The natural chemistry between Braun and Macfadyen helped to create the twisted tension that defines the Tom-Greg relationship: jealousy and animosity, cushioned by occasional, genuine affection. Having someone to bully certainly helps to keep Tom steady, but a huge part of that is just having someone he can count on. Even if their entire purpose is just receiving his rage.
“There is a circularity with the acting and the writing,” Macfadyen explained. “And I think that long-form TV like this is wonderful in that it sort of becomes – if it’s working well, it becomes symbiotic with the actors and the writers ’cause they see something that we do. We’ll do something which is given to us from this magic writing, and then they’ll see something else, and then that’ll feed back into the script. And on it goes.”
While Tom’s animosity towards Greg was always in the pilot script, the details of their relationship evolved over time as the writers embraced the hilarity of Braun and Macfadyen together onscreen. Though a prestige drama with such sharp dialogue doesn’t seem like the natural space for improvisation, spontaneity is baked into the “Succession” DNA. Much of this has to do with the way episodes are shot, giving actors room (and expectation) to adlib and react.
Theater alums like Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong have compared filming the series to being onstage: just because the camera isn’t pointed in their direction, doesn’t mean they aren’t in character. At all times, the camera acts as a player in the room, constantly moving with snap zooms and rack focus, swinging unpredictably to face them. With that as a source of energy, relationships like Tom and Greg gain more depth. And they aren’t the only ones.