OPINION - Could a woman get away with Jeremy Strong’s ego-preening ‘process’ on the set of Succession?

·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

So: Jeremy Strong, who hurt you? I refer to the New Yorker profile of the actor, AKA Kendall “All Bangers, All The Time” Roy, the lugubrious, thwarted Hamlet-lite of Succession. This 7,000-word feast by the writer Michael Schulman was doing the rounds yesterday afternoon, and no wonder, for it’s a treat: a part-skewering, part-proxy-cry-for-help on behalf of a 42-year old man teetering on the very edge of reality.

TL;DR — what you really need to know about Strong is he is an Actor. He idolises method bros like Daniel Day-Lewis and Dustin Hoffman; his commitment to his “craft” is beyond obsession. He is also, according to the Succession castmates quoted, a difficult colleague. He quibbles over the hyper-minutiae (salad dressing; when in a scene Kendall would or would not wear sunglasses); he is said to have admonished his Succession boss, writer Jesse Armstrong, with tart criticisms like, “if we’re holding a mirror up to nature, then let’s not contrive things”.

On one set (not Succession), he is reported to have requested to be tear-gassed to get in the zone. The request was declined, on account of the 200 other people in the scene. To allegations from Schulman that people find him difficult, Strong responded: “I don’t particularly think ease or even accord are virtues in creative work.” Of course you don’t, mate.

Obviously, Strong is a magnificent Kendall (in the sense that any Kendall, who once killed a waiter, can be magnificent). But method acting is a combative, humourless form of haute-exceptionalism that feeds egos that don’t need the fuel. Like many unorthodox ideas, it is very Hollywood. As Dame Maggie Smith once put it: “Oh, we have that in England, too. We call it w***ing.”

Which brings me to my next point: can you imagine a woman getting away with this? The narratives we lionise about women on set are about how “relatable” they are, how they are “just like us” — for an actress, this is the ultimate compliment, the notion she basically woke up and accidentally ended up on the set of a prestige TV show. A female tortured artist is a sort of hysterical kook; a male one, a genius. Not to mention that for a woman going “method” usually amounts to the superficial (gaining/losing weight; getting an unflattering haircut) rather than deliberately antagonising their cast and crew.

OK, so Lady Gaga stayed in full-Dolmio puppet accent for nine months while filming House of Gucci (hun, it wasn’t worth it), but no matter how trying this must have been, it is dust compared to Strong et al, too self-absorbed to see the way that enacting your (hushed voice) “process” on someone might essentially be an act of psychological warfare. Are these men aware that their job is quite literally playing make-believe? Guys: it’s meant to be fun!

In other news...

We should rename Omicron to something more personable

Batten down the hatches — another super-storm approaches. This one has been called Barra, a fairly sweet name for something that promises flooding, high winds and snow. It comes hot (or rather, cold and blustery) on the heels of Arwen, which landed 10 days ago and affected the power supply to about one million homes. To distract us from the Covid-apocalypse, should we rename Omicron something more personable? We don’t want to make it seem warm and cuddly (quite the opposite: keep your distance), but at least it would mean we could talk about it as though it were a person we disliked, which might make us all feel better.

What do you think about Jeremy Strong’s acting approach? Let us know in the comments below.

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