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‘Succession’ Actor Nicholas Braun on Greg and Tom’s Complicated Dynamic: ‘I Think Greg Doesn’t Want to Be Tom’

The actor opens up about Greg’s tough season, why filming Episode 5 was emotional and teases this Sunday’s finale

Cousin Greg was riding high at the beginning of “Succession” Season 3, but as the episodes of the Emmy-winning HBO drama series have progressed, Greg has not just lost his place alongside Kendall as an agent of change, but also his inheritance and potentially his foothold at Waystar Royco.

“I think these types of moments are hopefully shaping Greg into someone who has to be more thoughtful and possibly more principled,” actor Nicholas Braun told TheWrap recently during an interview conducted ahead of the Season 3 finale.

Braun, who has perfected the art of hilarious discomfort in portraying Greg over three seasons of the series so far, said this season has been all about Greg “getting his ass kicked” and that he hopes by the end of it, Greg “has been slapped so much that he can’t do this the same anymore.”

After helping Kendall go public with documents regarding malpractice at Waystar Royco, Greg wavered and considering maintaining his position within the company. But Greg getting hosed by the end of the season was a just comeuppance, Braun says.

I think that’s what happens in this world. If you don’t grab onto something and hold on and commit to it, if you don’t have any loyalty and you don’t know what’s right or wrong or who you should align with, then I think you’re just going to get punished.”

Braun also revealed that, because of COVID, Episode 5 of the season (the one being hailed as one of the best of the series thus far) was the first time the whole group was back together.

“It was kind of an emotional moment in a way, to see everyone after being through the pandemic and waiting so long to get to work together again,” Braun said.

Season 3 has also been a dark one for the show’s best couple — Greg and Tom — as Tom considered the possibility of going to prison, and while it’s led to some touching moments Braun maintains Greg is “not totally in ever” with Tom.

I’ve always felt that Greg thinks he can do better than Tom,” Braun admitted. “I just don’t think Greg’s been given the opportunity or landed on the right path to be able to do that.”

Braun even offered a tantalizing tease for this Sunday’s finale.

“I think people have had enough,” he said cryptically. “They’ve had enough, so things to have to change.”

Braun also discusses working with James Cromwell, Greg’s relationship with Comfry, how much he knew about Season 3 going in — and more — in the full interview below. The Season 3 finale of “Succession” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

TheWrap: How much did you know about Greg’s Season 3 arc going in?

Nicholas Braun: I didn’t know too much. I think the only thing that they told me, and this was pre COVID, one of the writers, I think it was Tony Roche, was like, ‘We’re thinking about maybe Greg suing Greenpeace this season at some point.’ And that was really the only piece. I was like, ‘OK, Greg is really going to be spiraling, it sounds like.’ So, I don’t know much, and I don’t really like to know much before reading the scripts. Because in a way, reading the script for the table read is us watching the show. I like to be surprised. They spend time in the writers room for months and months, and I like to see what that work has led up to and what they think works the best for Greg and for everyone. And from there I like to offer Jesse some suggestions or things that get inspired by his writing.

I was going to ask, if you had known beforehand, if that affected your performance at all, but it makes total sense that you’d want to go piecemeal episode by episode.

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Yeah. I think especially with Greg, but probably with everyone, but it’s nice to really not know where he will end up. What’s fun about Greg is the struggle and the sort of being in between something that he wants. So it’s nice to just sort of be like, ‘Oh, let’s see what happens with this,’ without knowing any of the results.

You’ve also had a lot of scenes with James Cromwell this season and I was curious what it’s been like working with him, and also how you keep a straight face when he says “that’ll do” [Editor’s note: Cromwell made a reference to his film “Babe” in a Season 3 episode with Braun]

Oh my gosh. Yeah. I didn’t even clock that. It just felt right. I love working with him. He’s a really kind man, and obviously so perfect for that part and a great stonewall to try and affect because he’s so unreadable, which is helpful for Greg to not know how he’s doing with him. But I love my scenes with him. He’s really easy to work with and collaborative and loves the show and our stuff that we get to do together. I just feel lucky to get to do stuff with him.

There’s a really key moment to Greg as a character when Ewan tells him that he’s giving his inheritance to Greenpeace and Greg asks why and Ewan says, ‘because you need to take yourself seriously, kid.’ I was wondering from your perspective, does that cut deep for Greg? Does that change something in him or make him consider his place in all of this?

Yeah, I think so. I think these types of moments are hopefully shaping Greg into someone who has to be more thoughtful and possibly more principled. But I think this season for Greg is all about getting his ass kicked, honestly. He doesn’t know what to do, he doesn’t know where to go. People like Kendall are burning him, his grandfather’s taking away the potential of an inheritance entirely. So I hope that this season feels like it’s just — Greg has been slapped so much that he can’t do this the same anymore.

The season starts from a place of such leverage for Greg, but then quickly he’s wavering on which side will have him come out on top.

Yeah. He starts off quite confident and it was really fun to be a part of Kendall’s sort of manic excitement. Just the adrenaline I think was very thrilling and Greg feels like he did the right thing, like he’s on the right side of history and he’s with this ballsy guy, he was not afraid of anything. And for that to falter and for him to sort of end up getting flushed down a toilet for a while, that was a lot of fun to play. I think that’s what happens in this world. If you don’t grab onto something and hold on and commit to it, if you don’t have any loyalty and you don’t know what’s right or wrong or who you should align with, then I think you’re just going to get punished.

