Succession’s Zoe Winters Won’t Say If Kerry Loved Logan

    Succession’s Zoe Winters Won’t Say If Kerry Loved Logan


    Kerry and her bangs have been through a lot on this season of Succession. From her botched ATN audition to the death of her boss-slash-boyfriend, Logan’s trusted assistant, played to precision by Zoe Winters, has been absolutely put through the wringer. “Until this point, she’s been this impenetrable, indomitable, inscrutable presence,” says Winters. “It’s been really, really satisfying to track her as she unravels in some sense.”

    In episode four of the final season of Succession, we see Kerry reach her breaking point in Logan’s foyer in a showdown with his widow, Marcia (Hiam Abbass). “One of the most painful things is that anything between them was always kept a secret,” says Winters about Kerry and Logan’s relationship. “Now, when she felt like maybe she was on the brink of being able to have more real estate in her relationships, and in her position, and in her security, he dies, and she’s left without anything—and also left without the right to grieve publicly.” Below, Winters opens up  about Kerry’s season four arc, the similarities between Kerry and Marion Davies, and her own tiny apartment. 

    Vanity Fair: How real is the relationship between Kerry and Logan? Does she really love him, or was she in it for the money? 

    Zoe Winters: I think that I definitely have my views of what this relationship is. But for me, it’s been important to leave it up to the audience. Part of why this show is successful is that they don’t do any exposition. They’re not hand-holding the audience in any way. These cameras are just in the room, picking up these interchanges between people that would naturally occur. I think it creates this sense of anxiety, not having all the answers. But the reality of life is that we don’t have all the answers. So I’ve kind of kept my opinion out of it, just so I could give the audience the pleasure of deciphering their own ideas.

    I will say that I think that there’s real feelings there, whether those feelings are on a business level or on an intimate level. He’s the most powerful person in the room, and then the most powerful person in the room looks at you. You feel seen by the most powerful person in the room—what does that do to a person that hasn’t previously had that? I think that she comes from a background where maybe she’s been striving for that, and so she becomes addicted to the power and attention that she gets by his gaze being on her. 

    We talked a lot about Marion Davies, and the fallout that she had from when [William Randolph] Hearst died. He did so much for her career, and maybe also hindered her career. She wrote this letter to Charlie Chaplin’s wife about what it is that she gets from this dynamic. She said something to the point of feeling that being with him gives her worth, that she’s worth something to him. And if somebody this powerful finds worth and value in you, and you’re someone that is in need of that, it’s captivating and intoxicating. I think that that is what has happened to [Kerry] here. 

    With the absence of Logan, Marcia sends a lot of darkness her way. She actually sends Kerry into a taxi to the subway, to her little apartment.

    The thing where I actually relate most to Kerry is the fact that she has a tiny apartment. [[Laughs.]So much of this episode is about, I think, landing. Where do people land after the king has fallen? What’s their place, and what’s their value and what’s their worth? Kerry has really lost the sole being that has kept her in the room. And so you can be as mean to Kerry as you want, because she is now rendered powerless.

    It’s such a ferocious line. And Marcia’s had her moments of being humiliated and being betrayed. Everyone has carried the feeling of being broken by him, so then they pass on that torch to someone else. One of the most painful things for me about this episode for Kerry is that whatever the relationship was, she had hoped for some formal arrangements and some agreements and some sort of legalizing that she would have security in her future. [She’s] trying to salvage anything that would promise that.

    If there is this relationship between them that is more intimate, it’s always been kept a secret. It’s always been kept out of the room. When he passes, Marcia gets to be the public face of grief around that. And for me, that’s a really painful thing, that you don’t get to openly grieve. You’re, like, shunned and sent back to process on your own. And I think Kerry is somebody that has also distanced herself from any life that she had prior to Logan. So I think she is very alone at this moment. I don’t think her friends are talking to her. 

    I do want to go back to your ATN audition.

    Because it was so good? [[Laughs.]

    I actually talked to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about [it].

