Nicholas Braun on Cousin Greg, Succession Season 4, & His Unparalleled Relationship with Matthew Macfadyen

TV Features Succession
Nicholas Braun on Cousin Greg, Succession Season 4, & His Unparalleled Relationship with Matthew Macfadyen

When Jesse Armstrong’s satirical tour de force Succession hit HBO in 2018, the writing and acting was sharp from the jump. With a cast led by Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, and Alan Ruck, there was no way the show could fail. However, what no one expected was the heart of Succession to arise through an unlikely partnership: Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun) and Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen), two men on the outside looking in at the dynamics of the almighty Roy family and their billion-dollar entertainment company Waystar RoyCo. By Season 3, the cruise ship scandal was in the rear view, and Tom was aiming to earn his place in Logan Roy’s (Cox) faithful battalion of crooked conglomerate magnates.

Braun and Macfadyen are quite similar in their endeavors: Both achieved heartthrob status in early in their film careers (Macfadyen in Pride & Prejudice; Braun in the Disney Channel Original Movie Minutemen), and they have spent a majority of their time on-screen toddling in supporting casts. But it’s on Succession where they both are not just the moment, but the key piece of the show that makes the momentum electric and everyone’s next move unpredictable. So, it makes complete sense that, behind the camera, Braun and Macfadyen are best pals. Their chemistry follows them everywhere they go. At the Season 4 premiere last week, every major cast member posed on the red carpet with their partner, while Braun and Macfadyen posted up together.

Going into Season 4, Greg and Tom both seemed primed to be strapped to a missile heading straight to the top of Logan’s mountain. Whether or not they will get there, or come crashing down with the rest of the Roy siblings, remains to be seen. But, Armstrong and his crew left audiences with an unexpected chess move at the end of Season 3, when—as Greg is attempting to climb the social ladder of royalty—Tom sells Shiv out to Logan for a seat at the table, bringing Kendall (Strong) and Roman (Culkin) down with her.

When Tom asks Greg, “Do you want to make a deal with the devil?” the once oblivious boy-wonder of Succession firmly puts himself directly in the flames, following his mentor and closest ally by responding: “What am I going to do with a soul anyway? Boo, souls.” By the finale’s end, we come to understand, through a pat on the shoulder from Logan, that Tom has advanced himself higher in the good graces of his overlording father-in-law.

Season 4 is set to be the show’s most daring batch of episodes yet, as Succession aims to go out in an explosive, back-stabbing blaze of corruption. With Cousin Greg set to become one of Succession’s sharpest weapons in its final chapter, Paste spoke briefly over Zoom with Braun about his character and the final season of HBO’s beloved show.

Paste Magazine: In the first three seasons, you spent a lot of time on-screen with Matthew [Macfadyen]. But, like you said, you’re working with a lot of actors. People like Jeremy [Strong] and Brian [Cox], what’s it like tapping into a scene where you know that these guys are going to do a very thespian, dramatic scene, and then you’re tapped as the balance in those moments?

Nicholas Braun: It’s true. I had to understand… Well, you know, I think I actually understood from the beginning, even from the pilot, the space that Greg takes up in the show. You know, he’s throwing up through his eye holes in the costume. There’s super heavy stuff. There’s Kendall destroying a bathroom, because his dad won’t let him own the company, and then there’s Greg flopping around like a dog, all high. I had to just give myself permission to be that in a room with actors going through different dramatic storylines. What Jeremy/Kendall is going through, it’s heavier than what Greg needs in a scene. It’s nice to be the balance. I’m glad to be the balance. It’s fun.

Paste: I think that fans have this assumption that the line between you in real life and with Cousin Greg onscreen is a thin one. But I imagine that you have to tap into something specific when you’re channeling him on-screen. What’s it like for you, stepping out of Nicholas Braun and into Cousin Greg?

Braun: It’s almost like I play up anxieties, insecurities, confusion, misunderstanding, desperation. I exaggerate those things in myself. I read the script, I understand the scene. I understand what Greg needs and I try to relate it to myself. Like, “When have I been in a situation like this?” I try to make it real. Otherwise, I can’t just do stuff out of thin air. I have to ground it in something, I have to know why I’m saying certain things. I have to, kind of, avoid the comedy first. But, really, it’s taking the ambitious part of me and the insecure part of me and just ratcheting it up. That’s my approach to Greg. Also, just being someone who can enjoy things in this world, can get excited. I feel like a lot of the characters hide emotions, and I’ve enjoyed not hiding emotions as Greg, letting things show up on his face. And, you know, maybe in Season 4, he gets better at hiding that and it gets a little bit colder.

Paste: Greg is Tom’s right-hand-man. He’s a confidant much closer to Tom than Shiv. Away from the show, what is your relationship with Matthew? I read that you and him celebrated his Emmy win together before he celebrated with his wife. Does the chemistry come from being on-screen together for so long, or have you guys built a friendship beyond the camera that’s unparalleled?

Braun: Next time, I’m gonna let his wife hug him first. [Laughs]. Yeah, in the moment, I just wanted to grab the guy, but next time Keeley [Hawes] deserves that honor. The relationship is amazing. I think he’s one of my mentors, one of my great friends. We’ve been through so much life together, acting life, career success. And then, also, personal life. I feel like I know a lot about his family. He knows about mine and what I’ve been going through in life. He’s probably my biggest confidant on set. So, it’s been pretty awesome. I’ll miss seeing him every day. I’ll miss the opportunity to hang out. It’s tough. He lives in London, I live in New York. We’re not FaceTiming every day, so, hopefully, we get another job someday together. I wonder if anyone will ever put the two of us in a scene together again, as different characters. It’s kind of the thing when you’re working on a show that’s become so popular, it’s like, “Will I ever get to be in a scene with Sarah Snook ever again? Or Kieran [Culkin]?” This might be it. So, it’s a bummer to lose the chance to work with these people.

Paste: Through four seasons, Cousin Greg has gone through a bit of a metamorphosis, from the relative looking for an in to a very vital piece of a complicated puzzle. From an acting standpoint, what’s it been like getting every script and learning about how your character gets to change as each season moves on?

Braun: It’s been amazing. I look forward to getting those scripts in my email box every time. It’s usually a few hours before the table read, so [there’s] a lot of anticipation. I know there’s going to be good stuff. I usually have a rough idea of my storyline for the season, so it’s exciting to see what that actually looks like on paper. And, [I’m] always just so excited by what Jesse [Armstrong] gives me and gives me and Tom. But, this season, I have so much stuff with so many other characters, so that’s really exciting for me. I’m saying “exciting” a lot, but it is exciting. It’s been cool. Jesse’s put Greg through so much, and I love that.

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