Television

The Succession Magazine Profile Power Rankings

Which member of the show is winning the battle for the most overheated coverage?

A collage of Succession characters.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by HBO.

Succession returned for its third season on Sunday, accompanied by the kind of glowing press coverage most networks only dream of. On top of the rapturous reviews and cover stories reported on location in Italy, there were also profiles, in many cases multiple profiles, of seemingly every member of the show’s cast and creative team: If you love J. Smith-Cameron as Gerri, for example, you had your choice of four different long-form features on the actress. Adrien Brody isn’t even a full cast member, but showing up in a few episodes helped him land a spread in November’s GQ. If you prefer the behind-the-scenes perspective, you could read about showrunner Jesse Armstrong or theme song composer Nicholas Britell. More of them continued to drop throughout this week. In this season of supply chain woes, the Succession content pipeline may be the only one that isn’t broken.

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For a show that frequently inspires episode recaps in the form of power rankings, the obvious thing to do was to figure out who won this season’s Succession profile stakes. We will only be considering profiles published this year. Just as Kendall ending one episode on top doesn’t mean shit for his power ranking in subsequent episodes, it doesn’t help Jeremy Strong’s current profile power ranking that he got the Rolling Stone treatment last year.

Action stations! Let the ranking begin! We start at the bottom.

12. Hiam Abbass (Marcia Roy)

A woman sits at the end of a table with fancy wine glasses on it.
Hiam Abbass as Marcia Roy. Peter Kramer/HBO
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Profiles this year: One, in the Guardian in February, and not even exclusively for Succession—it coincided with Ramy’s second season airing in the U.K.

Prestige factor: The Guardian is nothing to sneeze at, but the paper didn’t go all out: It was a fairly standard-length profile featuring an Associated Press portrait.

Succession juice: Nothing too revelatory: “In the series, you know all of the other characters’ intentions, but I think Jesse [Armstrong, the show’s creator] wanted to do something a bit different with her. She’s a bit more noble, a bit more human,” Abbass said.

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Non-Succession juice: This is kinda cool: Abbass consulted on the 2005 Steven Spielberg film Munich and served “as a conduit to the Arabic-speaking cast” of the 2006 film Babel, which led director Alejandro González Iñárritu to call Abbass “his guardian angel.”

11. Alan Ruck (Connor Roy)

A man in a quilted vest stands slack-jawed.
Alan Ruck as Connor Roy. HBO
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Profiles this year: One, also in the Guardian.

Prestige factor: That makes three members of the Succession cast that the Guardian profiled this year—and it’s four if you count Brian Cox in the Observer, its sister publication. Ruck gets a meatier piece than Abbass, but, unsurprisingly, less ink than Strong or Cox.

Succession juice: Ruck, it seems, is kind of a scholar of his character:

I think with Connor, up until he was eight years old, he was a little prince and anywhere he went with his dad, people bowed down, and he was old enough to think, ‘Oh, Dad’s a big deal. This is good.’ Then his father divorced his mother, and there were hints in season two that she had psychological challenges. So between eight and 18, Connor was alternately at boarding school or with a very sick woman, so he started to develop a very active fantasy life and now he has a delusional disorder. Then, because he wanted his pop’s attention, he probably tried business school, lasted a couple months, then maybe tried art school and realised he had no talent. And then he realised he didn’t have to do anything because there was this big pile of money in the account. Now he’s in his 50s and he’s never had a job. So the upside is, he’s never wanted for anything, but he has also never been needed. And I think it’s starting to get to him.

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Also, did you know that Ruck is 65 in real life, and Cox, who plays his father, is only 75??

Non-Succession juice: What you want in a profile of Alan Ruck, in addition to the Succession stuff, is some fun details about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and this one delivers on that front: For instance, Ruck responds to the theory that Ferris is a figment of his character, Cameron’s, imagination. I also learned that Ruck is married to the actress Mireille Enos—good for him!

10. Matthew Macfadyen (Tom Wambsgans)

A man in a quilted vest looks toward his right while seated in some kind of office building.
Matthew Macfadyen as Tom Wambsgans. Graeme Hunter/HBO
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Profiles this year: Two, in WWD and the Evening Standard.

