Note: The following story contains spoilers from the “Succession” series finale.
The series finale of “Succession” saw the board approval of the GoJo acquisition of Waystar Royco and Tom Wambsgans rising to the top as its new U.S. CEO. The swan song for the popular HBO drama left the fate of many of its core cast open-ended, including Waystar’s chief financial officer Karl Muller.
“I’m egotistical for Karl. He is where he is, working with Waystar, because he’s the best in town. He’s the best in the business, otherwise Logan wouldn’t have him around,” actor David Rasche told TheWrap. “So my guess is that since it’s a cutthroat business, and since Tom has no insights, if he thinks he can use Karl he’ll hire him in a heartbeat. I think Karl’s got a few years left in him and if not, I think he’s just thrilled to be on that Greek island that he half owns with his brother-in-law.”
When asked if Rasche thinks Karl will end up getting his highly sought after golden parachute, he replied: “Definitely! And he’s going to be full of writers and novelists and scientists and smart people and pretty women. It’s going be a great life.”
Check out TheWrap’s full conversation with Rasche below.
TheWrap: What has it been like working on one of the biggest drama series of our time?
Rasche: I don’t think anybody knew that’s what it was going to be at the very beginning. I knew Jesse [Armstrong], we did a movie together called “In The Loop.” And I auditioned actually for the role of Gerri — which used to be Jerry, a man, but they changed it to a woman. And he said “Oh, let me get David on the show.” So he wrote a part for me and I didn’t know what to do but he was very sweet that he just stuck me in there. And so after the first season he said, “David, sorry you didn’t have much to do this year, but you never know there might be another season.”
It was always getting better and better and better. This is the best season of the four and who knew that it would be this big? Nobody knew, you can’t know this stuff. But this is a product of an absolutely tremendous amount of emotional, psychic, intellectual energy. Jesse Armstrong is just remarkable. He just does it without breaking a sweat and he’s in on every decision and he knows everything that’s going on and he’s kind and generous and polite. There was no negative to this. Never.
He gave a talk after the last scene had been shot this season and we had a little get together and he said, “We coalesced as an organism, as a group, as a family and from now on, any time you see anyone you work with on this show, you’re with us all.” Very touching. So he’s really just absolutely the greatest person, so self-effacing. It really is very unusual in this business.
It’s really kind of an out of body experience, I think, for everybody. No one knew that this was going to happen to the show. No one knew that it would capture the psyche and the imagination of the nation and sort of the world.
What was your reaction to learning that Tom would become CEO of Waystar Royco?
In the last episode of the third season, Logan puts his hand on Tom’s shoulder after having excoriated the kids, so you kind of got an idea that that’s the way things were going to go. But if you want an ending that exposes the fruits of lost lives, and that is of the three kids, then this is the way it’s going to happen. None of them are going to get it. They’re all going to be out of luck and Logan has destroyed them and their lives and his own. That’s the fruit of that labor. When you work with no morals and no ethics and that kind of rage and ferocity, that’s where it ends up. And for this crown jewel to end up in the hands of Tom but also Lukas Matsson — you find out just exactly who [Tom] is in that long conversation with Alexander Skarsgård. That hideous — ‘I want a pain sponge,’ ‘All right, fine, I can do it.’ What is he? Nothing.
The thing that hit me hardest in the last episode, I didn’t see it coming, was when Tom invites Shiv to come with him to get in the car and you don’t know if she’s going to go or not. And he gets in the car and there she is and he puts his hand down and she puts her hand on his, that was just chilling. He didn’t put his hand on hers, it was her.
There has been debate on social media about the position Shiv is in at the end of the series in comparison to her brothers given that Tom is now CEO. Do you believe it was a victory or a defeat?
It’s not a victory. It’s a defeat. It’s a loveless, horrible marriage. Horrible. That’s all I saw when I saw that happen. I saw a very deeply unhappy woman. Her heart is broken and she’s eviscerated. She’s married to a horrible empty suit and they’ll laugh and they’ll have photographs and they’ll go skiing and all that and she will be empty. She just died, in my opinion.
The finale has a few moments where the characters are genuinely bonding, one of which where Karl leads a sing-along with Logan and others. What was it like shooting that scene?
