Actor Natalie Gold thinks it’s important to point out she does not think her character, Rava Roy, “is a saint by any means.” Yet any time Rava would show up over the course of the four seasons of HBO’s “Succession,” it was hard not to think of her as one of the show’s unsung heroes.
Quite simply, Rava has been through hell. As the ex-wife of failson Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong), she continually tries to stay above the fray that is the Roy family’s mess, while doing her best to co-parent (or, let’s be honest, be the primary parent to) their kids Sophie (Sway Bhatia) and Iverson (Quentin Morales).
But by the show’s final season, her heroic reserve of patience finally starts to run out, like when she informs Kendall that Sophie, a teenager of color, was attacked on the street. It’s just days before a high-tension election involving fascist candidate Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk), whom Kendall and the Roy family enabled through their right-wing news network ATN.
Kendall blames Rava and questions her parenting. “I was raising our daughter, while you were fucking running a racist news organization!” she responds. Kendall then makes the absurd claim that “I’m breaking my back, and it’s all for them,” which Rava brilliantly dismisses with what Gold described as “a vicious laugh.”
The final time we see Rava in the series is in the show’s penultimate episode, when she decides she and her kids will not attend patriarch Logan Roy’s funeral, for their safety, as protests have erupted since Mencken declared victory. Kendall throws a pathetic tantrum, threatening to physically stop traffic (which he does not) and file an emergency restraining order to prevent her and their kids from leaving the city. “You do that, OK?” Rava scoffs, heading into her car.
The funeral episode set the stage for Sunday night’s explosive series finale. During the Roy siblings’ final showdown, Roman (Kieran Culkin), to get under Kendall’s skin, casually throws out the stunning possibility that Kendall is not the father of either of his children. The line stunned Gold, too, who was among a group of New York-based cast members who gathered at a bar to watch the finale together. She recalled that even they were as shocked as we were by the breathtaking episode. None of them were exactly sure what to expect in the final version of the episode, since scenes and shots can change during the editing process.
“I was shaking watching it. I had an idea of what was coming, but I’m still like, ‘Whoa,’” she said, describing the visceral emotions in the room. “I’d like to rewatch it again on my own. I haven’t done that yet.”
In a conversation with HuffPost, Gold shared more about the cast’s watch party, explained what she made of that bombshell about Rava and Kendall’s kids, looked back at her many fond memories of the show and expressed immense gratitude for the show’s brilliant writers. (TV and film writers, including those who worked on “Succession,” are currently on strike over key issues including equitable pay and working conditions in the streaming era.)
Were you all reacting to the same things that we were all shocked by?
Yes, we were all reacting. I was sitting next to J. Smith-Cameron, and I think I was just squeezing her arm really tight the whole time. And so much got kind of huge laughter and such joy — that scene in the kitchen with the three of them was so wonderful, and beautiful and sweet. And then everybody just had a pit in their stomach knowing that that wasn’t going to last.
I think what got the biggest reactions: that hug between Kendall and Roman, oh boy. I was squeezing J. [looks at arm] I have no bruises. I hope I didn’t leave any on her. But that hug was so brutal, and beautiful and painful. And then I think there was a loud, raucous cheer when Tom and Greg finally go at it, slap each other.
There were lots of laughs and applause when people would come on, and just generally very supportive. But stunned into silence by the end, I would say. Stunned into silence.
I had a big reaction to the line that Roman says to Kendall about their kids: Logan always said one was “a buy-in” and the other was “half Rava, half filing-cabinet guy.”
Yes! I wanted to ask you about that. Was that news to you, as the person who played the mother of his children for so long?
Yes and no. [Show creator Jesse Armstrong] and I had a conversation back in Season 1 about Sophie being adopted and got into that a little bit, it being difficult to conceive. That was always in my head, that her getting pregnant was difficult.
But it’s also unclear to me, and it’s the perfect mix of the “Succession” writers, where it’s something Logan said, right? Who knows if it’s true? Is it a sperm donor? We don’t really know. Did Rava have to go through rounds of IVF? We don’t know.
But the fact that Logan said that ― is that true? I don’t know. I don’t know that to be fact, or is that just a horrible thing that he would say about his grandkids?
Yeah, that’s a good point.
Whether it is true or not doesn’t matter. They’re our kids — but just the fact that he said it was horrible and that it was repeated to Kendall in such a vicious way.
Right, the brutality of it and also just that precise moment when Roman decides to use it as ammunition.
Absolutely. They’re tearing each other apart, and I think even Shiv says, “Roman, back off.” And he’s saying: “This is just what Dad always said behind Kendall’s back,” which, I think Rava always knew Logan was talking shit about those kids!
