J. Smith Cameron on <i>Succession</i> Credit - HBO
The final episodes of Succession zoomed in on the tragedy of the Roy children, desperate to live up to the legacy of their mogul father Logan Roy (Brian Cox). Ultimately, each proved incapable of doing so. So in the end, it was Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) long-belittled husband Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) who ended up seizing the keys to the kingdom—albeit with major strings attached, courtesy of Lukas Mattsson—leaving the Roy kids trying to figure out their new identities in a world without Waystar Royco.
The focus on Kendall, Roman (Kieran Culkin), and Shiv’s battle for supremacy left little time to wrap up the stories of other major players in the series, including that of Waystar Royco’s general counsel Gerri, played by J. Smith-Cameron. For much of the show’s run, Gerri was the fifth most important character after Logan and the three children vying for his approval. (Sorry, Connor.) Gerri survived the misogynistic barbs of her coworkers and always managed to land on her feet. Her complicated semi-romantic, semi-business relationship with Roman drove much of the plot, and for several seasons she was named heir apparent to the Waystar empire—if in name only.
When midway through the final season, Gerri refuses to say that Roman is as impressive as his father, the young Roy lashes out and fires his closest ally. She threatens to release the X-rated pics he sent her if she doesn’t get a massive golden parachute. By the end of the series, we learn that Tom intends to bring Gerri back into the fold now that Roman is gone.
But there are still plenty of questions left about her character: Will she agree to serve under the hapless Tom or look for other opportunities? Is there any chance of reconciliation with Roman? And if there’s a chance for more stories in the Succession universe, as creator Jesse Strong hinted in a conversation to Smith-Cameron herself, what role would Gerri play?
The actor discusses a Gerri and Tom scene cut from the final episode, how Gerri may factor into a Succession spinoff, and what it would take for Gerri and Roman to “make out in a bar” now that their business relationship has ended.
How are you doing post-finale?
Well, I’m in a weird mood since the finale. It’s this aimless feeling, like the show is just at this white-hot level and now we’ll never gather in that particular combination of people ever again. I’m very proud of that, but I have an emotional hangover.
Were there any surprises for you in the finale?
I always feel surprised when I see any show on TV because there’s so many choices in editing. Just an example, I had shot a little short scene with Tom at the end where he asks me to come on board. And I say, “I’m interested, but be prepared to pay extravagantly.” And he’s like, “Of course.” And then we had one take where [director] Mark Mylod had us walk down the hall from the others like Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart at the end of Casablanca. Like, “This is the start of a beautiful friendship.” I didn’t think we’d use that, but it was fun. And we did a couple of alternate lines with that.
Then we did a shot of right when Greg and Tom look to Gerri, I happen to be glancing over at them. I was surprised they didn’t use that, but I’m sure they had a reason.
I felt like they understandably zoomed in on the Greek tragedy of the family drama in a satisfying way. The performances are incredible. But it did leave all the other characters with lots of little dangling threads. It was just slightly unsatisfying. But what can you do? Finales are impossible, I’m sure, to write. I thought as finales go, this was a really masterful one.
It’s left up to the imagination what Gerri’s future is—whether she’ll stay or go. Do you have in your head what happens next for her? Is it the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Tom?
Yes. Even after Logan died, Gerri felt she had one more campaign in her. And I felt like this was sort of a nice revenge for her because she was free of the Roys directly. But Matsson obviously wants to hire Tom because he can manipulate him, and Matsson seems like an erratic, insane, Elon Musk-y kind of boss. So I don’t know that she’d enjoy working for him. But she has always felt she has Tom’s number. Tom is a people pleaser, and she can manipulate him.
Matsson, among other flaws, seems like a raging misogynist.
That does seem like a theme in the show that’s really conspicuous. The brothers shut Shiv out. It really does feel like they cut her out because she’s a woman. They’re always claiming she doesn’t have the same experience, but really what experience does Roman have? Misogyny is ingrained in a lot of workplaces, but I think [creator] Jesse [Armstrong] wanted to expose how deep it ran in this world.
Shiv is sort of relegated to this pregnant wife role.
Yes, though I also wondered what Shiv would do. At the end she places her hand sort of lightly on Tom’s hand, but it’s also how someone might put their hand on a throne arm. I felt like she’s like, “OK, we are monarchs.” Through history, with monarch marriages, there’s no love lost. They’re arrangements. I just can’t see Shiv not continuing to assert herself.
