‘Heir’: Jeremy Strong Says Goodbye to Kendall Roy

While filming the final season of “Heir” this winter, actor Jeremy Strong flew to the Danish fishing village where he and his wife have a home. He walked alone on the beach.

“I watched the sunset, trying to say goodbye to a character that will always be with me, always with me,” he said.

It’s a happy ending for Strong, who began filming the HBO drama seven years ago and won an Emmy for her portrayal of Kendall Roy. An unusually dedicated actor, he works to give himself completely to a role. With Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) injured son Kendall, a wildly successful media mogul, he realizes he has.

But for the Jesse Armstrong-created character, “The Heir,” it ended on bleak terms. Kendall began the final episode on Sunday night hoping to emerge as the chief executive of a giant conglomerate. But the final scene, at the water’s edge and at sunset, leaves Kendall numb, friendless, and smelly.

“Someone once said that actors are emotional athletes,” Strong said Monday. “This show is like a decathlon for me.”

He has since recovered. And from a glitzy Manhattan hotel room, Strong, wearing a very un-Kendall trucker hat, T-shirt and chain, joined the video call to discuss sadness, vulnerability and sad Kendall memes, along with some Kendall-like equations. . These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Should Kendall have been made CEO?

He was certainly equipped. I watched it last night and I really wish it had come out differently. Do I think he would have been good for the company and the country? I mean, we’ve seen him cross every moral and ethical line. He exuded ruthless pragmatism. He became what his father wanted him to be, domineering and possessed of moral apathy and inflexibility. And with that sad math, I feel like he’s ready to be a CEO.

Is Logan Roy’s son his greatest tragedy? Would it have been better if he had been able to create his own path?

In a way, all of Royce’s tragedies were born into this. Jesse and I created this memory, a moment when my father said, “One day you’ll be me, and you’ll have the job I have.” Making that promise to a 7-year-old is like a death sentence. It puts Kendall on this path, not with a sense of having earned it.

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These characters have all the trappings of power, but nothing in their lives or upbringing instills in them any sense of personal power. If anything, their father and mother took it away from them and made them feel powerless, which explains Kendall’s need to compensate and try so hard to exceed the mark. This must happen for his life to be right or to have any meaning. I found it excruciatingly painful, the way it goes. He has lost his moral compass. He has lost his integrity. He lost everything. My seven years at this job were the slow, inevitable death of Kendall Roy.

Is that what the final scene on the banks of the East River implies?

We shot that scene in February at Battery Park. I have never been so cold in my life. What was happening was like the ninth circle of hell, frozen. I couldn’t feel anything. I tried and got into the water. We’ve seen Kendall lose time and time again, but this feels devastating.

I don’t think there will be any recovery from that. Jesse felt he could pass this moment once, maybe he had a future. I felt like I had lost all hope. So I got up and climbed over the barrier and walked over the pilings. The actor plays the role of Colin [Kendall’s bodyguard, played by Scott Nicholson] He ran and stopped me. I don’t know if Kendall wants to die or if he wants to be saved.

Water has always held such importance for Kendall.

He is always in a place, and he can get out of it, or he can sink into it. He treads water for his life.

The finale also included some Barbados-set scenes that emphasized the bonds and affection between the younger Roy siblings. How did you and the rest of the cast work as a family?

It’s the size of the road we’ve traveled, a 40-hour story over seven years. The relationship we all have with each other — all sides of it are easy to access. There is deep love, affection, attachment, and then friction and enmity. All of them. I love those people. The writing usually demanded that we meet in a place of disagreement and hostility, but I loved the times when we put down our lordships and enjoyed each other’s company. That was the last scene we shot in the entire series, “A meal fit for a king”. It was a wonderful way to end it.

Have you ever had a “food fit for a king” smoothie?

Yes, I had to. For me, if I don’t drink that smoothie, I’m not invested in how much Kendall wants to be CEO, he has to drink it, ergo I have to drink it, otherwise the whole thing is just performance. So I would drink it and go outside and relax and jump in the ocean and go back for another take. Luckily we only had to do a few.

People often confuse actors with their characters. What are the commonalities and differences between you and Kendall?

I have a singular desire to be like Kendall; I always wanted to be only an actor. I feel very strongly that I am a cog built to fit a certain machine: my life only makes sense if I do this work. Unlike Kendall, I have to do it.

But I understood what it meant to him. I can’t imagine how lifeless my life would be if I didn’t have the opportunity to practice and do this work. Kendall is seen as a tryst. I think it became something to judge or make fun of, but I always had to try hard and work hard. I think there is value in that, I just don’t know how to do it any other way.

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However, the differences are many. I have three young children, and most of my life is spent reading “Broom on the Broom” and being a dad, husband, and friend, all while being completely non-Kendall.

Kendall quickly became a fan favorite and inspired a torrent of memes — Sad Kendall, Baby girl Kendall. Did fans misunderstand the character?

I was able to avoid all that because I wasn’t online and I wasn’t on social media. I see people walking around now with tote bags and t-shirts and it’s wild, the way people express all kinds of things on the character. Character is a bit of a litmus test. Some use the word “nervous,” and then others find him incredibly sympathetic. Do I think any of that is misunderstood? I do not know. There’s something about this character, this kind of guy-man — there’s a lot of male vulnerability that always affected me growing up when I saw it in storytelling. At this point in our culture, people respond to it in a sarcastic way or an empathetic way. It’s not my job to tell anyone how to respond to that, but there’s something about polarizing affect.

As an artist, you have said that your goal is to leave everything on the field. Did you make it here?

Yes, I did. Yes. Yes. Yes. A friend of mine texted me, you too can go to the desert and die.

A fun way to say congratulations.

It was once in my life and many more times – and I want to do this until I die – that I felt fully expressed by a work.

Did you do anything to say goodbye to this role and this world? Any ritual?

It was in many ways a singular experience for me as an artist and as a human being. I had three children during this program and it changed my life in many ways. Ritual, I think, is absolutely invested. When that happens, that’s all that matters in the world to me. When it’s done, it’s literally gone. I gave as much as I could to this, but I can’t hold it, I can’t hold it. I don’t feel like it belongs to me.

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