Sarah Snook: Season 3 of ‘Succession’ has been about ‘Shiv identifying who she is’

“Does anyone become a better person when they get more embroiled with the Roys?,” Sarah Snook wonders aloud about the evolution of her character Shiv Roy on HBO’s “Succession.” Now in its third season, Snook says this latest installment has been “about identifying who she is” as a character, with Shiv “seeing that she can’t help be a part of this family, but she is different from the members of the family.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

The third season picks up in the immediate aftermath of the shocking Season 2 cliffhanger, in which Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) goes public with accusations of abuse within the highest ranks of family company Waystar Royco. Early on, Shiv seems to entertain the idea of joining Kendall to topple their egomaniacal father Logan Roy (Brian Cox), and Snook says Shiv was weighing “if Kendall was truly genuine and honest about wanting to change the company, wanting to right the misdirection of the past.”

SEE Critics Choice Awards nominations for TV: ‘Succession’ leads the pack, but what about ‘Squid Game’?

Snook discusses one of the most iconic scenes of the season, in which Kendall humiliates Shiv at a Waystar town hall meeting and she responds viscerally by spitting in his notebook. “It’s one of those things being so humiliated and shamed in a public context” that drives Shiv’s behavior, especially because of her “difficulty being vulnerable,” Snook reveals. “The only avenue for response or recourse or revenge is something just as childish, in a way, just as base,” she adds, continuing, “It’s so young, there’s a naiveté to it in a way, it’s a primal anger.”

One of the most complex relationships on the series is Shiv’s marriage to Tom (Matthew Macfadyen). “There’s something in the trust from the actors that we just trust in the writing, handing ourselves over” to their instincts, Snook admits about understanding their dysfunctional dynamic. “If we find it in the moment, if Matthew and I are engaged on the right page on the right level,” she says, “then it does seem to work.” “In terms of how they get along, I’ve always felt that their rapport is often built upon looking at other people and pointing at the things that are wrong with other things and other people” and “antagonizing something else,” which Snook admits is not much of a sturdy basis for a marriage.

SEE ‘Succession’ reviews: Season 3 merits perfect score at Rotten Tomatoes

Snook also addresses the thought she’s given to Shiv’s backstory and childhood. “You sort of create a roadmap of imaginative work and what their experiences would have been,” she shares, including questions like, “What is it like to be shepherded around and farmed off to boarding school overseas for a bit or college overseas at least?.” Those childhood traumas bubble up in the penultimate episode in a complex exchange between Snook and recurring guest Harriet Walter, who plays Shiv’s mother, in a scene Snook calls “brilliant.”

Shiv does have some moments of success and release in Season 3, too. Snook celebrates Shiv’s triumph at the shareholder meeting in episode “Retired Janitors of Idaho,” particularly because it shows Shiv overcoming the “low confidence and low self-esteem” that the character is “very capable at hiding.” She also discusses her viral dancing from episode “Too Much Birthday,” rejoicing, “I get to be in a sea of people and throw myself around and make some shapes? Brilliant, bring it on, let’s turn that music up!” Teasing the season finale “All the Bells Say,” which airs on Sunday, Dec. 12, Snook calls Brian Cox’s performance “particularly brilliant” and also reveals, “One of my favorite Shiv lines is next episode.” Looking ahead to Season 4, Snook wonders, like the rest of us, “What is going to happen, how we’re gonna do it?.”

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