‘Succession’ Star Alexander Skarsgård Calls Matsson ‘A Hand Grenade in a Room of Gray Suits’

The actor speaks to TheWrap about returning for the HBO drama’s final season and the shocking reveal behind Mattson’s interest in Waystar Royco

Sarah Snook and Alexander Skarsgård in a still from "Succession." (David M. Russell/HBO)

Note: This story contains spoilers from “Succession” Season 4, Episode 7.

Sunday’s episode of “Succession” marked a major turning point in the final season, as the Roy siblings found new leverage in their effort to stop Gojo’s acquisition of WayStar Royco.

In addition to learning about a troubling relationship between Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) and his head of public relations Ebba (Eili Horboe), Episode 7 reveals that Gojo’s subscriber metrics in India have been inflated — a major concern that could prevent the deal from closing.

TheWrap spoke with Skarsgård about the HBO drama’s latest chapter and the “honor” of returning for the final season. Check out the full conversation below.

What is it like to be a key player in the final season one of the biggest drama series of our time?
It’s been a real honor. When they called and asked if I wanted to do it I was a huge fan of the show. It was the only show I would watch religiously every week on television and follow. I’ve followed Jesse Armstrong’s career from “Peep Show” to “In the Loop” and just think he’s an extraordinary writer. So to me, this season is just like a spectacular bonus for me. I came on to do this little thing last year, just again, because I was a huge fan of the show. It was supposed to be two but ended up being three episodes and was such a treat for me.

That was kind of it. Even though considering how last season ends, there was a potential opening for some more Matsson this year. But I didn’t really know at all until Jesse [Armstrong] called at the beginning of last year when they were getting ready to start Season 4 and he asked if I had any interest in coming back, and explained a little bit about the storyline; the idea for kind of the structure, the dynamic of the group, what was gonna happen and he mentioned the blood bricks, which got me very excited (laughs). I think years and years from now when I look back on my career, I’m pretty sure it would be one of the highlights.

Are “Succession” fans asking you for blood bricks now?
Yeah. I get a lot of blood brick jokes when I’m out in public for sure. (Laughs)

What were the early conversations with Jesse Armstrong about your character, and how much did he tell you about where the Matsson storyline was going? 
I knew broadly before we started about how Lukas would see an opening, a little rift between the brothers and Shiv. Lukas is a predator, and in that moment he’ll see an opportunity and he’ll pounce. I think that’s been part of his success story, that he can read people and he can feel when he has an opportunity like this where she might be open to this and then he will go in full force. And it works, he got her on his side now. And at this point in this story, he’s also still kind of testing her because he doesn’t know if she’s got what it takes. He has in general quite little respect for all the Roy siblings because he believes that it’s just pure nepotism, they’re here because of the relationship to their father who was a titan. But he’s kind of figuring her out a little bit to see if she’s just like a little nepo baby or does she got what it takes? And with the party scene, Matsson comes in like a hand grenade into this room of gray suits and his philosophy is like it always has been. He just moves fast and he breaks things.

In Sunday’s episode, we learn about Gojo inflating its subscriber metrics in India. What does that mean for the merger?
There’s a weird juxtaposition between him being incredibly smart and thoughtful and tech savvy in a way, but also kind of unhinged and reckless and sometimes not very thoughtful. This whole India thing — which could be very, very bad for him — he’s just very optimistic about everything in life and he’s just like “No, we’ll figure it out, it’s fine. We’ll just throw some PR people on it and we’ll sort it out.” Which obviously scares Shiv because she’s like “Well, am I betting on the wrong horse here? Like how bad is this? And does he realize that this could be really f-ing bad?” But he just kind of charges forward.

How would you describe Lukas Matsson’s relationship with Ebba?
It’s incredibly inappropriate and masochistic and weird, but she’s got so much leverage. Now, obviously, she is literally sitting on more of his blood than he is. But we also wanted their relationship to be weird because you could go one direction where it’s like, he is just an abusive boss and she f—g hates him and she’s gonna take advantage of this. It’s not that they’re co-dependent but it is f—g weird like he is horrible to her at times. But then she can be really vulnerable and sweet and you see them arguing and then five seconds later they’re like whispering to each other and like holding hands and then they go out partying together and then she’s like maybe I’ll sue him tomorrow and I’ll make a gazillion dollars or maybe I’ll marry him. It’s that kind of relationship and it’s very toxic, but, there’s also complexity to it that I really enjoyed exploring with [Eili Horboe] who plays Ebba.

What has it been like working with Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin? What lessons have you taken away from working on Succession?
I’m pretty sure that when I look back, I will consider this one of the highlights creatively of my career. I don’t remember when I had as much fun on a set. It’s 100% good people, everyone is just genuinely nice and lovely to be around in front of and behind the camera, and their writing is so spectacular that you don’t have to change a single word, which is rare. You don’t have to change a single word but there’s still room for improvisation if you wanna try something, or go on a tangent or play around with it. So you’re filled with this creative freedom and confidence by Jesse and the team, and getting to know the core cast and how they kind of opened their arms and just generously let me and other newer members of the cast in has been, I’m incredibly grateful for that. We’ll be friends forever but I will definitely miss being on the set of “Succession” with these crazy motherf—s.

What was your reaction to Logan’s shocking death in episode 3?
I’m just really amazed that Logan’s death was able to be held a secret until it aired, because we shot some big, big sequences with hundreds of extras and where you can hear the dialogue, it’s very clear that Logan is dead. But the fact that it didn’t get out and they were able to keep that a secret until the episode aired was pretty remarkable I would say, because he didn’t have many people know about it.

I found it difficult, I had to bite my tongue a bunch of times between reading the episode and then it airing, but I think it’s quite a remarkable feat that they kept that a secret. I just thought it was spectacular to end the titan of Logan Roy the way Jesse did. 

In terms of the narrative, it’s so unconventional, it’s so surprising, which is part of what makes it so genius. And on 99.9% of shows that storyline would definitely end as a cliffhanger, like the last episode of the season and you would see the characters stumble a bit and have a big death scene. The fact that you’ve seen none of that and it happens in a very dramatic way, it was a weird missed phone call eight minutes into the third episode of the season, I think it adds to the confusion and it makes it feel so real because it doesn’t feel dramatized or heightened. It just feels you’re with the siblings as they’re finding out in real-time and the disbelief of it and the confusion of it. There’s something mundane about it, which I find so spectacular. So hats off to Jesse and the writers for that.

“Succession” airs Sundays on HBO.