Yeah, you’re right. In my head, I was trying to work all of that out as well. I thought: We know Sophie’s adopted, and in Season 1, they had alluded to some issues with infertility. For some reason, I then assumed Iverson was biological. But like you said, ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
I assumed he was as well, and I assumed that there were fertility issues. But again, I don’t know for a fact as an actor. The writers do that so well, how that doesn’t matter. True or not, we don’t know. It’s just a horrible thing to say. They’re still his kids, but it’s something that tells so much of a story about their characters and also about who Logan was — part of that kind of older generation who just dig their heels in and say these vicious things with no flexibility, and the idea of a bloodline not being “pure enough” or something. It’s so evil.
When you started on the show, I imagine you probably got a pretty basic description of: “OK, Rava is Kendall’s ex-wife.” How much did you then end up inventing for yourself in terms of a backstory? Did you have conversations with Jesse and the writers about who Rava is, what’s her life like independent of Kendall? Did she grow up with money as well? All these different questions.
I have those as well, and I would say, everything I needed as an actor was on the page in terms of the relationship and any backstory that I felt I needed. I would have some conversations with Jesse about it, and I have no doubt that he and all of the writers have a full canon and bible for these characters. But one thing he doesn’t do unless you really specifically ask, which I didn’t, is impose who he thinks this character is on you. It’s all there on the page. It’s a beautiful amount of freedom for you to interpret what you want.
I mean, there were some factual questions. I have my own thoughts and feelings and kind of research that I did for myself about who I thought Rava was, because that’s fun to imagine, and I like to do that as an actor. But everything I needed was really on the page, and anything else was just fun for me to help get into her more and daydream about and imagine a little bit.
It’s not Jesse-vetted or canon, but I kind of felt like she — I mean, it was said in the script that she’s kind of an executive. She works as a consultant at a McKinsey-type firm. She’s smart; she’s good at this business stuff. She just doesn’t want to get involved with the Roy business stuff. She’s staying out of it. And again, it’s my own kind of imagination: I always thought her and Kendall met in business school. But again, that was nothing Jesse told me or not a conversation we had, but that made sense to me. They met young and fell in love. And my theory, and I’ve said this before, is I don’t think Rava is a saint by any means. And I’m sure the allure of Kendall being a Roy was part of it, but I do believe she fell in love with Kendall despite the Roy name, not because of it.
I think she didn’t come from a billionaire class, Rava, but I think she came from enough privilege and would’ve had a fine, nice life financially. I mean, not the billionaire life, but she’s well paid at her job. Not for the Woolworth building, maybe. Not for the helicopters.
Right. I like that especially in Season 1, there are these moments when we can see there was definitely love there, at some point in this relationship.
Yeah, I remember reading that first scene in the pilot, and when I auditioned, it made me laugh out loud, and it just solidified their dynamic so much in my mind, that enough time has passed that she could joke around with him in a way. And there was a give-and-take and kind of a no bullshit way she had of talking to him, that she could mess with him a little bit. Like, when he asks her if she’s seeing anybody and she says, “Yeah, I hope this one doesn’t leave coke on the kids’ iPads.” I mean, that line just made me laugh out loud when I read it.
But then, I think that’s absolutely what happened. I think that’s the moment where Kendall’s addiction became too much, and she had to get out with the kids, and then he got sober. And I think by the pilot, we’re seeing them trying to be happily separated, or Rava is at least trying to. She keeps showing up. Keeps showing up at the family events, keeps bringing the kids, keeps trying.
In a lot of those moments, I also love that — I think it’s a combination of the writing and your performance — there are these small little moments where he’ll say, “I’m doing this for the kids,” and you’ll be like, “Suuuure.” Just these small choices that make a world of difference in a split second of a scene.
Yeah, it’s amazing, and it’s so in the writing as well, it’s what is in the script, too. I love that, too. In the first episode of Season 3, when he comes to her apartment, Rava hasn’t even watched the big speech that he gave. She’s busy at work, right? “They told me about it. I heard about it.” She’s proud of him, but: “I haven’t gotten to it yet.” He said, “Well, I’ve done this for you guys,” and [she says]: “Yeah, well...” That’s in the script, which is perfect.
She knows him well enough to know he may believe that, but she certainly doesn’t believe it.
Exactly. There’s a similar moment in this season when Sophie was attacked by the person wearing the Ravenhead shirt. You’re walking off-screen, and we don’t actually see you. But we hear you kind of chuckle a little bit at him being like, “I’m doing this for our kids,” or something. And you’re just like, “Oh, sure.”
I think I did a vicious laugh. That just came out, that vicious laugh just came out, and then I had forgotten that I had done it. And then it made the episode, which I was happy about. That kind of came in the moment, one of those happy accidents.
But, yeah, I think that’s the joy of getting to work on this show: the freedom that you’re allowed to play within the scene, to have those human reactions that come out that you don’t expect, which is the most fun. But I remember thinking: With him saying that, the only choice that made sense was just a laugh that came out, because I think for her, after that scene especially, the exasperation level is at a fever pitch.
