‘I don’t want to do Greg again’: Nicholas Braun on life after Succession

It’s easy to forget that when we first met Cousin Greg on HBO’s Succession, one of the most buzzy shows currently on air, Logan Roy (Brian Cox) couldn’t even get his name right.

“Cousin Craig?” the Roy patriarch asks when introduced to his estranged brother’s grandson. No, it’s Cousin Greg, his daughter corrects. “I’ll answer to both!” Greg replies with nervous enthusiasm.

Two icons, one photo. Nicholas Braun who plays Cousin Greg in Succession, has been in Australia to promote the show’s fourth and final season.Credit:HBO / Binge

Four seasons into Succession, which has become one of the biggest critical successes of the past decade, no one is at risk of forgetting Cousin Greg – or any of the other now iconic characters – any longer. When show creator Jesse Armstrong announced that the current season would be the final instalment, the internet quickly demanded a Cousin Greg spin-off. But for actor Nicholas Braun, the time has come to forget Cousin Greg once and for all.

“I don’t want to do Greg again,” says the 34-year-old, speaking from Sydney, where he is promoting the final season of Succession. “I’ve been doing him for five years, and I feel like we mined everything you can with Greg.”

Braun is already hard at work separating himself from Cousin Greg. His most recent film Cat Person, based on The New Yorker’s December 2017 short story by Kristen Roupenian, sees the actor play a stiff and menacing romantic lead – a world away from Succession’s sweet cousin.

“I am conscious of how popular Greg has become, and I wanted to move away from that,” says Braun. “Maybe we can revisit Greg in 10 years, give him a break and see where he’s at.”

Once last dance. Will Logan come out on top in the season four finale?Credit:HBO/Binge

But for now, there’s the little matter of wrapping up Succession and delivering audiences a fitting finale. The fourth season has reignited the internal conflict within the Roy family, a constantly shifting battle for supremacy between Logan and his children. Naturally, the details of the finale are a closely guarded secret, but according to Braun, it will catch people off guard.

“It’s totally unexpected. You can’t predict it, but I think it feels right,” he says. “When we read the final script at the table reading, it was horrible. We knew the ending worked, but looking around at the talent in that room, there was a sense of: Why are we stopping again?”

It’s a fair question considering the series has captured the zeitgeist unlike any other, offering a glimpse into a world we know so little about, but that influences much of our lives.

“Over the last decade, there’s a greater awareness about organisations like Fox News and their agenda; we all wonder who is making the decisions, who is controlling the headlines we get on our phones,” says Braun.

“Succession is a peek behind the curtain, and it shows us that there are people with scary amounts of power, but there are also people [like Greg] who don’t know what they’re doing, and I think that’s a big part of the appeal.”

It also doesn’t hurt that despite being a drama, Succession might be the funniest show on TV. Withering insults and Instagrammable one-liners are the lifeblood of the series, with the Roy family unable to communicate unless they’re cutting each other down.

For audiences, part of the Succession viewing experience is arguing over who gets the best lines, and it’s a testament to the writing that there’s no clear answer. Ask five people who the funniest character on the show is, and you’re likely to get five different names.

“It has to be Roman,” declares Braun. “I mean, the stuff they give him, sometimes I’m just like, how did you think of this, and how is Kieran [Culkin, who plays Roman] going to pull it off? The writers are really on another level with Roman’s lines.”

“Succession is a peak behind the curtain, and it shows us that there are people with scary amounts of power, but there are also people [like Greg] who don’t know what they’re doing,” says Nicholas Braun.

Plenty of people might argue that Braun’s character benefits just as much from the writing. Alongside Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom Wambsgans, the self-styled “disgusting brothers” are Succession’s comic relief – a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Already this season, they’ve delivered some of the most quotable moments, from Tom asking Greg if he “rummaged to fruition” and Greg on the phone to Tom describing Logan’s gait as “terrifyingly moseying.”

Braun said the pair have a “natural chemistry” that developed almost instantly.

“The first scene we ever filmed is where Tom asks if I want to kiss him, and that pretty much established their dynamic,” he says. “This kind of hazing, hot and cold level of discomfort.”

Nowhere is Greg’s level of discomfort more evident than in the season two finale when he is called to testify before the Senate regarding sexual misconduct cases involving the Roy family business’s cruise division. The Congress scene will go down in Succession folklore thanks mostly to Braun’s delivery of Greg’s iconic line: “If it is to be said, so it be — so it is.”

“So a lot of that was unplanned,” Braun recalls. “Basically [show creator] Jesse came to the night before we shot it and said, ‘We have this Congress set, we can come back in a couple of weeks, or we could just wing it and do it tomorrow,’”

The actor spent the night studying Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony from 2018 – “I found it funny that the first thing he did was pour himself a glass of water,” laughs Braun.

“We shot it a handful of times, and I found the trick was to have a lot of thoughts going on in my head and mash them together while trying to say the vaguest, politest and most eloquent thing.”

The result was a perfect Greg-ism; confusing, panicked, but ultimately hilarious.

Cousin Greg (left, played by Nicholas Braun) alongside Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom Wambsgans. The self-styled “disgusting brothers” are Succession’s comic relief. Credit:HBO/Binge

Should that moment be the sum of Cousin Greg’s legacy, you get the impression Braun would be quite content. But for now, there’s a whole new world waiting for Braun – and with that, it’s Gregxit, stage left.

Succession is dropping new episodes every Monday on Foxtel and Binge.

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