Fans of James Cromwell’s long acting career may have seen his character Ewan Roy’s mic-drop eulogy in the penultimate episode of “Succession” on Sunday and thought, “That’ll do, James.”
But it turns out that before filming the scene, the “Babe” star wasn’t exactly channeling the quiet confidence of Ewan or Farmer Hoggett, according to an interview published Thursday in Vulture.
Speaking to the entertainment site, Cromwell said he was so nervous ahead of the shoot that he thought it might spell disaster for his career.
“I had a bit of a problem going into it,” Cromwell said. “I couldn’t remember my lines at all. I could do them in the room, myself, but as soon as I stepped away from them for five minutes, they were completely gone.”
Cromwell expressed his concerns to the episode’s director, Mark Mylod, who said that his character could have notes on hand while speaking at the funeral of Ewan’s media mogul brother, Logan Roy (Brian Cox).
“You can practically read it,” Mylod said, according to Cromwell. “Just lift your head up, on the odd moment.”
That didn’t help soothe the Emmy-winning actor, however. He told Vulture that he had been “having increasing trouble remembering lines,” and worried that he would get “fired” from the HBO drama as a result.
“I’ve never been fired,” Cromwell said. ”But everybody gets fired for something!”
He added that he felt pressure to deliver a stellar performance because the eulogy written for Ewan was beloved by the show’s cast and crew.
“Everybody had said to me, ‘Oh, I read your speech! What a great speech! What are you gonna do with the speech?’” he recalled.
Luckily, an offhand remark from Cromwell’s assistant turned the situation around.
“I think I know what’s wrong. You have long COVID,” she told him, according to the actor.
“And then, a miracle happened,” he said. “All the text came back to me. The speech was bloody beautiful, don’t you think?”
Indeed it was.
During the episode, called “Church and State,” Ewan uses Logan’s televised funeral as an opportunity to call out his brother for his politics and greed. The moment is especially spicy since Logan’s media empire was already in a fragile state after his death.
Ewan begins his eulogy with a half-hearted attempt to humanize his brother, recounting their childhood journey to North America from Scotland during World War II. Ewan also offers a surprising revelation about why Logan was so sensitive around the subject of their dead sister, Rose — a mystery the show never tackled until that moment.
Ewan then embarks on a reckoning. He ultimately characterizes his powerful brother as someone who “closed men’s hearts.”
“He gave away a few million of his billions, but he was not a generous man,” Ewan says. “He was mean, and he made but a mean estimation of the world.”
For more behind-the-scenes insights from Cromwell ahead of the series finale on Sunday, head over to Vulture to read the entire interview.