Did you do any research when you were looking into how you were going to portray this character? Did you reference any politicians or any performances?
I’m pretty aware of the American political landscape, and I think he’s very specific, much like a lot of things on Succession. Succession is its own parallel universe, but also mirrors reality. The fun thing about this character is that he’s far right, but – at least from his perspective – he’s not playing to the lowest common denominator. Usually that’s a thing in the modern conservative politicians, what we see from those guys. For better or worse, much worse probably, this is how he thinks America should be.
In the real America, Mencken might be a little too what they call “coastal elite” for the type of fan base that might gravitate toward his views.
That’s what I thought too and do think, and we see that in his scenes with Roman or just in life. Maybe his public persona and his speeches are different than that. I don’t know. We’ll see how that plays in terms of the weird acceptance speech and all that.
During the speech I was like, “I understand the words he’s saying, but also what the fuck is he saying?”
Let me tell you, it got even weirder. There are couple things that weren’t in the episode that didn’t make it on there.
Oh, really? Anything specific?
I can’t remember, honestly. It was big words, let’s put it that way.
Did you ever discuss, I hate to say his name, but Donald Trump,?
We didn’t talk about “the former guy,” as I say… or you can say 45, that’s a fun way to do it. No, we didn’t talk about that. I remember doing that speech, the acceptance speech, and the only vague note was, “keep it cheery.” Because of these terrible things I’m saying, they wanted to make sure that it was couched in a happy land, which I think is smart.
And that’s what made it so creepy. You have this smile on your face and this glimmer in your eye. I don’t know if you can intend to have a glimmer in your eye, but that’s what was coming through on the screen.
I’m so glad to hear that. It was also a very foreign experience because in terms of what’s really happening, he’s probably in front of a room of hundreds of supporters. And I was alone except for a very sparse camera crew in a room in New Jersey at CNBC headquarters. I was definitely trying to pitch that: should I be imagining that I would take beats and things, and assume there was an audience in the background? Because if someone’s fucking just gotten elected president, he’s usually in a ballroom with the true believers.
Throughout the episode, you’re on TV in the background. Did you film a lot of extra random stuff for that?
We did. I filmed several campaign speeches on a green screen and they were like, “we’ll put these in throughout. You might be on a TV in the background.” Actually, the very first thing I did this season was they sent a crew out to my house here in LA and we shot some campaign photos for posters and stuff. I have no idea to what degree any of that is what shows up on the show.
What is the set like? Especially when you’re in scenes with the entire cast, how does that feel from your perspective as a guest star?
It’s surreal in the sense of being a fan of the show. But to be wishy-washy and say the thing that people say, but I really mean it: That group was so welcoming to me, both the cast and all the writers. They’re all aware of being part of something extremely special, and so they’re happy to be there.
It’s so in sync and even people who aren’t in the show that much like you and a lot of these amazing New York actors that come in to say a few lines per episode, everyone feels like they’re on the same page.
That’s a good way to say it, the same page. When you’re cooking, and that’s one of the privileges of long series television, is that it becomes its own machine because they show up with each other every day and just keep making it.