Was the final scene you shot for the show the big scene in Episode 9?
That wasn’t my final scene. It’s just because of the way, scheduling-wise, how things worked out. My final scene that I shot was actually Episode 8, which I shot after Episode 9, which was Sophie and I — Sway, who played my daughter, Sophie — and I are in the car driving around at night when we call Kendall and say, “I think there’s somebody following us.” That was my final day on set.
Andrij Parekh directed that episode, and Mark Mylod directed Episode 9. Episode 9 felt like: “Oh, that’s a great season wrap.” But then it wasn’t, and I was happy to have more to do. I got to shoot this scene with me and Sway and our incredible camera operators, Gregor and Corey, stuffed into a car, driving around New York City. It was perfect.
We’ve talked about some of your big scenes already, but are there any particular scenes that are seared into your memory? Or even beyond that, memories of the set that you’ll never forget?
I mean, all of them. All of them, honestly. I think in that first season, England, that was, I think, five weeks of just being all together in a small town, away from our families, doing this thing, doing night shoots in this gorgeous, drafty old castle, this huge wedding. That will always be seared into my brain. Banding together was such a beautiful memory. I think especially the cast can get close when you’re not going home at the end of the day. We’re all going back to the same hotels, we’re all in the same place together, which makes the bonding so much fun.
Since then, to go to the Woolworth building and shoot that episode [in Season 3] was so fun and exciting, and it had been — God, we were still in the pandemic. Everybody was masked and wearing these face shields but so happy to be there and figuring out a way to make this work, and doing it. It felt like seeing family again after a long pandemic time of isolation. Kind of beautiful.
And then Kendall’s birthday party. It’s just one of the most amazing sets I’ve ever seen. The level of detail, the writing, the props, working with Lorene [Scafaria], who’s an incredible director.
And then everything I’ve gotten to do this season just felt like a deepening level. I felt it just cemented, for Kendall, a level of what he was losing even more, because I felt that Rava was somebody who had shown up and always had. And it felt like a kind of beautiful, heartbreaking arc to see, really the crumbling of this already fractured relationship, culminating in her actually not showing up to the biggest event of his life thus far. His father has died, and she doesn’t go, I thought was a really bold, beautiful choice. And shooting the scene with Jeremy on the street was amazing, and Mark was amazing, and just getting to go at it in all kinds of different ways. It’s so fun. I’m going to miss it so much.
Yeah, I’m going to miss it as a viewer.
I feel like part of why I wanted to talk with you ― and I also talked with Juliana Canfield [who plays Kendall’s aide Jess] yesterday ― is wanting to stay in this headspace of the finale just a little longer and keep writing about “Succession” for as long as I can. Something I asked her about as well: Everyone who’s worked on the show has talked about the unique way the show is shot and the unique way that you all work together. Is there anything from this experience that has helped sharpen your focus in terms of what kinds of things you want to do as an actor, what kind of sets you want to work on, the direction of your career, all these sort of bigger questions beyond the show?
Oh, that’s a good question. For me, as an actor, it starts and ends with the writing. And I mean Jesse Armstrong, ’til the end of time, and all of the writers on this show, all of them, all four seasons: Tony Roche, Lucy Prebble, Will Tracy, Jon Brown, Susan Stanton — if there’s anybody I’m forgetting, I’m really embarrassed. The level of writing is so spectacular: to get a script and be just constantly blown away. And as a fan of the show — not getting a script and seeing: “What am I going to do in this episode?” — just as a fan of the show, you’re reading it kind of shaking, like, “Oh, my God, that’s happening!” and laughing out loud, and sobbing. I mean, that’s the dream.
Everybody brings absolute commitment and play and respect for each other. There’s a trust involved and a dance that happens that feels really magical. Like, working with the camera crew, where you never quite know where they are. It’s a level of working that I’ve never, ever had before. And it’s so liberating and it’s so free, and it makes you feel like you’re just really living inside and inhabiting this world.
So, more of that! But it’s so specific to this show. I hope what I can bring, and I think what it strengthened for me and honed, is the level of dedication I felt to this job and the kind of love for the ensemble. Because as an actor, the thing that I love to do most is collaborate. When you get onto a set where you feel like it is just a big joy of collaboration amongst crew, amongst cast, amongst the writers, just to feel a part of something, to have your ideas heard and to have your opinion matter. And also to be able to ask the smartest people I’ve ever met: “What do you think about this?” That’s the greatest joy in the world. Or to get alt lines from Lucy or Tony or Jesse, which are so hard to say because they’re so funny. They make me laugh out loud. It’s just working on a level of complete and utter instinct because there’s so much trust there. A long answer to your question.
No, that was great. It makes me appreciate the show even more than I already did.
Yeah, me too.
What’s next for you? Are there things that you’ve shot that we should be looking out for?
