“Stewy Will Always Pick Money”: Arian Moayed on ‘Succession’s’ Only Friendship and Top Memories From the Show
Arian Moayed is just like the rest of us in one glaring way: He’s in denial about the end of Succession. The actor, who has played the fast-talking, deal-making Stewy Hosseini since season one, never had time to truly close that chapter of his life — he wrapped production on the series finale and went directly to the tech rehearsal of his next project, the (now Tony-nominated) Broadway adaptation of A Doll’s House. Plus, there was the whole will-they-won’t-they element hovering over the season. “Even though we were all reading the scripts as they came in and seeing where the season was going, in my hopeful mind I was just like, oh this can’t end,” he says, noting that he learned definitively about the show’s ending during the final week of filming. “I was just texting like, no no, there must be more episodes!”
But, taking a cue from his onscreen counterpart, Moayed has negotiated a healthy exit package of sorts: His turn in A Doll’s House will run through June 10 (coincidentally the day before the Tony Awards, where he’s also nominated for Featured Actor), and he’ll be seen in Nicole Holofcener’s highly-anticipated A24 comedy You Hurt My Feelings. Here, he takes a moment to reflect back on his time as the Number One Boy’s occasional number-one boy.
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So, how much does it really feel like Succession is over?
Not at all, because the episodes are still airing and we’re texting about them weekly. But the reality is that we’re never all going to be in the same room together again. Maybe at the Emmys, but the crew won’t be there. That group of people will not go to the Hamptons again to shoot a helicopter scene. That’s a bummer. On the last day I was a little blacked out, but I will say that the main thing I felt was gratitude. All I could say to everyone was just thank you. It has genuinely changed my career and my life in so many different ways.
So you’re predicting some Emmys…
I think we’ll probably get some Emmys (laughs), and to be honest, I think we deserve a bunch. I think Jesse Armstrong should get all the flowers in the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime writer. And all the actors, too. I know that Sarah’s just moved up from the supporting category, but if she hadn’t, I’d say they should just do a triple-tie this year.
One of the things I’m struck by in interviewing you is how different you seem from Stewy — do you get that a lot?
I’ve heard that I’m the most different from my character of everyone on the show. But Matthew [Macfadyen] is completely different. He’s just such a British gentleman. I don’t know how else to explain it other than saying he’s a proper British man. The joke they say in the wardrobe department is that he’s the only one who, after they get the clothes back, they smell better.
I know you can’t say really anything at all about how the show ends or what we’ll learn, but I really want to know if we find out if Stewy and Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) friendship is genuine. More than ever, it feels like Kendall doesn’t really have anyone.
I genuinely believe Stewy and Kendall are friends. And I genuinely believe Stewy will always pick money over the friendship. And I genuinely believe that Stewy wishes Kendall did the same thing. He’s not going to go behind your back. Even in the bachelor party scene in season one, he said something like “I love you man but you know I had to follow the money.” That is the game we’re in. Kendall has the legacy, but I don’t have that in the show. I’m latching onto other companies. That’s why those Logan-and-Stewy scenes were always so dynamic.
Is this the kind of thing that you ask the writers about specifically, or do you just know the characters well enough by now?
I think of episode four, when they’re at the wake. I was just looking back at the script, and there were a few lines that were cut. When Stewy is asking Kendall if he really wants to go back in to the business and Kendall says “yes, I’m two-track” or whatever it was. Stewy starts talking about how shitty his dad was. He says, “Do you remember Pop Quiz? We come home from high school, and he asked you the capital of Ghana. You got it wrong and he threw a shoe at your head.” In that scene I started rattling off games he used to play, and the last one was Dinner for Winners. I don’t remember what the game was, but I won and I got to have dinner with Logan and Kendall had to serve us. So even though the audience isn’t getting any of that, it’s imbued into these relationships.
You’re pretty vocal about your own political opinions, and I believe you’ve spoken before about believing that Succession is ultimately an anti-capitalist manifesto in the sense that it’s revealing all of the dark elements of the way this country runs — do you ever have trouble squaring these beliefs of yours with the machinations of Hollywood and what it requires of all of us to participate in it?
At this point in my career I can make decisions for my career based on which projects I feel good about. Even though everything is about money in some sort of way, in my youth, I will be honest, it was so much more about capitalism. I was signed by a big agency at 25, 26 years old, and as an Iranian guy they were only seeing me for Iranian things. I said I wouldn’t do terrorist roles, so I didn’t work in film and TV. Period. I did some Law & Order, a few little things. But if you take out the main source of income for the middle Eastern acting community, which on the heels of 9/11 was playing terrorists, there’s not much left. I said no because I didn’t want my parents to see me in that shit. It doesn’t represent who I am. I stuck to it, and I was poor. I did a lot of theater. I did a play with Robin Williams and people were saying, you’re on Broadway, so let the nonprofit stuff go. I talked to Robin, who was a huge service guy, and he said: Double down on your shit. I did, and I got dropped by those agents.
Do you ever still feel like people are trying to pigeonhole you into those types of roles?
Now, there’s more roles for someone who’s Middle Eastern, but there’s still a lot of TV shows and movies that show Middle Eastern cities as war zones. I read a script within the last six months where it took place in a conglomerate of Middle Eastern countries. A year and a half ago I was offered something, and I won’t say what it was or with who, but I took the meeting and they said the character was Iranian and he was on a revenge plot. Do you remember the movie Not Without My Daughter? It was one of the most detrimental things to happen to our culture. Iranians are notoriously over-kind, but you make a movie with one sociopathic, truly hateful man and suddenly that idea is everywhere.
This is a tough transition, but I’m very curious if you kept any of Stewy’s very luxurious wardrobe items?
Fuck, yes! I have the leather jacket. That mysteriously fell off the rack. I have a bunch of his suits too, they’re gorgeous. I have some Logan Roy business cards, which are just for fun. I also got the Sonos speakers from Logan’s apartment. That was a practical memento.
When I think about the things about Stewy that I’ll remember long after the show, food comes up for some reason. Is it my imagination or is he always the only one eating? Besides maybe Hugo with his plateful of pastries at the GoJo retreat.
He’s got some sort of oral fixation. And that’s just me and Monica, the props master, just kind of having fun, because I thought he would always be always chewing on something or just getting ready to. I remember that scene on the island in Croatia in season two. Which, first of all that island was made up of just a single bed and breakfast that cost who-knows-how-much per night. They shot the Roys getting off the boat and coming towards us, and that part of the scene was physically very far away from where I was sitting at a table. There was this beautiful octopus plated in front of me, and it was such a long-angle shot that I thought, I’m just going to start eating. And then when Jeremy came up I was still eating, and he says, “Don’t wait for us or anything,” and I say “I was hungry!” That was all spontaneous but it made it into the show.
Okay, here’s a trick question. When the finale airs after this interview, what am I going to wish I had asked you about?
Oh, I think you’re going to have a million questions. That’s what I’m going to say about that. By episodes nine and 10, shit goes kind of bananas. It’s just delicious. Maybe in five years Jesse will be like, “You know what, I have an idea. Let’s bring it back together again.” But my gut is that Jesse is so conscious that he doesn’t want the show to ever be stale. He’s just going to be like: Bye.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Succession releases new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and Max. Follow along with THR‘s Succession final season coverage.
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