‘Succession’ Star Alan Ruck Didn’t Want to Improvise Episode 8’s Concession Speech: ‘I Would Have Tried to Make Connor Less of a D–k’

·11-min read
David M. Russell/HBO

Note: The following contains spoilers up through “Succession” Season 4 Episode 8.

“Alas Kentucky, alas vanity” is a line that sums up Connor Roy’s presidential ambitions in “Succession.”

In the HBO drama series’ eighth episode, titled “America Decides,” the eldest Roy child was forced to concede in his failed bid for the United States’ highest office that was doomed from the start. And in normal Roy family fashion – Connor did so with an inflammatory speech:

“My fellow Americans, it’s becoming clear tonight, that as far as we can tell, Mr. Jeryd Mencken will likely be the next president of the United States. And I, for one, wish him well. For although I set out a clear and compelling path, America, in her divine wisdom, has chosen to take another,” Connor said. “I’d like to say to my first running mate, who I will not dignify with a name-check, but had that woman not dropped out, and then had I not had to replace her with another figure, who turned out not to be able to bear the weight of public scrutiny, had I not been betrayed by those two jackrabbits, who knows? Politics of envy. Ugly game. I happen to be a billionaire. Sorry.”

“But honestly, America, you flunked it. I guess you’re gonna have to find some other poor mook’s paps to suckle on,” he continued. “The corrupt bipartisan system zombie marches on. And so I call out to my friends tonight, to my people. I say, Conheads, I salute you. And, America, be afraid, be warned for the Conheads are coming. Thank you. God bless America.”

Actor Alan Ruck spoke with TheWrap about Connor’s wedding getting overshadowed by Logan’s shocking death, why he chose not to improvise that message to his ‘Conheads’ and ideas he floated for his character that never made the final cut.

Check out TheWrap’s full conversation with Ruck below.

Also Read:
How HBO’s ‘Succession’ Got That Milwaukee Burned-Ballots Scene Wrong

Episode 8 has multiple standout moments for Connor, from his ‘Alas Kentucky, alas vanity’ line to his concession speech. What was it like getting to work on this episode and how much of the speech was improvised versus what’s on the page?
The language – especially in the insults in this show – it’s just poetry. A lot of our writers are British and I’m sure they all trained in the classics just like the actors. There always seems to be a nod to just beautiful language here and there and I think [alas Kentucky, alas vanity] was just perfect. It was really in character, really self-involved and really fun to say.

And then the speech they just handed to me the day before. I didn’t improvise at all on that speech because I read it and it was perfect because I really honestly feel that I would have tried to make Connor less of a dick if I had written it. I would have wanted him to be just basically on planet earth and not just from outer space because he’s just so full of himself and he’s an asshole telling people basically ‘be warned,’ ‘the Conhead movement is still alive,’ and calling people out, talking about my first running mate – ‘that woman’ – wouldn’t dignify her with a name call. It was perfect.

What were your conversations like with Jesse Armstrong regarding Connor’s arc for this season? 
Well, for this season, I don’t know that we talked too much about it really. Just that the political thing was going to continue and that the wedding would happen. Other than that, [we] didn’t have any big ideas. [Jesse] didn’t ask me to do anything specifically, you know. But all these writers, they’re so open. There’s some writers you work with and they’re like, ‘You’re an actor, I’m a writer and we do separate things’ and these guys are always open to listening to ideas that you might have.

During the very first season, I happened to know a little boy who was on the spectrum somewhere and he was continually watching washers and dryers spin their clothes just mesmerized. And we were talking about how Connor might be on the spectrum somehow and could we catch him in a moment somewhere where he’s just hypnotized by a washer or a dryer. And we never found a spot for that. But Jesse would listen to any crazy ideas that I had.

There’s an idea — I don’t even know if it made it into a script — but he had this idea that one of Connor’s failed ventures was being a yurt salesman. He had a yurt business in the southwest. Jesse said Connor had been in the business, had put a bunch of money into that and nobody was interested. So, that was the failure. But I don’t think that made it into the show.

Also Read:
‘Succession’ Director Says Episode 8 Serves as ‘Great Foil’ to Fox News’ Partnership With Republicans

What was your reaction to learning Logan was going to die this season?
Most of us found out this past June. We had a call from Jesse and Jesse had already spoken with Brian about it, but then he told the rest of us, a bunch of us anyway, ‘Logan’s gonna pass away.’ When? ‘In the third episode.’ And we were all kind of stunned. We’re like, ‘Wow.’ And then he explained that the events of this particular passage of time are probably only a week to 10 days. It’s not that long. So that was interesting.

