Frequent ‘Succession’ director Mark Mylod bonds big when he connects with a project

Two men laugh and lean into each other on the set of "Succession."
“Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong, left, says his partnership with director Mark Mylod has been “one of the most fruitful and meaningful I’ve had in my career.”
(Sarah Shatz / HBO)

“I don’t know what the opposite of commitment-phobe is, but I’m that,” says Mark Mylod, who’s directed 16 episodes of the two-time Emmy drama series winner “Succession,” executive-producing 37. “When I get involved with a show, I find it very difficult to leave if I feel a connection to the writing and to the characters, leading to a personal connection with the writers and the cast.”

Born in the southwestern England hamlet of Newton Abbot — which Mylod divulges was once voted “the fifth most boring town in Britain” — the 58-year-old experienced a nomadic upbringing. His low-ranking policeman father was repeatedly dispatched to new posts throughout Devon County, regularly uprooting Mylod, his older sister and their factory-worker mother. Ultimately dropping out of high school, the 17-year-old escaped to London to seek success in the theater. “I had no qualifications,” he admits. “I never wanted to be an actor, but I did have fantasies of being a director.”

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In a turn of events Mylod dubs “ludicrously lucky,” the first West End stage door upon which he knocked was the grand Theatre Royal Haymarket’s. The doorman summoned the chief carpenter. “He looked me up and down and said, ‘Yep, you’ll do. You can start at 2 p.m. tomorrow,’” Mylod recalls, adding that he walked away with not a clue as to what his job would be. Turns out he’d serve as swing showman, a fancy moniker for scene changer, on a bold production of “The Cherry Orchard.”


Moving through a hierarchy of jobs from there — production assistant at the BBC; third, second and first assistant director gigs; and finally directing a UK game show — it was his work on 2004’s pilot of the original UK version of “Shameless” that brought Mylod to the attention of HBO in America. Not only did an invitation to direct an installment of “Entourage” turn into 23, but Mylod served as a non-writing executive producer on 33 episodes as well. He fulfilled that same dual role on Showtime’s pilot of “The Affair” and its U.S. version of “Shameless,” directing 12 episodes and executive producing 47.

When “Succession” came along, HBO had a hunch Mylod and creator-showrunner Jesse Armstrong would click. “As our relationship progressed, particularly around the end of Season 1, we found a meeting place where we could work incredibly effectively together, and very joyfully as well,” notes Mylod. “I doubt if I’ll ever have that kind of collaboration again.”

Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin embrace in "Succession."
Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin star in Mark Mylod’s Emmy-nominated “Succession” episode, “Connor’s Wedding.”

This uncommon double duty is where Mylod feels most constructive and alive. “I’m totally focused on the directing, but I’m also just by nature thinking about the bigger picture — the arc of the characters, the arc of the story, the tone of the show, how that will fit in with two seasons ago or two seasons ahead,” he says. “The relationship with the showrunner becomes incredibly important for me — that I can support and hopefully augment their voice.”

It’s a partnership that works well for them both, Armstrong says. “My collaboration with Mark is up there as one of the most fruitful and meaningful I’ve had in my career,” he says via email, noting that what’s most special is that on the rare occasions the two disagree, “we’re able to have tough discussions under the heat of the production lights, with the clock ticking, and it all feels geared not to reaching a compromise where director and writer each get 50% of what they want, but to both of us getting 100% of something great we agree on.”

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Mylod says he’s simply in awe of writers and actors who are “so brilliant at doing something I’m so bad at.”
His message of support for his esteemed, striking colleagues? “Hold fast,” he says. “Actors and writers are not, in my opinion, being fairly compensated. And that can only go on for so long, and there can only be so many excuses about how much you’ve invested in your streaming service. You can’t expect the artists to pay the check for that.”


Looking back, what surprises Mylod most about his experience on the series? “Joining the show, it was always my ambition to really try to peel back the layers on these apparently despicable characters find context and humanity beneath that entitlement and arrogance, and understand really how broken they were. To find that vulnerability, that inner child,” he says. “Particularly in this last season, there’d be times when I’d just be unexpectedly falling apart during a take. And then, subsequently, in the edit, watching it back for the final time, when Nick Britell’s brilliant score was added. I always hoped I’d care for them, but I never thought they’d make me cry.”