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Succession: Kieran Culkin Didn't Rehearse For His Character's Biggest Moment In Episode 9

Contains spoilers for "Succession" Season 4 Episode 9 — "Church and State"

Kieran Culkin just made his most convincing argument for an Emmy yet — which is saying something — and he did so with barely any preparation.

During his father's funeral, after snidely sneering that he's "pre-grieved" before he steps up to deliver a eulogy, chaos goblin Roman Roy (Culkin) ends up breaking down entirely, frantically asking his siblings if their dad is "in there" — meaning his coffin — and if they can get him out. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Culkin revealed something pretty shocking: he didn't rehearse for this enormous moment.

According to Culkin, he used the fact that his uncle Ewan (James Cromwell) butts in line ahead of Roman to give his own eulogy detailing Logan's (Brian Cox) awful childhood... and the feelings this stirs up in Roman in the moment. To achieve that, he didn't read Ewan's eulogy ahead of time and went in cold: "It was a good jumping-off point because now it's like, 'Oh, I've got to follow that.' I just felt very lost. We didn't rehearse it and I really did not want to rehearse it—even on the couch the night before. I just kind of looked at the lines vaguely and went, "I don't want to look at this. I don't want to plan or think about how this is gonna happen." Which was also terrifying, because I don't know that I can do that stuff."

Kieran Culkin dove headfirst into Roman's emotional breakdown

So how did this work for Culkin? Spectacularly, as it turns out. Roman's extremely public and ultimately humiliating breakdown over losing his father — and facing the grief he's been furiously avoiding since he lost Logan in the season's third episode — is a huge reality check for his character, and Culkin's performance is so heartbreaking that you almost forget Roman is a monster who installed a far-right fascist as the President-elect for his own gain.

Not only did Culkin not rehearse, but he's pretty sure they used an early take. "I haven't seen it, but I think [they used] the first take," he said. "Stuff like that is hard to keep reliving. That scene sort of happened, and I forgot this was a TV show where we have to do takes and coverage. It was like, 'We did it and. . . Oh, good, we're doing another." A lot of stuff happens on the show that is not planned or rehearsed or talked about [beforehand]. When it happens, it's really lovely and hard to recreate."

He also revealed that this entire endeavor was that much more terrifying considering the sheer scale of it all; "Succession" scenes are typically pretty intimate, but Logan's massive funeral presented a new challenge. "And have the terrifying fear that I haven't thought about how to do it or practiced it, and oh, there's a lot of people who I don't know [sitting there], and an extra crew brought in for all the background actors," he recalled.

Director Mark Mylod filmed the funeral scene in an incredibly unique way

Not only did Culkin not rehearse or read the speech that precedes and ultimately derails Roman's eulogy, he also told Vanity Fair that the way director Mark Mylod — a "Succession" veteran who also recently helmed "The Menu" — filmed it in a pretty unorthodox way.

After the interviewer, Julie Miller, noted that Ewan's eulogy and Roman's breakdown were shot continuously in one take. Not only did Culkin confirm that, but he also gave everyone an insight into the intense process of the entire sequence. "For the very first take of the funeral, we did the entire funeral," he said. "The entire thing. They had like, four cameras going—they were doing wides and closeups on whoever's up there doing the speech. There's a camera close to us in the pews [getting reactions], and then a big wide [shot]."

Unsurprisingly, Culkin praised Mylod, with whom he's been working on the series for years and who is one of its most notable directors: "[Director Mark] Mylod is the only person I know who can execute that so efficiently and come into rooms full of background actors and an entire crew and just give a big loud speech, like to a troop, saying, 'This is what we're going to do. We're going to run the entire sequence, which is the large majority of the episode, in one take without rehearsing it and we're going to film it. And probably a lot of this is going to get used.'"

Where does this public meltdown leave Roman?

Things, uh, definitely don't improve for Roman as the episode continues. At the reception after the funeral, his older brother Kendall (Jeremy Strong) — who delivered a searing, impromptu eulogy in Roman's stead — has no words of kindness for him, essentially telling Roman that he completely screwed the entire thing up. Waystar Royco's older board members are giggling over a clip that's now gone viral of Roman sobbing, with David Rasche's Karl saying Roman sounds "like a sow that's about to get the stun gun and knows it." Abruptly vanishing from the ceremonies, Roman goes outside and into the middle of the protests brought on by his coronation of Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) as the next leader of the free world... and after comfortably abusing the protestors from behind a barrier for just a moment, he jumps into the fray. This goes about as well as you'd expect, and he ends up punched in the fact and on the ground in the midst of a stampede.

There are a few reasons Roman could have done this; one interpretation is that he seeks violence whenever he feels he's failed, thanks to a history of domestic abuse at Logan's hands. Culkin has his own take: "He definitely has a self-destructive streak. It could be to feel something. It could be acceptance. Sometimes it takes a while to get to that moment of, 'Oh, I'll never properly get over this.' I think he thought he could handle anything."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.