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It's Shiv's Turn

Sarah Snook has made Succession’s hard-nosed heiress somehow sympathetic. It must be the side-eye.

Carl Swanson

Shiv Roy would so not put up with this. “Did you know that AT&T doesn’t work in Greenpoint? It’s like you literally cross past McCarren Park and then it cuts out,” says Sarah Snook, who plays the skeptical, implacable, yet oddly sympathetic media heiress Shiv Fucking Roy (as the character puts it on her wedding day, while wearing her wedding dress, to her side piece, Nate, who dared challenge her on one of her schemes) on the HBO series Succession. But I’m meeting Snook far from the show’s usual corporate-power-and-family-money locations. On a day when they aren’t filming, the 31-year-old Australian expat wanted to get lunch near her apartment in tweeist Brooklyn. She’s been living there while filming the show’s second season, with two roommates—a married couple, good friends of hers—her ukulele, and, apparently quite happily, no reliable cell signal. “I’ve really committed to the artisanal lifestyle,” she says.

At the end of the first season, the character, who worked outside the family business as a political consultant, operated as more of an acerbic observer, a onewoman Statler and Waldorf to the farcical family scrum. But when the show returns in August, the narrative spotlight will be more on Shiv. “From the first episode” of season two, “people can see that Shiv is going to be more central,” confirms the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong. This time around promises to have Shiv bullying her way past her rivals, including her feckless brothers, Kendall (the needy druggie struggling to be the Man, played by Jeremy Strong) and Roman (the broken ADD jester struggling to shirk all responsibility while maintaining his princeling status, played by Kieran Culkin). Not to mention her mysterious stepmother, Marcia, played by Hiam Abbass, and various outside corporate threats. The question of the show’s title is who will inherit the crown tottering on the head of the right-wing warrior- mogul and patriarch Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox, who is losing his marbles.

But for all the comparisons to Elisabeth Murdoch and Shari Redstone and others that give the character seeming topicality, it’s Snook’s slyly selfish portrayal of her that makes Shiv so compelling. You might have missed Snook in the 2014 Ethan Hawke sci-fi film Predestination, in which she played a time-traveling intersex detective named the Unmarried Mother (the plot’s a bit confusing to summarize, but— spoiler—Snook had to watch Hawke’s movies from the 1990s to understand how to walk as he did as a young man), and it might take a second to recall her as Apple’s relentless PR person in 2015’s Steve Jobs or, the next year, as a storm trooper hunting the genetically inferior in the Black Mirror episode “Men Against Fire,” and, let’s face it, most of us didn’t make it to London in 2016 to see her perform opposite Ralph Fiennes in The Master Builder. But her Shiv is impossible to forget.

When we meet in Greenpoint, Snook is dressed in a jean jacket, white-framed mirrored sunglasses, and Docs, without a hint of don’t-you-know-who-I-am (and nobody seemed to). We sit in the backyard of a mutedly fussy café with monkey-and-bird wallpaper, “BOWLS!” on the menu, and a pressed-tin ceiling. She lets me order us a large slice of cake and proceeds to tell me her wry, somewhat giddy life story.

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July 8-21, 2019