emmy-nominated costume designer Michelle Matland. “She’s a world traveler, so Marcia’s clothing reflects her travels. Her nature is distinctive, worldly and exotic. Her clothing is personal and eclectic, and you never can know where she has purchased it.”

Looking out for No. 1: While hosting the wake for Logan Roy, Marcia negotiates the sale of the apartment she now owns to stepson Connor (Alan Ruck) for $63 million.


Before Marcia: Fluent in Arabic, French, English and Hebrew, the Nazareth-born, Paris-based actor has earned three Israeli Oscar-equivalent Ophir nominations and anchored tense art house films including “The Visitor” and “Lemon Tree.” She also played the enigmatic Freysa in “Blade Runner 2049.”

A woman stands by French doors talking on the phone in "Succession."
Harriet Walter plays the cold mother to three of the “Succession” siblings.
(Sarah Shatz / HBO)

Lady Caroline Collingwood (wife No. 2)
(Guest actress in a drama)

The bad mother: The intimacy-averse Caroline left her kids to be raised in the U.S. and moved back to England. She tells daughter Shiv, “I probably should never have had children…. Some people just aren’t made to be mothers. I should have had dogs.”

Home base: Eastnor Castle in the UK for her daughter Shiv’s wedding and a Tuscany villa for her own marriage to gentleman grifter Peter Munion (Pip Torrens), whom she describes as a “grasping little scholarship boy.” In Season 4, Lady Caroline resides in a Barbados retreat, where she frostily receives her children. Caroline simply can’t bear to treat Roman’s (Kieran Culkin) black eye after he’s been beaten up because, she protests, “there’s just something about eyes. They just kind of, ugh, revolt me.”


Dressing the part: Designer Matland says, “Caroline is traditional, stately, dignified, aristocratic. And very, very English! This is shown in her lack of embellishments — nothing is fashion-forward or flashy. Her choices are elegantly understated. Caroline would never want to be noticed for her clothing.

Before Caroline: Walter, appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2011, won an Olivier Award for her star turn in “A Doll’s House” and portrayed Lady Macbeth and Ophelia in Royal Shakespeare Company productions. “Downton Abbey” fans will remember her as Lady Shackleton. Walter’s ancestors founded what is now The Times of London in 1785.

Two casually well-dressed women sit in a comfortable living space in "Succession."
Cherry Jones, at right with Holly Hunter, played the Roy family against each other.
(Peter Kramer / HBO)

Media mogul Nan Pierce
(Guest actress in a drama)

The folksy billionaire: Presenting herself as a liberal-minded homebody who just happens to run the multibillion-dollar Pierce Global Media company, she offers dinner guests high-end wine, explaining with false modesty, “They may as well be jars of jam to me, but the connoisseurs seem to like them.”


Home base: Nan Pierce calls her palatial rural estate Tern Haven. She greets the Roy family members after they arrive by helicopter: “Welcome, you, to our funny little house.” She positions her company as morally superior to the crass Roy operation. “Money is a social construct, whereas virtue and integrity, these things actually exist,” she tells Tom (Matthew Macfadyen).

Dressing the part: “She’s the ultimate WASP,” says costume designer Matland. “Nan is always perfectly turned out, and you never know if she has come in from gardening or if she’s on her way to the Cosmopolitan Club. She’s old-school, and that’s where she is comfortable. She has nothing to prove.”

Iron fist in a velvet glove: Smiling all the while, Nan manipulates the Roy children into overpaying $10 billion just so they can outbid their now-rivalrous father.

Before Nan: Making her Broadway debut in 1987, two-time Tony winner Jones originated the role of Sister Aloysious in “Doubt” and more recently won Emmys for portraying June’s feminist mother in “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the American president in “24.” She won for playing Nan in 2020.

A woman dressed in black looks intense in a scene from "Succession."
J. Smith-Cameron’s Gerri knew how to look out for herself amid the “Succession” backstabbing.
(Macall B. Polay / HBO)


Waystar executive Gerri Kellman
(Supporting actress in a drama)

The grown-up: Employed as Waystar Royco corporate counsel, Gerri personifies common sense business acumen while regularly calling out the Roy siblings’ childish behavior. “You are a weak monarch in a dangerous interregnum,” she tells Roman. Often underappreciated but rarely outflanked, she fiercely recaps her defense of the company from sexual abuse accusations: “I danced us through a f— thunderstorm without us getting wet.”

As J. Smith-Cameron tells it, “Once we heard we were going to have that subplot, we would mock flirt on set. It was clearly not a Me Too situation. It helped us break the ice.”

Aug. 15, 2022

Home base: She’s never seen at home, and Gerri rarely sits at her desk, preferring instead to stand her ground in the middle of the action.

Dressing the part: “Gerri’s an overachiever who has not reached the success she aspires to,” says Matland. “She is never comfortable in her skin. She lives in a man’s world but wants to maintain her femininity at all costs. Her clothing is incredibly structured and stiff. There’s nothing soft, floaty, comfortable. Gerri always dressed in armor and was ready for battle.”

Looking out for No. 1: Gerri, a widow, entertains a queasy flirtation with Roman until the phone sex turns sour. If Gerri feels betrayed when he fires her, she barely lets it show and quickly recovers. “First of all, I want money,” she tells Roman. “Eye-watering sums. Hundreds of millions of dollars. I have retained personal reputation management.… And if I ever get a whiff of anything undermining my narrative, any time within the next five years, I will sue, and I will go public with the many, many pictures of your genitalia that I have in my possession. Have I made myself clear?”


Before Gerri: The South Carolina-born Tony Award nominee made her Broadway debut in 1982 with “Crimes of the Heart” and appeared in the critically acclaimed ex-con TV drama “Rectified.” She’s married to playwright-filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan.

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Aug. 24, 2023