Prestige factor: WWD is a bit random, since it’s primarily a fashion news trade journal, but it’s still kinda fancy, so good for Tom. It’s hard for an American to interpret the prestige of the Evening Standard, but it seems decent.

Succession juice: Much is made about how different Macfadyen is from his character and what it takes to “shapeshift into fast-talking, oleaginous Tom in the blink of an eye,” as the Evening Standard puts it: “Once I’m in it and I can hear it in my head, it’s like a wonderful release. It’s like putting on a hat,” he said. “It’s so far removed from what I think is me.”

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Non-Succession juice: Macfadyen comes off as an exceedingly nice man—the Evening Standard says he uses the word lovely 23 times in an hour—but that does not make for the edgiest profile subject. Case in point: The same anecdote about how Macfadyen’s teenage children are not impressed with Succession appears in both articles.

9. Adrien Brody (Josh Aaronson)

Close-up on a man in a suit titling his head to the side in front of a window with blinds on it.
Adrien Brody as Josh Aaronson. HBO
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Profiles this year: One, in GQ.

Prestige factor: A classic long-ass magazine profile, with an accompanying photo shoot featuring a cavalcade of bizarre ensembles: very prestigious.

Succession juice: Not a whole lot: “He especially loved tangling with Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong while making Succession’s third season.” Oh really? “ ‘Here I am jumping in with these big sharks really in their element, their ocean,’ Brody says. ‘And then I have to jump in and bite back. I like the thrill of that.’ ” It’s hard to imagine he actually finds it thrilling, but OK.

Non-Succession juice: A “drolly narrated voice memo” from Wes Anderson and many anecdotes from Brody’s many years in the biz, the best of which might be one about joining all the 2003 Best Actor Oscar nominees at Jack Nicholson’s house in the days before the ceremony to discuss how they should respond to the Iraq war.

8. Jeremy Strong (Kendall Roy)

A man crosses his arms against his chest while wearing large headphones and sitting on a yacht.
Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy. Graeme Hunter/HBO
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Profiles this year: Two, in the Guardian and something called So It Goes.

Prestige factor: Strong didn’t score as many major profiles this year as his castmates with arguably smaller roles in the show—that’s what happens when you’ve already done GQ—but the Guardian’s is a substantial one, complete with a cheesy photo shoot in which he appears engulfed in flames. (A “fire specialist” is listed in the art credits.) So It Goes is a “a biannual arts and culture magazine and specialist independent creative studio,” which sounds like a bit of a vanity project, but they once had Gia Coppola profile Mark Ruffalo, so I think they’re fancy.

Succession juice: Strong talks about the time during the filming of Season 3 when he locked eyes with James Murdoch—supposedly one of the inspirations for Kendall Roy—while Murdoch was tooling through Manhattan in a Tesla.

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Non-Succession juice: In the Guardian, writer Hadley Freeman really paints a picture of Strong’s earnestness: He frequently references highfalutin artistes like Chekhov, T.S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his reluctance to talk about his time working as Daniel Day-Lewis’ assistant is so polite it makes you feel ashamed for caring about it. Luckily, there’s also a story about a fart machine: On the set of The Trial of the Chicago 7, Strong slipped one onto Frank Langella’s chair, which earned him glares from both Langella and co-star Sacha Baron Cohen. “I was like, ‘Dude! You’re Sacha Baron Cohen!’ ” Alas, this, too, was for art: “The take in which Langella sat on the fart machine, and then glares at Hoffman and Rubin, is the take that appears in the movie,” the story reports.

7. Nicholas Britell (composer)

A man in glasses stares straight ahead at the camera.
Nicholas Britell. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
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Profiles this year: Two, in the New York Times Magazine and Esquire U.K., though both were pegged to the release of Amazon’s The Underground Railroad earlier this year.

Prestige factor: The Times Magazine is a tippy-top place to be profiled, and they did a classy black-and-white portrait of Britell and everything. Esquire U.K.: solid, but not as much snob cred.

