Mark Mylod, who directed the first two episodes of Season 3 of HBO’s Succession, felt “excitement and trepidation in equal measure” when he first read the script for the highly anticipated latest batch of episodes. Then his worries developed into “utter paranoia.”
“I work a lot out of fear, really, and my greatest fear is messing up a good script. So first of all, there’s, Oh! what a great script as ever from Jesse [Armstrong] who’s a bona fide genius, obviously. And then, Oh Christ, I hope I don’t fuck it up,” Mylod told MovieMaker.
Mylod, who in the past has directed episodes of Game of Thrones, Shameless, and Entourage, directed four episodes of Succession’s first season, including Episode 2, Shit Show at the Fuck Factory; Episode 3, Lifeboats; Episode 9, Pre-Nuptial; and Episode 10, Nobody Is Ever Missing. In Season 2, he directed Episode 1, The Summer Palace; Episode 5, Tern Haven; and again, the final two episodes of that season, DC and This Is Not For Tears, which ends on the cliffhanger of Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) last-minute bombshell press conference and Logan’s cryptic Mona Lisa smile. (We asked Mylod to spill the beans on what that smile really meant, but he politely declined to answer).
Before each new season, he goes through a period of intense worrying during which he fears the next installment won’t live up to the wild success of the last.
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“Jesse [Armstrong] and I have a kind of ongoing thing. We, you know, we’ve finished one season, the first season, and when it was well-received — you know, generally — there was a, ‘Oh God, how do we make Season 2?'” he said. “And then, of course, Season 2 was so well received… So the utter paranoia of going into Season 3, you know, trying to match that lovely high bar and not to feel anticlimactic, specifically with the challenge of, you know, shooting our show in the kind of post, or in the COVID world, was so daunting, it really was.”
Filming for the Season 3 premiere, Secession, took place over a period of nine months. Mylod said they began shooting again after the shutdown in November 2020, but they had to “fudge the seasons a little” in order to make the timeline work chronologically, since Season 3 is meant to pick up just minutes after the Season 2 finale, which took place in the summertime. The season premiere also included some July on-location shooting in Italy, which Mylod explained was meant to be Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Logan flies to hide out from Kendall’s media frenzy, and, you know, avoid potential extradition.
But the pandemic presented more challenges for Mylod than shoot schedules. He worried that not being able to have scenes with large crowds would be limiting.
“The intimate works in conjunction with the epic, and so we take away that scope and that many bodies in the frame — I was really scared that the show would lose something, that the season would lose something because of how hard it was to, you know, to shoot bigger scenes and bigger scope scenes in that immediate post-COVID world,” he said.
It’s also tough to have the same personable feel with the cast when you’re directing from behind a mask.
“If I’m honest, that was hard to begin with because there was all that lovely intimacy and camaraderie that we had to build the show, and suddenly we were all behind face masks and face shields in a socially distanced environment. And so everything, every communication felt so transactional just because of the lack of physical proximity, that lack of physical intimacy,” he said. “So I found shooting the first episode really hard because we were all so concerned with hitting the ground running, with hitting the same mark, trying to match that same intensity that episode 10 of the previous season had ended with… we’re picking up in the immediate aftermath, minutes later — just from a standing start of having been down for so long to — bam! — that same intensity on every level was frankly terrifying.”
Despite all of Mylod’s worries, though, the early reviews of the Succession Season 3 premiere have been very good so far. Variety called it “glimmeringly brutal,” and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a Certified Fresh 96% critics score on the Tomatometer, plus a 93% audience score. Greggselent!
Season 3, Episode 1 of Succession is now streaming on HBO and HBO Max, with one new episode premiering weekly on Sundays.
Main Image: (L-R) Brian Cox and Sarah Snook in Season 3, Episode 1 of Succession. Photo Credit: Hunter Graeme/HBO.