I mean, they’re all still very wealthy. They can all start businesses. They have options. I read that Jeremy [Strong] thinks that Kendall is so gutted he doesn’t have anything left. And then Roman’s little mysterious smile at the end when he’s drinking his martini, how did you interpret that?
Well, I noted that a martini is Gerri’s drink of choice, no?
Yes, it’s Gerri’s drink. I made a joke on Twitter that my ex wants me back. We’re not even exes but it’s such a hackneyed phrase I thought it was kind of funny. But does that imply he’s thinking about Gerri? What do you think?
Perhaps. I interpreted the smile to mean he’s finally free of the burden of Logan’s expectations. He can maybe figure out who he is now.
That’s what I think too.
In that scene a few episodes back when he tries to take back the firing, he mimics me ordering a martini at the start of the scene. That’s so conspicuous that maybe Gerri is on his mind.
I’m dying to talk to Kieran [Culkin] about it. He’s three behind. He’s making a movie in Poland. We have a plan to go to Balthazar when he gets back and have martinis. In real life, he likes Scotch best. But he likes martinis too.
I read that Jesse Armstrong had toyed with a potential Season 5 idea before he decided to end it after Season 4. Did he ever tell you all what that fifth season would have been?
They told us all what would happen in episode 3, and we made a pact not to talk about it. But Brian was the biggest danger because he kept showing up in other places rather than being on set everyday. So that would be the giveaway. I think Jesse felt like it was the end of the succession story because the title of the show is Succession and there are only so many seasons you can play out the struggle of who will be named successor.
But what he hinted to me, or what I inferred, is that it wasn’t necessarily the end of the ecosystem that is ATN and big business and right-wing politics. He said, ‘I could imagine writing a show that’s about journalism and business and politics that would be akin to it.’ So I don’t know.
Jesse deserves a huge rest, and he may have some other things he wants to write of a completely different flavor. And he’s earned that right. But Jesse did say that. Still, I’m not holding my breath because lightning doesn’t necessarily strike twice.
Looking back now, do you have favorite scenes from the series?
Later this summer, I’d like to do a rewatch of the whole show with maybe Zoe [Winters], who plays Kerry, who is one of my besties from the show.
I’m very proud of the fight scene with Kieran that I had this season. I think that’s maybe my personal best because it felt dangerous. I think we were both really mad and really upset, like tearful. It felt like teetering on being out of control, but in a good way, like we’re feeling like we might slap each other. It felt really great and like the summation of a long, good acting relationship with another actor.
Do you think there’s any hope of a reconciliation between Gerri and Roman?
I’ve never understood whether Gerri would consider a romantic relationship with him. I think when she was working with him, she absolutely wouldn’t and that she was completely nonplussed about it for the longest time, like not even getting it. It was so crazy and out of left field that for the longest time she didn’t take it seriously and was like, ‘You’re just f-cking with me and being disgusting.’ And she kind of enjoyed pulling his chain but didn’t take him seriously as any kind of partner.
But then I always said to Jesse, and I don’t think Jesse necessarily felt this way, but I felt that in spite of herself, Roman got under her skin. When she was trying to groom him to be a dynamic duo with her, I think she really believed together they could have run Waystar. That was a great way to channel Roman’s energy.
I don’t know at what point she’d thought about it as a romantic thing, except if somebody young and wealthy and charismatic had a silly crush that they kept insisting on when they were around you, you’d have to be made of stone to not eventually respond to that. I could see them getting tipsy and making out in a bar once he’s not her boss. I don’t think they could have a relationship because they’re just too much an odd couple.
Are you ready to say goodbye to Gerri?
I won’t let myself fantasize about there being another version of the show that includes Gerri, but I would love it if that ever happened. I did not get my fill playing the part, and I think a lot of people didn’t get their fill of the Succession universe. But at the same time, I think Jesse’s point that you can only stretch the “succession” story so far is well taken. I do think there could be another chapter. I don’t know whether it would include Gerri or not. It’s so timely, there almost should be, whether I’m involved or not. Our culture needs it right now. It’s sexy and funny and dark and lets you really look at the threat democracy is under.