Succession juice: The best detail from either profile is that “L to the OG,” the notorious rap Kendall performs for his father in Season 2, is based on a track Britell made with the hip-hop group he was in at Harvard, Witness Protection Program, and there exists a track of Britell performing it. “Jeremy [Strong, who plays Kendall] called and asked me to show him how to rap it,” Britell told Esquire. “I said, ‘Look, if you swear that no one will ever hear the recording I make, I will demonstrate this for you.’ ”

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Non-Succession juice: As the Times recounts, instead of becoming a composer or musician right out of college, Britell went to work at Bear Stearns. He did some music projects, including with former Harvard classmate Natalie Portman, but he didn’t leave finance until 2010. Moonlight, the film he received his first Academy Award nomination for, came out just six years later. Along the way, Britell managed to impress the likes of Barry Jenkins and Adam McKay, who told the Times that Britell’s only flaw might be that he doesn’t have perfect pitch, only “relative perfect pitch.”

6. Jesse Armstrong (creator and showrunner)

A balding man with a beard stares straight ahead at the camera.
Jesse Armstrong. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.
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Profiles this year: Two, in the New Yorker and the New Statesman.

Prestige factor: A New Yorker profile (by Rebecca Mead, no less) is one of the crown jewels of the profile-verse. The New Statesman, an intellectual British magazine, seems nice too.

Succession juice: All the satisfying behind-the-scenes details about renting private jets and yacht research and ice sculpture approval that you could hope for.

Non-Succession juice: A good overview of Armstrong’s pre-Succession life: growing up in the West Midlands, the University of Manchester, a year of study abroad in Massachusetts, working in the Labour Party, and creating Peep Show.

5. Brian Cox (Logan Roy)

A man in a tuxedo talks into a microphone.
Brian Cox as Logan Roy. HBO
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Profiles this year: Three, in the New York Times Magazine, the Observer (U.K.), and British GQ.

Prestige factor: The Times Magazine is, again, a nice get, though a Talk interview is slightly less status-y than a story in the feature well. The Observer and British GQ are both nice too, but Logan Roy would certainly not approve of GQ’s “digital cover story” baloney.

Succession juice: Lots of musings about acting on the show, a few of which are genuinely surprising. Cox told the Times, “The ultimate motivating force is what I asked Jesse Armstrong right at the start of working on the show. I said, ‘Does Logan love his children?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ ” Could have fooled me! Also a few not-very-exciting spoilers, including this repellant one: “In this season—I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this—but at one point [Logan] has a U.T.I. infection.”

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Non-Succession juice: It’s amusing when Cox gets curmudgeonly, whether when he’s complaining to the Observer about how bad Darkest Hour was—Gary Oldman won the Oscar for portraying Winston Churchill in it the same year Cox starred in a competing movie, Churchill—or admitting to his own occasional prickliness: “I think sometimes I intimidate,” he told the Times. “Sometimes I talk too much. Sometimes I’m too informed about what I do. There’s something when your director says, ‘Could you do that?’ And you go: ‘I did that about 10 takes ago. Did you not notice?’ ”

4. Kieran Culkin (Roman Roy)

A man leans on a barstool in an opulently decorated room and looks to his right.
Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy. Graeme Hunter/HBO
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Profiles this year: Two, in the Hollywood Reporter and the U.K.’s Telegraph.

Prestige factor: The Hollywood Reporter is a little more industry-facing than the New Yorker or the New York Times, but it’s read by an influential audience. Bonus points for both profiles being print cover stories: That’s old-school prestige.

Succession juice: Very fun discussions of how Culkin landed the role, his dynamics with his co-stars, and getting to know his boss, Armstrong, through a game called “Dangerous Bangers.”

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Non-Succession juice: Culkin’s profiles are probably the most fun to read of anyone’s, both because as a former child star and one of seven siblings who grew up under unique circumstances, he has had a very interesting life, and because he is very, very quotable. Here’s how he talks about getting started in show business after his father heard about some auditions from a neighbor: “Soon it got to a place of like, ‘Sure, you want kids? What gender? What age? Yeah, we got a bunch. Here, take this one.’ ”Also, I did not know that Bonnie Bedelia (John McClane’s estranged wife in Die Hard, people) was Macaulay and Kieran’s aunt!

