The tension in HBO drama Succession ramps up to an all-time high with its latest episode “Church and State.” The series’ pivotal characters joined together for the funeral of Brian Cox’s (Zodiac, Braveheart) character Logan Roy. At the funeral, his children Kendall, Roman, Shiv, and Connor said goodbye to their father before they returned to their political maneuvering.
The extravagant funeral scene was directed by Mark Mylod (The Menu, Shameless), executive producer and longtime director of Succession. With fans awaiting the series’s single remaining episode, The Hollywood Reporter sat down with Mylod to discuss the production and filming of “Church and State.”
One of the things Mylod discussed was the meaning behind the title, “Church and State.” “We needed to mind the juxtaposition between the intimacy of the emotional experience of the siblings and the purity of that grief, with of course, the machinations of the characters trying to position themselves,” he said. “It’s too great a room filled with senators and every power point of the establishment for them not to be tempted into the ‘State’ element of the title. Of course, the ‘State’ also expands to outside the church, the reverberations from their manipulation of the presidential call the previous night.”
Another element of “Church and State” that Mylod discussed was the success of keeping Logan’s death a secret, considering that the funeral scene was filmed at New York City’s Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. “…We did have a lot of conversations and planning meetings right at the start of the season as to how we could handle this,” he said. “HBO were fantastic with their resources and the advice they gave with the benefit of their experience, trying to keep a secret in the social media universe. The first steps were quite basic. From episode three onward, after Logan passes, we basically replaced the word ‘Logan’ in every script with the name Ewan [Logan’s brother.] So we played it as if [Ewan] had passed. When it came to the funeral in episode nine, we billed it in all our scripts, even on posters outside the church, as if it was Ewan’s funeral.
Mylod also discussed the potential of the background actors leaking spoilers online. “The next thing was the classic non-disclosure agreements we asked all of our background actors to sign,” he said. “When you have literally many hundreds of background people for several days, their ability to stick an anonymous Reddit post up… there are ways, I’m sure… I spoke to them, the HBO team did, and we all spoke to them, asking them to keep the secret… Everybody obliged. I’m really tremendously grateful for that, and actually quite moved by that. It can be such a cynical world sometimes. That everybody kept the secret was really fantastic.”
Mylod talked about having Brian Cox on set during filming the eulogies for his character. “… We specifically asked him not to be in the church for those moments. I didn’t speak to Brian directly about this, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have wanted to be there either. It was kind of “in and out” on the day. I don’t think it would have benefitted anybody, himself or the other cast members, to be there in the eulogies, though.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, multiple cameras were used to film the actors throughout the scene in long takes. “The creative I learned specifically in episode three with Logan’s passing, and in four seasons of working with this cast, is that they all benefit massively in very emotional scenes from working in as immersive and unbroken a take as possible,” Mylod said. “That was the creative imperative, to run the entire service from the hearse pulling up to the hearse pulling away in one unbroken taken… my loveliest surprise and it was just an inkling I’d had, was that [Harriet Walter as Logan’s wife Caroline] might give us a big reaction to Kendall’s words about these children ‘that he’s made.’ I made sure there was a camera positioned there for Harriet. She absolutely killed it… it was such a perfect reaction.”
New episodes of Succession are released Sundays at 9 p.m.