Adam McKay Interview: ‘Succession’ director
Adam McKay freely admits, “There’s no question the Murdochs are the inspiration” for the HBO series, “Succession.” But he elaborates that when show creator, Jesse Armstrong, made it more about wealthy families with great influence that the show really began to take shape. “Look at the Maxwells, the Redstones, the Waltons. There’s so many of these families that have this outsized influence on how we live,” McKay says about Season 2. “It felt like the second he opened that door, the whole show had a giant gust of wind come through it and it came to life in a different way.”
“Succession” scored five Emmy nominations this year for the first season, including two nominations for McKay: Drama Series and Drama Directing for the pilot episode, “Celebration.” McKay also scored three other Emmy nominations for projects he serves as an executive producer on: “I Love You, America” and “Drunk History” (both up for Variety Sketch Series) and “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’” (Variety Special).
McKay, already an Oscar winner for “The Big Short” (Adapted Screenplay, 2015), was thrilled with the recognition specifically because it proved the show could get beyond the criticism that the characters weren’t likable. “Some of the most interesting characters are damaged and flawed and sometimes nasty,” he clarifies. “We knew it was going to be a little bit of a rough rock to push up the hill so it’s always heartening to see the audience feeling what you were feeling with the show.”
Originally making a name for himself with comedies like the “Anchorman” films and “Step Brothers,” McKay has taken a bit of a different direction in recent years. With “The Big Short,” “Vice” and “Succession,” he’s gone in a more socially relevant direction. McKay says this pivot comes from comedy being based on the times that we live in. He admits, “I think the comedy world is a little confused right now. It doesn’t quite know what to do with itself because we’re dealing with such large, cartoonish, insane figures and dynamics.” He also feels that the pivot came from looking at the topography of drama and comedy and that, ultimately, he just wants to make things that he would want to see.