3. Sarah Snook (Shiv Roy)

A redheaded woman stands in the middle of a crowd holding a drink and looking to the side.
Sarah Snook as Shiv Roy. HBO
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Profiles this year: Two, in Town & Country and Vogue Australia.

Prestige factor: Landing two glossy cover stories is quite a feat, even if one is in Vogue Australia.

Succession juice: Shiv’s icy stares have a surprising back story: “There’s a taciturn nature to Shiv where she will observe and sit back, and part of that was just me going, ‘Well, I don’t have the confidence to improv in an American accent right now, so I’ll just stand and watch and have an opinion, but not say it out loud,’ ” Snook told Town& Country.

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Non-Succession juice: Well, Snook secretly got married during the pandemic (!), which she revealed in these profiles and which has now been reported widely.

2. Nicholas Braun (Cousin Greg)

A man in a tuxedo and slicked back hair stands up in a ballroom.
Nicholas Braun as Cousin Greg. HBO
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Profiles this year: Five! The New York Times arts section, Sharp magazine, and Mr. Porter recently, plus British GQ and New York magazine earlier this year pegged to the release of Zola, in which Braun had a supporting role.

Prestige factor: The main purpose of these stories is to give Nicholas Braun’s legion of female fans some nongoofy photos of him to lust after, but the Times, New York, and British GQ constitute a pretty sweet lineup. Mr. Porter is a fashion publication put out by a high-end menswear retailer, and I will level with you and tell you I don’t know what Sharp magazine is, but the important part is they both got Braun to wear fancy clothes for them.

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Succession juice: Honestly … not a ton. But look at those pics.

Non-Succession juice: Braun does a good job of making himself sound like a fun hang (though not quite as fun as Culkin, but who is?). “I really want to do The Amazing Race with my friend Chris Mintz-Plasse,” he told Sharp. And fun fact: Braun’s dad used to design album covers: “The peelable banana on The Velvet Underground & Nico was one of his,” Mr. Porter reported. Huh!

1. J. Smith-Cameron (Gerri)

A standing woman in a long coat over a white blouse holds a purse in one hand and a folded piece of paper in the other.
J. Smith-Cameron as Gerri. HBO
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Profiles this year: Four, in the L.A. Times, W magazines, Bustle, and, back in January, Garden & Gun.

Prestige factor: Though she didn’t land the biggest fish, you’d be hard-pressed to find a wider assortment of publications profiling the same person, which speaks to Smith-Cameron’s cross-demographic appeal: The L.A. Times is obviously well-read by Hollywood types, W’s got high-fashion cred, Bustle has been trying to advance its reputation lately by doing ambitious, print-style features online, and Garden & Gun is a Southern institution. Plus, they all wanted to do photo shoots, some of which feature some pretty sexy clothes.

Succession juice: All the profiles sought to provide the scoop on Succession’s best relationship, the one between Gerri and Roman: The L.A. Times got Smith-Cameron to reveal that she made up “slime puppy,” the epithet she calls him during a phone sex scene. (“It’s my contribution to American literature.”) Also, we got another scholar here: “Smith-Cameron has formulated her own ideas about Gerri’s past, ones that haven’t necessarily gotten Armstrong’s stamp of approval but are useful to her understanding of the character. She thinks Gerri’s late husband was much older than her and helped her land a job at Waystar Royco through his friend, Logan. She also wonders if Gerri and Logan ever had a thing.” Hmm! There are other good anecdotes too—Culkin calls her “Mommy Girlfriend” on set—but in truth, no amount of Gerri-Roman stories would ever be enough.

Non-Succession juice: Like her character, Smith-Cameron is all business, always leaving us wanting more, so she doesn’t reveal a whole lot, and that’s probably why we love her. As the under-the-radar winner of the contest to succeed Logan Roy (for now, at least), it should come as no surprise that she’s also the under-the-radar winner of these power rankings.

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