I’m also curious the episode five of this season, which a lot of people have hailed as one of the best episodes of the show so far. What was the experience shooting that episode like?

Five was pretty incredible because we hadn’t seen each other as a big group yet in the season. The first four episodes, everyone’s still pretty much in their own world. I hadn’t seen J. Smith Cameron, I hadn’t seen Alan Ruck or Kieran Culkin or Fisher Stevens, I hadn’t seen that whole group. The first time was one of those days in that room that they’re all sort of huddled up in, and it was kind of an emotional moment in a way, to see everyone after being through the pandemic and waiting so long to get to work together again. And then here we are. Basically instantly everyone is just like I remembered, and just locked into their parts and funny and the rhythms were perfect. And it was like, ‘Man, this is an incredible group of actors and we’re all just in it.’ That also means adding in little improv things and trying to let yourself be free and overlap each other and do all these things that take a lot of trust. So I feel like the trust was there immediately. That episode was pretty special.

I also wanted to ask about Tom and Greg’s relationship, and it feels like maybe one of the reasons it’s so interesting and compelling to watch is because it’s one of the most honest relationships in the series, just in terms of how they treat each other in contrast to the other characters.

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Yeah, it does feel like they’re not hiding as much from each other’s actual thoughts as the rest of the characters are. They’re pretty forthright. I mean, Tom is always going to be an asshole to Greg, it feels like, but there is a real connection with them sometimes. That diner scene, that’s what I’m thinking of right now, and there’s an energy in that scene that I don’t think any of the other characters could really have with each other. Like, both commiserating and Greg being able to truly plead for something, being really earnest. There’s an earnestness to that relationship that just doesn’t exist in any other relationships in the show. And that’s pretty cool, I think. There’s been a lot of victories for those two this year and also a lot of pain and anguish and stuff. So, I think we’ve had a mixed bag.

There’s also that heartbreaking moment where Tom tells Greg the story of Nero and Sporus and tells him he would castrate him and marry him, which is twistedm but sweet in a way. But then in this moment of baring his soul, he turns around and says, ‘Do you want to fight like chickens?’ to put the mask back on and hide behind that masculinity.

I guess Tom wants someone to feel safe with, where he can actually put his arm around someone and be needed. Greg wants to be taken care of, Greg wants to be shown the way and Tom wants to be able to do that for someone. And so they fit really well to what each other need in this world, but also they can’t just be sweethearts to each other because that wouldn’t work on TV. We need some ego in it too from Tom, but I don’t know. I also think Greg is not totally in ever with Tom because he’s such a… I don’t know, he maybe doesn’t even actually really matter in the scheme of things. It’s like he’s his best mentor, but is he a good mentor? Maybe not.

Do you see Greg as being on Tom’s trajectory in the sense that Tom is something of a bullied outsider who becomes a bully once he gets inside? Does it feel like Greg is on that trajectory? It seems like Greg knows the difference between right and wrong.

I’ve always felt that Greg thinks he can do better than Tom. I just don’t think Greg’s been given the opportunity or landed on the right path to be able to do that. And part of it is Tom keeps his thumb on Greg so heavily, Tom doesn’t let Greg spread his wings at Waystar. And I think Greg doesn’t want to be Tom, I don’t think you look at Tom and you’re like, ‘Ah, what a life.’ You know? ‘He’s killing it.’ Tom is a mess. So I think Greg just hasn’t found the right angle to have his own trajectory yet.

Speaking of relationships, I’m curious as someone who knows Tom best, what does Greg think of Tom and Shiv’s relationship?

It’s obvious Tom is miserable in it. But it also feels like you can’t talk to Tom about it. Greg has learned that Tom has these little trigger points where he can get set off. So he’s got PTSD from several events now. And he’s like, ‘Ok, could this be the thing that’s maybe going to get something thrown at me?’ So he’s got to be careful about what he talks about and it feels like Tom’s relationship with Shiv is just too loaded for Greg to talk about with him. But Greg’s a wallflower. I think he sees everything. So I’m sure he’s seeing some of this go down.

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That’s what’s made him dangerous since season one, Greg has always been watching.

He’s watching. Yeah, and in season one he says to Tom, ‘Hey, I think Shiv, I saw her with another guy,’ and then Tom pushes him down in the snow. So you know, can’t talk about [it] anymore.

Yeah, exactly. Well, and then of course, Greg gets the inklings of a relationship with Comfry this season. What was it like building that arc out?

It was fun, it’s nice to have a different thing like that for Greg and to bring a sweetness to the show, in this little way. I haven’t seen [Episode 8], but I know Comfry kisses Greg on the cheek at some point, and it’s like, when do you see that on ‘Succession’? Like, a nice little kiss on the cheek? So, I think it’s good, and I love working with Dasha [Nekrasova]. She and I just really get along well, and it’s been fun to get to know her and to figure out that relationship. We didn’t know where it was going to go, but it felt like it was going to go somewhere. I think it’s a cool pairing.

No spoilers, but what can you tease about the finale episode of the season?

I think people have had enough. They’ve had enough, so things to have to change.

The Season 3 finale of “Succession” airs on HBO on Sunday, Dec. 12.

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