What is next? We will see. In this time, I’m not sure. There’s a couple of films pending that I’m excited about, but TBD, as far as when they can shoot. One of them I’m very excited about: Our amazing script supervisor for “Succession,” Lisa Molinaro, is a genius. And she sent me a short film that she wrote. She’s been very encouraged by all the writers of “Succession” and Mark Mylod to actually make this thing. So she’s making this thing, it’s written and it’s exquisite and gorgeous. And Mark Mylod is going to executive-produce it, and I think our [director of photography], Pat Capone, is going to jump on board. We’re trying to figure out when we can do that. I cannot wait to do that because it will feel like a mini-reunion.
Juliana mentioned that there are several group chats that you all are in. It’s always nice when you watch something incredible and then find out the people who made it also seem to have had an incredible time making it.
Yes, there are several group chats, and I think it’s fair to say everybody just genuinely loves each other. It’s a kind group of people, a hilarious group of people. And all the actors on the show know what a lucky experience that was. And we all felt it and all knew it. Dying to go to work, dying to read the next script, dying to be there, feeling just incredibly lucky to be there.
Juliana and I texted after Episode 9, which was such a brutal episode and painful to watch and beautifully done. We texted each other after and said, “Well, a lot happened in that episode.” One of the things that happened is Kendall’s women had left him. Jess and Rava have gone. And so we texted, and I said, “I think Jess should come work with Rava.” Not for Rava. With Rava. Rava will give her an executive job. I think Jess and Rava are friends.
She had mentioned also that maybe Jess goes to work for Rava — yes, because she loves and respects her — but also because it’s a nice way to get back at Kendall.
A twist of the knife. He would hate it. I mean, he would really hate it. But not for me. With me. That’s very important.
Yes, yes, yes.
Jess is done with her assistant job. She has earned the executive level. She deserves the corner office.
The actors come from all over. Obviously, Sarah [Snook]’s from Australia, Matthew [Macfadyen]’s in England, Alan [Ruck] and Justine [Lupe] are in L.A. But it’s this kind of adventure of all coming together in New York, or all the different places that we’ve traveled to, that it’s kind of this big wonderful family.
But a lot of us New York actors have known each other before the show for so long as well. It’s just been heaven. J. Smith-Cameron and I did a play together during this, where she played my mom. Peter Friedman and I have done a million readings together. Arian Moayed and I did a play together back in 2008. Zoë Winters and I had met doing a reading. A lot of these amazing actors are also dear friends, previous to the show — and even cemented further because of the show.
I was going to say, yeah, a lot of you are New York-based, so I’m sure you’ll get to work together again.
That’s the dream.
Is there anyone who’s particularly active in the group chat? I’ve heard J. especially…
Yes, J. is an excellent communicator. She really is. She is highly active in the group chat. And then one thing that happened that was really nice: Georgia Pritchett came from London, Georgia Pritchett, one of our writers. God, did I not mention her? A genius of a writer. She was in town last summer in August, and she said: “Let’s get the women of ‘Succession’ together.”
Oh, I saw that!
We had this beautiful dinner, the women of “Succession,” and that’s continued on a little bit. We have a separate group chat of the ladies, which I also really like.
One final kind of bigger-picture question. Obviously, we’re at the end of the show. Is there anything that you haven’t been asked about, or something you want to kind of reiterate, or something you wish you’d gotten to talk about more?
Oh, it’s such a good question. I feel like your questions are so thoughtful and smart, and I feel like everybody’s questions have been so thoughtful and smart. I don’t think that there’s anything that I haven’t been asked about. I think I just always want to make sure that it comes across in a truthful way, and that it begins and ends with the writing for me. These writers have given me one of the greatest gifts of my life, and I’m just forever grateful and in awe of them. And having them on set — at least three or four writers on set — it’s the only way to work, the best way to work. It was a dream. It was a dream.
Oh, I’ve gotten into some good debates with people — not in interviews — all men, who have a problem with Rava, which I find interesting. “If you were more supportive of him, maybe he would’ve really flown. If you had just done more for him.” And I find that so fascinating, and I love to get into a good debate about that, if anybody would like to debate on that, because I think there are some people out there who just think Rava is just not supportive enough of Kendall. I would enjoy a good debate on that. But it’s only men. It’s only men.
Right, of course. I’m laughing because I’m just like, “Rava has been through hell!” The fact that she really finally cracked in Season 4 was telling. You can tell this whole time has been a real test of her patience.
Yeah, she is much more patient than I am personally. I wish I had a shred of her patience and grace and humor.
But that’s one thing that I haven’t been asked about, which I’m glad about. It’s really only ever men, like, approaching me at a party or on the street, like: “You know, you should have been nicer to him.” But I appreciate their perspective and enjoy debating with them. Maybe I’ve turned some people around.