Holly Hunter On HBO's 'Succession,' She Plays Rhea Jarrell
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
If you haven't been watching the HBO show "Succession," it is the deliciously mean saga of Logan Roy, an aging media mogul, and his plotting, backstabbing, infighting family members. Into the madness of Season 2, which has its finale tonight, steps Rhea Jarrell, an emissary from a rival media giant. Rhea, who is just as conniving as the patriarch's relatives, is played by Oscar winner Holly Hunter, who has starred in "Broadcast News," "The Incredibles," "Raising Arizona," among many, many other films and TV shows. And she joins me now from our studios in New York. Hi, there.
HOLLY HUNTER: Hi.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You joined "Succession" in the second season. So I want to start by asking you, had you seen it before you joined it? Did you know what you were getting yourself into?
HUNTER: I had not. I had heard people who had watched it. And I was not one of them. So when they offered me this role, I binge-watched the first season, which was an ideal way to absorb the show like a shot of adrenaline, poison adrenaline. And I was...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did you think?
HUNTER: I was hooked. I immediately said, please. I'm - please, God. I'm so happy to be doing this.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: How much fun is it to do this show? Because everyone is awful. Everyone is awful in the show. That's sort of the joy of it.
HUNTER: Well, yeah. I mean, I find the show kind of athletic in the writing. And it was actually a joy to memorize the lines. And I never say that. But just to get to say the nouns in the verbs and the adjectives - they're so combustible.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) This is obviously a fictional story. But there are a lot of parallels between what happens in the show and the way a certain echelon of the real world works, right? Media companies covering for politicians, scandals being covered up and uncovered - does playing a character in that world help you understand it any better in real life?
HUNTER: That's a hard question to answer. I mean, it's a very interesting question. The show is so business-heavy. There's a little bit of a learning curve, a kind of a hard learning curve towards this - just the jargon of the show.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And how did you prepare for that? Who did you model Rhea after?
HUNTER: I would say - you know, I had a couple of meetings with CEOs, women who had really come from the ground up and made their serious mark in New York City. And that was very interesting how they made their moves to the top. They spent very little time with each company. And I felt like that was a great kind of role model for Rhea Jarrell. And that kind of horizontal movement allowed her to kind of take a spiral staircase to the top rather than staying with one company from the age of 19, which I think is a harder road, you know, to take.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have a question. There is this scene when Rhea becomes Logan Roy's lover. It was a really delicate performance by you, I have to say. And I kind of wasn't sure if she was - if this was the position she actually wanted to be in or if it was - no matter how powerful a woman you are, there's always that question about sex at a certain point.
HUNTER: Yes. But does she become Logan Roy's lover?
HUNTER: Does she?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I don't - well, you're right. We don't see that.
HUNTER: Yeah. I mean, I would have to say that's a fairly important question that the show certainly...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Didn't answer.
HUNTER: Yes. No. I mean...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, these were my assumptions. Oh, my goodness. You're just setting up all sorts of things now (laughter).
HUNTER: I frankly think that she does not, you know? That was - we answered that question before we ever shot it.
HUNTER: I thought that it would be interesting for the children to totally condemn her for that. And yet it's actually not the case.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. I'm, like, one of Logan Roy's awful children. I assumed the worst. You've spoken about the fact that there was a point in your career when you were in your 30s that work dried up. And I'm curious - has the industry changed since you started in it? Do you think things are different for women now?
HUNTER: Well, I mean, work dried up for me in my 30s. No. I mean, work has dried up for me consistently (laughter). That's a bullet to dodge always, work drying up. It's always a prominent aspect to an actress's career. Do I think that it's better now? I think there's more content now than there ever has been. And because of the nature of television, there are more roles for women than there ever have been at any time. I think that the #MeToo movement has helped tremendously. But in some ways, there hasn't been the kind of action to back up all of the kind of the revolutionary talk that has been going around - thank God - in the last few years.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, you're an Oscar winner, someone who is just a household name. What does that look like for someone like you? I mean, it's - you just don't find the roles that you want to do or that you're not being offered them?
HUNTER: Well, for me, it works in my favor that I am not an actor who needs to work all the time. That has been good because there hasn't been a plethora of roles that have come my way that I've wanted to do. But definitely. You know, have I worked for money? Yes. Have I worked to pay bills? Absolutely. Have I done things that I wasn't, you know, completely in love with? Yes. And I also feel that it's important for me to act because I - it's my - it's what I love to do it. It's good to do what you love to do.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is Rhea coming back in Season 3?
HUNTER: You know, I really don't know. That wasn't anything that we've spoken about. But it was a delightful path that I got to tread.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Holly Hunter plays Rhea Jarrell in "Succession," which wraps up its second season tonight on HBO. Thank you very much.
HUNTER: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF NICHOLAS BRITELL'S "SUCCESSION THEME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.