At one point disappointed by his character’s spare role in “Succession,” Ruck’s patience was rewarded with a meaty final season, and now, an Emmy nomination.
By Julia Jacobs
As HBO’s media-dynasty drama “Succession” was wrapping up its final season, Alan Ruck, the actor who plays the oblivious and often ignored eldest son, Connor Roy, admitted that he had once felt so unsatisfied with his depth of material that he suggested to the show’s top brass that his character be killed off.
He is certainly glad now that he was told no.
While driving to the gym on Wednesday morning, Ruck got the news that he had earned his first Emmy nomination. The role, which gained significant bulk in Season 4, with a long-shot presidential campaign and a wedding on a boat that was eventful, to say the least, landed him in the best supporting actor in a drama category.
In a phone interview after his nomination was announced, Ruck, who before “Succession” was best known for playing Cameron Frye in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” said he was “buzzing” over the news. The conversation has been edited for clarity.
How different was Season 4 for Connor from the early seasons in terms of screen time and material?
Way back when I auditioned for [the “Succession” executive producer] Adam McKay to do this thing in 2016, the email from my agency said: “Connor Roy. Only child by the first marriage. Not in line to be C.E.O. of the company. This part will grow over time.” In the first seasons I had a few things to do, and then in the second season I had some inane Connor-isms, some interjections, but I didn’t actually have a one-on-one scene with anybody. Everyone was like, “This is the best show on TV,” and people didn’t even know I was on it. So I asked to be killed off, and they said, “No, no, no, we need you.” Mark Mylod [a “Succession” executive producer and director who was also nominated for an Emmy on Wednesday] wrote something funny about how Jeremy Piven’s character on “Entourage” was not supposed to be much at all and then it grew over time. And Connor did grow over time; it just kind of took until the end of the third season.
How did you feel when you saw more substantial scenes for Connor in the Season 4 scripts? For example, there’s one in the karaoke room, where he betrays his siblings in support of his father. (He accuses them of being “needy love sponges” seeking Logan Roy’s approval.)
These are the best writers I’ve ever worked with, and when I finally was given these chunks of beautiful stuff, I was just thrilled. I salivated.
What was your experience shooting that karaoke room scene?
I was just really satisfied as an actor that I got to stand up for myself. Because if someone tells you you’re a moron over and over, even if it’s just make believe, it gets under your skin.
What are your predictions for Connor’s future, in terms of his career and his relationship? When the series ends — minor spoilers ahead — Connor is potentially up for the job of U.S. ambassador to Slovenia if Jeryd Mencken, the Republican nominee played by Justin Kirk, succeeds at becoming president.
If Mencken is elected president and Connor goes over as ambassador, he will delegate all responsibility. He will show up for the handshaking and the state dinners and the events. He won’t last long in that job. And then since Willa was obviously hoping that he would be away for a stretch of time, I don’t have high hopes for that relationship.
What are you looking at in terms of future roles?
I’m looking forward to getting hired for roles that pay money. I’m an independent contractor. I think I’ll get a chance at some different things now, but I do want to continue to play people that are damaged. Because it’s pretty satisfying. When you play horrible people, you get to get all of that nasty [expletive] out at work.
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