    I know. I love that. I read the article.

    Can you talk to me about filming the ATN tape? 

    It was so fun. I watched newscasters and TV presenters for inspiration, but really I just wanted it to be Kerry’s experience of trying to do this. I definitely was going for this stentorian, hysterical kind of Fox News presentation. In Kerry’s mind, it was just a formality. She thought she was a shoo-in it for this. She did it to not appear as a favor hire or a nepotism grab. She thought, This is mine. I’m going to be fine. But then within it, I don’t think she knows how poorly she’s doing.

    Women in general have this pressure to have charm. And I think that that pressure is obviously magnified if you’re doing some public facing media or presentation. Kerry’s not interested in charm. That’s one of the few things I like about her. What we’re seeing here in this audition is her wrestling to present her idea of charm, or what charm looks like. So maybe she’s not totally comfortable smiling, and she’s in this bubblegum pink outfit, and her hair’s done and her teeth are whitened, and she’s just trying to show you what charm might look like. 

    I’m such a creature of the theater, and so I’m always trying to find theater references. But in the fourth act of [Anton Chekhov’s] The Seagull, it’s Nina’s act. She’s obviously gone off and she’s tried to become this actress, and she’s failed. And she comes back, and she’s talking about the humility of being onstage and knowing that you’re acting poorly and not knowing what to do with your hands. And so I thought a lot about that—one of the inspirations for me of just not knowing what to do with your hands. 

    Speaking of theater, a few years ago I saw you in the off-Broadway play Heroes of the Fourth Turning, written by Succession writer Will Arbery. There definitely seem to be a few similarities between Theresa, a highly intellectual, deeply conservative character, and Kerry.

    I was on Succession in season two before we did Heroes of the Fourth Turning. And when I auditioned for[[Succession], I felt like one of the key things was that [Kerry] was joining this company in the height of a sexual-misconduct scandal. They were heading into congressional hearings over the Waystar cruise scandal. And I thought, Who joins a company during that time? She must have horrifying politics.

    That was kind of an insight early on for me of trying to develop the spine of this character, and that was kind of an entryway for me into where she might stand politically. Not to say if you worked for a conservative media mogul, you’re necessarily aligned with their politics. But I think that it would have to take a lot to support people that have this much power on the international stage and are spreading this kind of terrifying news around. And I think that she is aligned with those scary politics. I think she might be even more to the right than Logan. We see in [season three] episode three, kind of pushing him towards this very fascist, racist, political, electoral candidate. 

    It’s wild because we know that to be true, and then we have compassion for her when Logan dies.

    I think that that’s what is so amazing about the writing of this show is that these are not caricatures. These are fully fleshed-out human beings. To speak about Heroes of the Fourth Turning that play is built around these characters that we don’t typically see on a New York stage—they are all conservative Catholics. But what was, I think, really undeniable about that play is that their speed of intellect was so arresting, and they were oftentimes ahead of the audience and very well educated around the classics and around a multitude of things. A lot of what carried the terror of that evening is here are these incredibly intelligent, well-spoken intellectuals arguing for the other side.

    When you first came on the show, you were in the background of a scene on a season two episode. Did you have any idea where this journey would take you, or where Kerry would go on this series? 

    No, I didn’t. If I were to be an assistant, I feel like my impulse would be to just do it and then get out of the room and not try to engage. And I was like, well, what if we saw the opposite? What if we saw somebody that’s trying to insert herself into rooms where she’s not welcome, and into conversations where she’s not needed? [In the audition] I just had one small scene with Shiv, but I did it with an attitude and a point of view because I was interested in whether this assistant had had ambitions and had an agenda. But then in season three, I had no sense that she was going to have Logan’s ear in the way that she did, and his attention in the way that she did, and his trust in the way that she did.

    I didn’t know really if TV and film were something that I was going to love. And this show and these people have completely shifted that for me. And it’s not lost on me—the rarity and the good fortune of having landed in this room with this talent. It’s just been a complete joy.

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