Why do you think Logan ultimately chose not to go to Connor’s wedding?
Because he knows things are a little sketchy with the other kids. He wants to nail this deal down. He’s pissed off that the kids got in on Pierce. He’s edgy. I mean, he’s a competitor. It’s what he does and he doesn’t like to be outmaneuvered or out-flanked. So I think this is just historical with Connor. It’s like something came up for Connor. Connor’s graduated from high school, send him a basket.

What was it like getting to explore the background of Connor’s mother this season?
Well, we’ve been talking about this from pretty early on and the fact that she had a pill problem and a liquor problem and she was in and out of mental institutions for much of Connor’s boyhood, and Jesse never said when she died. But the first mention he ever made was like, ‘And she’s no longer on the planet.’ So, we’ve been talking about it for a long time and then it’s just fun, whatever little specifics, Jesse and the writers would drop in about her. We never learned her name. Not yet, anyway. So that was fun.

In the second season, Roman is giving me some shit and he talks about my mom being in the nut house and I just say ‘You’ve never had it this bad as me.’ And that’s all they touched on it for quite a long time until you found out about the loony cake, really. So this was not a happy boyhood, there’s some trauma. It’s all fun to explore all that kind of stuff because it just opens you up and you start thinking about different things and it just adds layers.

How have Connor’s relationships with Logan and his siblings evolved over the course of the series?
I think it’s roughly the same. The way they treat him, this sort of brusque brush-off, afterthought approach to Connor has been going on since they were probably five years old. Logan, I think, felt quite guilty about Connor. I think he felt guilty sometimes about leaving that boy with that woman, but he just broke and had to have a new life and everything. So I think he showered Connor with money and gifts and all that kind of stuff.

Kendall was calling Connor an idiot or a moron from at least the second episode. And then the different wisecracks from Roman they peppered through there. The one episode we did out at Connor’s ranch in New Mexico, there was a really nice moment in that where Shiv needs the car keys from me, I think and she says, ‘Look, I love you’ and it seemed like that was true. Of course, she wanted something from him but she did say she loved him. So I think they’re mixed up. Nobody is happy, nobody’s ever satisfied. They’re all miserable with themselves.

Also Read:
Even ‘Succession’ Political Consultants Thought That Election Episode Was ‘Chilling’ and ‘Eerily Prescient’ (Video)

What has it been like working with Justine Lupe over the course of the series?
Justine is kind of perfect. She’s this beautiful girl and she is wickedly funny. She’s just a beautiful funny woman and a fine actor. We didn’t talk about stuff too much. We just kind of tried it out. Maybe we’d ask each other like one question or something before we started the scene. But we didn’t map stuff out. Sometimes we would work on backstory. Like, what do you think happened where, fill in-betweens in our backstory and stuff like that. But when it came to doing the scene, we just did them and I completely trust her. I just know whatever we’re gonna do, it’s gonna be truthful.

Did you always know that Connor and Willa were going to get to the point where they tie the knot?
I didn’t really at the outset. I found out that I was going to have a girlfriend who was a former call girl. Adam McKay told me that at an early read through, I think maybe the first episode of the actual first season, so the second episode of the series. He told me then and she came not too long after that. He was like, ‘You have this girlfriend and you’re at the hospital as Logan had a stroke and then you start like really making out with your girlfriend, it’s just not really appropriate.’ So that’s the kind of start we had.

What has it been like working on one of the biggest drama series of our time and returning for the final season?
Well, for me, everything’s been positive. It was thrilling, even from the very beginning, it was exciting and there was a little touch-and-go period during the first season where we didn’t know whether or not people liked us, the first five episodes or so. We were not panned by the critics, but they’re like, ‘There’s no one to root for. I don’t know who the hero is,’ whatever. And then when people caught on to the tone of our show and what it was actually, then we just kind of went through the roof and we’ve just been hanging on. It’s a thrilling experience to be involved with a show that is so current and so beloved.

What are some of your favorite moments or memories from working on the series?
I had a lot of fun early on in that charity ball episode where you saw Connor in charge of something and what that might look like and just paranoid and harried and flustered and foolish and it was a lot of fun to do.

What will you miss the most about working on “Succession?
I think the people. I just love working with this bunch. We’re all on the same wavelength, humor-wise certainly. I’ll miss Justine, I did most of my scenes with Justine. But I’m gonna miss everybody, I love them all. Kieran, Snookie and Jeremy, we came together as a little family.

This has been one of the – it could be the nicest job I’ve ever had in all these years. I’ve wanted something like this for a very long time and it just kind of fell into my lap. Everything was surprising about this show because the writers are so good. They keep working on that script right up until like the midnight before you’re gonna read through it. So it was always surprising, the things that happened, you’re never gonna sort of outguess Jesse Armstrong and his team. And then just the crew, everybody just brought their A-game.

Also Read:
‘Succession’ Star Natalie Gold Says Rava’s Compassion for Kendall Is ‘Starting to Crack’