Alexander Skarsgård on ‘Succession’ Season 4 and the Series Finale

May 8, 2023

Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Season 4 of Succession.In Season 4 of the HBO series Succession, Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) has been unpredictable and chaotic, and as a result of playing by his own rules, he’s heightened the tension between the Roy kids while still always managing to be a step ahead, making everyone around them wonder how the sale of the Waystar Royco corporation will ultimately play out. Complicated and charismatic in equal parts, Matsson is excessively rich in a way that gives him the upper hand, but that also always makes it feel like he’ll be the cause of his own demise.

During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Skarsgård talked about joining Succession for what he thought would just be a couple of episodes in Season 3, the only other time he’s said yes to a project before reading the script, the show’s spectacular writing, how he reacted to Matsson’s penchant for sending frozen blood bricks to an ex, loving every second of his work with Sarah Snook (who plays Shiv Roy), and that Matsson gets what he deserves.

Collider: You seem to be having the most fun on TV with this character.

ALEXANDER SKARSGARD: Oh, my God, yeah. It’s not an exaggeration. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun on a set before. It’s been such a treat.

Image via HBO

When you started with this role, did you know that he would be playing such an important part of the final season? Did you just think you’d be doing what you did in Season 3, or did you know he’d come back, even if you didn’t know it would be the last season?

SKARSGARD: No. I was such a fan of Jesse Armstrong’s. I was such a fan, from back in the day, when he did Peep Show and In the Loop. Ten years ago, they called from Lars von Trier’s office and asked if I wanted to be in Melancholia. That was the first time I said yes, before reading the script. I was just like, “Yeah, I’m in. I don’t really care what it is that you want me to do. I’ll just come.” My dad had worked with Lars many times, and I knew what an amazing experience that had been, and I was such an admirer of his work. It’s rare to say yes before reading a script. [Succession] was a similar situation, where they reached out. My agent called and said, “It’s for the show Succession, but it’s only supposed to be two episodes, so maybe it’s not muscular enough and substantial enough to do it.” But I just said yes, immediately. I was like, “I’ve got an opportunity to be on a set with Jesse Armstrong.”

I was such a fan of the show. I could tell how much fun the actors were having on set. It just looked like a real dream. So, it was the second time, after Melancholia, where I just basically said yes. It was supposed to be two episodes, but it ended up being three. It was supposed to be just a few scenes, and that was it. But then, considering how Season 3 ended, there was an opportunity to potentially come back, but contractually, we were done and that was gonna be it. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t know anything. And then, Jesse called, at the beginning of last year, when he was putting together the writers’ room for Season 4. He asked if I had any interest in coming back, and of course, I wanted to come back. It was such a joy working on the show last year. So, he broadly explained the storyline and pitched the idea. And then, at the end of it, he said, “Oh, and by the way, maybe there might also be an ex-girlfriend that Lukas keeps sending frozen blood bricks,” and my heart just melted when I heard that. I was like, “This is gorgeous. This is delicious. I can’t wait to shoot this.”

I was quite curious about the whole frozen blood brick situation because it’s such a shocking throw-away moment. Was all of that scripted? Did you improvise any of that? How did you even get through the scene?

SKARSGARD: There’s definitely room to improvise on the show. There are a couple of moments with Tom and Greg, in episode seven, where we improvised a bit. But the thing is, the writing is so spectacular. The way Jesse and the other writers construct the dialogue is the way you speak. A lot of it is stop-and-start. You start a thought, and then maybe you don’t end it or complete it, and you go in a different direction and segue way into something else, and then you digress. That scene with Sarah [Snook] was verbatim, the way it was scripted, even down to the dot-dot-dots between when I’m stuttering or stopping. It was such a beautifully written scene, and playing it was a real treat. Sarah is so phenomenal. Her reaction to this outlandish thing that he’s telling her, and how it was a joke, and then it wasn’t a joke, and then it became a joke again, and now it’s in weird, creepy territory again, was so disturbing and so rewarding. I loved every second of it.

Image via HBO

Why do you think he decided to tell Shiv, specifically, about that? Was that very calculated for him, or is he surprised that he shared that, in that moment?

