Succession is the second best show on television. The first, of course, is Real Housewives of Potomac, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss. Part of what makes Succession great is that its main cast is made up entirely of character actors. Be honest with yourself, did you know Sarah Snook or Jeremy Strong by name before the show premiered in 2018? Could you differentiate Kieran Culkin from Rory Culkin? Alan Ruck is, first and foremost, Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Stuart from Spin City if you’re nasty.
This season, however, we’re seeing an uptick in known-by-name performers — chillingly, some are well-known mostly to New York media people such as ourselves — filling out minor roles, and it’s distracting. In Sunday’s episode we saw Sanaa Lathan as Kendall’s lawyer, Red Scare co-host Dasha Nekrasova as Kendall’s PR consultant, and Ziwe, who in real life hosts the late night comedy program Ziwe, as a late night comedy host. Next week, we’ll meet Adrien Brody as someone with a private island who has some kind of vested interest in Waystar Royco. Later in the season Alexander Skarsgård is going to pop up. Enough!
In seasons past these are the types of roles that have been filled by people like Cherry Jones and Holly Hunter, award-winning actors who we love and respect, but who do not draw focus from the scene at hand. The latest slate of guest actors is too buzzy, or at least too internet-approved. I want Succession to be populated by actors who have been toiling away in the New York theater scene, making rent with appearances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the odd Noah Baumbach movie. If an actor has either had: A.) a viral tweet or B.) a turn as an internet boyfriend, they should not be allowed on the show.
Hope is not completely lost. In Sunday’s episode we saw a marvelous one-scene performance from three-time Tony nominee Linda Emond as a senior White House aide who goes tête-à-tête with Logan. Last week we saw Peter Riegert for about 90 seconds as Cousin Greg’s anti-capitalist lawyer. More of this, please. The criteria for being a guest star on the show should be as follows:
- Little to no social media presence
- Either one iconic role or approximately one million small roles in good movies/TV shows
- An Obie Award and/or a Tony nomination
- At least one appearance on a New York-based police drama
Considering all of the above, Sanaa Lathan can actually stay. Everyone else needs to be replaced by Marin Ireland, Reed Birney, or Colman Domingo immediately.