That’s part of the Jesse’s genius. He’ll take you along and then all of a sudden slap, bam, a knife comes out, he’s brilliant with that. You never get to catch your breath. It’s like the calm before the storm. It’s just terrific, the ride that he takes you on. And there’s not a moment to breathe, especially in that last episode. Everybody is at everybody all the time. There’s not a second where there’s a relief because there’s pain and there’s desire and there’s fight, every second of it.
It was rueful for everybody because there we all were and everybody knows everybody in that room, Frank and Jerry and Karl and Logan and Connor. We all know the situation, we all know that things are falling apart, the kids are in terrible shape. And the words of the song are, “the war’ly race may riches chase, an’ riches still may fly them, O” — they may get them but in the end their heart cannot enjoy them. That’s the message of that song and the message of that song is the message of the entire series. Their hearts can never enjoy them.
When did you learn that this would be the final season?
I know that [Jesse] didn’t know. He really didn’t know it was. Even at the beginning of the season, we didn’t know that it was going to be the end until the table read [for the final episode]. He said, “Well, I think it’s time although you never know, but no, no it’s time. We had an idea and I think we played it out — although — no, no we have to end it.” And he went back and forth, and he had a lot of trouble letting go because it was remarkable, never to be gathered again group of actors and crew. But he knew because the name of the show is “Succession,” that’s what it’s about. There’s a million ways he could have gone, but Jesse wasn’t interested in that. He was interested in the family and the family dynamics and what made that family go and what money and power will do.
I mean this thing went through 30 drafts to 50 drafts. It’s ridiculous, the number of man hours, and thought and the discussions and then going to the board and the writers changing things. It’s a gargantuan effort and that’s what you see. It did not happen by accident.
I worked one time with a musical writer and a librettist and I heard an argument between them and one said to the other, ‘I work harder than you do.’ And that’s Jesse. He wouldn’t say that, but he works harder than anybody I’ve ever met, but he doesn’t break a sweat. All awards in this whole show should go to him. All my wonderful lines this year, I didn’t write them, he wrote them. It’s terrific writing and if you say it to him he says ‘oh, well we’re all in it together’ but if you go to one of the writers they all say, ‘Well, it’s Jesse.’ I mean there were certain things that I know certain writers wrote but he always goes through it and makes changes and cleans things up.
What was your reaction to Logan’s death in episode 3?
I thought it was the single most courageous act that any writer has ever done in the history of television. Under normal circumstances, he would have died at the very end but, he died an ignominious death. He just died on the bathroom floor. It’s the way life really happens. [Jesse] is, in my opinion, just extremely courageous, he’ll take a big big chance.
What I was worried about was not necessarily number three, which is when he died, but I was worried about Episode 4 because when you have a show that is as strong and as revolutionary and surprising and shocking as number three you better have something to follow it up. And it could easily have happened that they go, “Oh, my God. Well, what’s next? Oh no. Oh, they shouldn’t have killed him. Oh, that was the end of the show? I hate it now.’ Not at all. That was just like a springboard. And then the show really took off. I mean, I think the last six episodes were as strong as that show has ever seen. It’s remarkable, his uncanny sense of what to do and how to do it.
What were some of your favorite moments/scenes to shoot over the course of “Succession”?
Boar on the floor, of course, was a lot of fun. That’s Tony Roach, one of the writers. That was, I think, one of the most original scripts, it should have gotten any Emmy. I mean, he made up this game and it just was so revealing and so brutal and so brilliant.
I enjoyed in Zagreb when I had a panic attack, that whole sequence was a lot of fun to shoot. And in this season, of course, dressing down Tom was quite enjoyable and on the airplane after Logan died, you know, chuckles the clown, that was fun to be there for that. And then of course, giving Kendall a spanking when he looks like he’s going to screw up my entire future. That was a lot of fun to do.
What are you going to miss the most about working on “Succession”?
After the third season, we had a little get together and the producer Scott Ferguson said that he had never been in a situation where he worked with so many people who were working at the top of their game and that certainly was the case. And then I talked to the first AD, who said that the ethos in the crew was do better. Everybody was just trying to make sure that everything was perfect because that was the fun of it. Everybody was doing 1000%… it was a success because everybody worked so damn hard — really, really hard.
These people are forever emblazoned in my psyche. I’ll miss everybody. Nicholas Braun who plays Greg owns a bar and he had us all over to watch the last episode together. It’s like a family. I could see them in 20 years and pick up as if it was yesterday. It was a wonderful group of people.
All episodes of “Succession” are streaming now on Max.