SKARSGARD: He’s also at the point where he’s testing the waters a bit and feeling her out. He doesn’t really know her. He’s obviously a predator and a ruthless businessman, but part of his genius is that he can see that there’s something, some animosity, between the siblings. There might be an opportunity where he can move in and pounce on Shiv, and create a wedge between the siblings, or if it’s already there, he can expand it a bit. So, at this point, he also genuinely needs some advice and he’s confiding in her. He’s like, “What do you do? Get some PR people on the case, and they’ll figure it out?” She says, “Definitely don’t send more blood.” That’s a good point, definitely. No more blood should be taken. He definitely needs some advice because he’s not always super savvy when it comes to the person-to-person stuff. He also wants to see what she’s made of.

What do you think that sort of behavior, in general, says about him?

SKARSGARD: He’s extraordinarily eccentric, and there’s something so idiosyncratic about it. What’s so delicious about it and playing it is that it’s funny, but also creepy. Not only with the blood bricks, but a lot about Matsson oscillates between creepy and funny, and sometimes a little charming and boyish, and then menacing and weird. It’s a territory that’s been so much fun to exist in, for a couple of months.

Part of what makes what Matsson does so insane is that it’s usually a serious conversation, but it’s about something wild.

SKARSGARD: Sometimes, it’s like, “Oh, by the way…,” and it’s something super significant, but he’ll treat it as if it’s something trivial and that it will be fine. There are bad numbers in India that could ruin the whole company, and ruin the whole deal, and blow it all up, but yeah, it’ll be fine. We’ll figure it out.

Image via HBO 

It also feels like a fun little nod to you having been on True Blood and existing on HBO before, when you get into that weird territory about blood bricks.

SKARSGARD: Yeah, there’s definitely a little opportunity to read into the possibility that it could be a nod to the good old vampire days.

What do you most enjoy about getting to bring some of Matsson’s people into this, and having that contrast between his cohorts versus the Roys cohorts?

SKARSGARD: It’s such a collision. They’re so different. It was a lot of fun to play with the energy that we come in with. It’s like, “We’re here to party.” And also visually, we chose a crazy peacocky golden jacket that he probably bought in Japan for $60,000. Visually, it was such a nice contrast to the monochromatic finance world. And then, with all the energy between him and Ebba and Oscar, they roll in like three-hand grenades. It was tremendously fun to just bulldoze our way into that party.

This is definitely one of those characters that you’re intrigued by, and then you’re repelled by him, and then you’re drawn in again because he might be fun at a party, but then he just says something really inappropriate. If he were a real person, and he is so similar to so many real people, is he someone that you’d like, or is he someone that would just be fun to watch, but that you wouldn’t want to hang out with?

SKARSGARD: I think I’d be, at arm’s length, amused by him. I’d prefer to micro-dose Lukas Matsson because it’s a lot. It’s a tsunami of energy and eccentricity, but he’s a good time. I wouldn’t mind going out for a couple of drinks with Lukas Matsson. I think that would be quite entertaining because he’s so unhinged and so wild and so eccentric that you never know what you’re gonna get. That’s always refreshing because there’s a conformity to a lot of people, and he’s definitely very idiosyncratic.

Image via HBO

What was your reaction to learning how all of this would play out? Did Jesse Armstrong tell you, early on in the season? Did you have to wait until you got the later scripts? How did you learn how this would all end?

SKARSGARD: At the beginning of last year, when I had the conversation with Jesse, he broadly laid out what was gonna happen. He told me about Logan’s death, and how Matsson would move in and target Shiv, and how that relationship would develop. But we didn’t get specifically into the last couple of episodes, and I didn’t really ask him. We talked about it quite late, actually, about how it would end. I didn’t feel like I needed to know when we were shooting the first half of it. It didn’t really affect my character or the way I approached him. So, with the succession of it all, we had a conversation maybe two months before we shot the very end of the season, or the end of the show, to get more into the specifics of how it would go down.

And what was your reaction to that?

SKARSGARD: I thought it made perfect sense. I think Lukas gets what he deserves.

Succession airs on Sunday nights on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.

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