HomeTVFor J. Smith-Cameron, ‘Succession’ Was ‘More Than the Sum of Its Parts’

For J. Smith-Cameron, ‘Succession’ Was ‘More Than the Sum of Its Parts’


The world is her slime puppy now.

As Waystar Royco’s corporate counsel, J. Smith-Cameron’s Gerri Kellman spent four seasons as a beacon of competence in the roil of nepo babies and sycophants that was HBO’s “Succession.” The role earned Smith-Cameron an Emmy nomination last year, and on Wednesday she received another. (Eight of her fellow “Succession” cast members have also received nominations in the acting categories.)

Reached by phone on Italy’s Amalfi coast, where she had accompanied her husband, the playwright and filmmaker, Kenneth Lonergan, Smith-Cameron swore that this nomination was every bit as exciting as the first. “Because this was our last season,” she said. “And we’re very proud of ‘Succession.’ So it’s just wonderful.”

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

How was it playing one of the few capable characters on the show?

I think it’s lonely at the top for Gerri because she never gets any credit for it. People begrudgingly take her advice. She knows she’s right. She’s confident. That’s why it stings so much in this last season when Roman fires her and tries to say it’s because she’s not good at her job. She has put up with so much.

So many of your “Succession” colleagues have also been nominated. Was there some on-set alchemy that helped everyone do career-best work?

I think so. It was more than the sum of its parts. There was something about everyone being at the top of their form and inspiring everyone else to rise to the occasion. But performances can only be as good as what’s written.

Still, you wrote Gerri’s most famous line, calling Roman Roy (Kieran Culkin) a “little slime puppy.”

That’s true, darling. I did. That just came out of my mouth. But “Succession” was an unusually well-written show.

What made Gerri tick? And why did she put up with so much nonsense?

Well, this is what she’s good at. And she is addicted to it; it’s an adrenaline high. She’s really good at problem solving. I never thought of her as angling to be C.E.O. She liked being the interim C.E.O., but I don’t think she likes to be the one with the target on her back. She likes practicing law because it’s like a logic puzzle. So she was doing what she loved even though it was so stressful.

I mean, I’m in a career that seems unnecessarily stressful. People ask me, How can I bear it? I don’t know what the answer is. Except I love to do it, and it’s what I do best. That’s the answer for Gerri.

Have Gerri and the fame she has brought changed you in any way? Do you have a real penchant for skirt suits now?

This was a really delightful thing to happen for someone my age, in my 60s. For her to be such a popular, fan-favorite character, it feels like a big win for us women in general. Because it doesn’t matter her age — she got to have a sexual profile, she got to be really great with her work, she got to be funny. Most of all, she got to be really human. She wasn’t just a barracuda in stiletto heels. She got to be human person biting her nails and plotting and worrying. That feels like a big win for all of us.

What do you imagine happens to Gerri in the future?

She could rise to even greater heights. Who knows? Or she could go down in flames. But I think Gerri has done well for herself.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com


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