Memories of the Jeremy Strong Discourse

The final word on this year’s most controversial celebrity profile

Won’t somebody think of Jeremy Strong?

That’s certainly been the recent theme among certain members of the Hollywood Twitterati after the actor who plays Kendall Roy on HBO’s Succession was featured in a New Yorker profile the day before the show’s penultimate episode of its third season.

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

The profile in question, “On ‘Succession,’ Jeremy Strong Doesn’t Get the Joke,” written by  Michael Schulman, is a masterclass in the art of the celebrity profile. It portrays Strong as a hyper-focused actor who heavily invests in the process of creating each of his characters. Whether you read that as a feature or a bug largely depends on your view of acting, or of celebrity profiles in general.

“I take him as seriously as I take my own life,” Strong says about Kendall. In the profile, he reveals the great lengths of research he took to portray the middle Roy son, including tying his shoes really tightly, because he read that’s how Rupert Murdoch’s son James did it.

And then there’s this bit, courtesy of Strong, Kieran Culkin and “Succession” executive producer Adam McKay:

“When I asked Strong about the rap that Kendall performs in Season 2, at a gala for his father—a top contender for Kendall’s most cringeworthy moment—he gave an unsmiling answer about Raskolnikov, referencing Kendall’s ‘monstrous pain.’ Kieran Culkin told me, ‘After the first season, he said something to me like, ‘I’m worried that people might think that the show is a comedy.’ And I said, ‘I think the show is a comedy.’ He thought I was kidding.’ Part of the appeal of ‘Succession’ is its amalgam of drama and bone-dry satire. When I told Strong that I, too, thought of the show as a dark comedy, he looked at me with incomprehension and asked, ‘In the sense that, like, Chekhov is comedy?’ No, I said, in the sense that it’s funny. ‘That’s exactly why we cast Jeremy in that role,’ McKay told me. ‘Because he’s not playing it like a comedy. He’s playing it like he’s Hamlet.’”

That really tells you all you need to know, but then Strong’s co-workers also talk about how they interpret his devotion to his craft:

“When I asked Brian Cox, who plays Logan, the patriarch, to describe Strong’s process, he struck a note of fatherly concern. ‘The result that Jeremy gets is always pretty tremendous,’ he said. ‘I just worry about what he does to himself. I worry about the crises he puts himself through in order to prepare…Actors are funny creatures. I’ve worked with intense actors before. It’s a particularly American disease, I think, this inability to separate yourself off while you’re doing the job.’”

That’s the stuff of a great celebrity profile. It’s also what got celebs like Sorkin and Jessica Chastain to criticize the New Yorker for it’s “one-sided piece” and caused Twitter to erupt in flames, building to an apex after last week’s season three finale. You’d think Strong’s defenders were leaping to his side after he was accused of a crime instead of being an intense actor.

“Ive known Jeremy Strong for 20yrs &  worked with him on 2 films. Hes a lovely person. Very inspiring & passionate about his work. The profile that came out on him was incredibly one sided. Don’t believe everything you read folks. Snark sells but maybe its time we move beyond it,” Chastain tweeted about her “Molly’s Game” co-star.

Later, in a tweet that has since become its own meme, Chastain posted Sorkin’s response to the profile. In the very-official-looking one-sheet, Sorkin, who participated in the profile, compares Strong’s acting chops to Dustin Hoffman and calls the New Yorker profile “a distorted picture of Jeremy.”

Anne Hathaway posted on Instagram about it, there’s a Reddit thread devoted to the profile, and McKay even commented on the whole thing. Last month, McKay jokingly suggested that his own Vanity Fair write-up should lead with “Adam McKay believes that personal profiles have destroyed America.”

The Jeremy Strong profile caused a stir precisely because of what it represents- I can’t think of the last time a celebrity profile caused this much drama. That’s good, in my opinion. Celebrity profiles have gotten too dull lately. Even just a few years ago, Miles Teller was comparing highball glasses to his dick in GQ and Donald Glover became more of an enigma after this New Yorker profile. Now, most celeb profiles are just questions about whatever an actor is working on combined with some PR photos.

Acting’s a funny profession. It should get skewered a bit. And yet, whatever Strong’s doing, it works, even in crazy fare like “Serenity,” where he plays a character named The Rules (please watch this movie if you haven’t already; it’s wild).

Anyway. My personal theory–Strong did the profile in character as Kendall and allowed that to fuel the fire for a week until the finale aired.

As Kendall said in season three: “I’m just really happy in my headspace, and I hope they’re happy in theirs.”

 You May Also Like

Jake Harris

Jake Harris is a Texas-based journalist whose writing about pop culture and entertainment has appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Nashville Scene and more. You can find more of his writings at jakeharrisbog.com or through his pop culture newsletter, Jacob's Letter.

One thought on “Memories of the Jeremy Strong Discourse

  • December 20, 2021 at 7:43 pm
    Permalink

    By far the most original and thoughtful take on that profile – your theory is so much in Succession style :).

    I would be curious to know what you thought of the bits were Jeremy Strong living in Michelle Adams’s basement was suggested as potential profiteering. There were a few such veiled suggestions at Jeremy Strong the person that personally I felt read like Daily Mail for pseudo-intelectuals. My guess is that it was comments like this that would be labelled as ‘snark’ by those who wrote in support of Jeremy Strong, not the debate on this acting process. That (and eventual views from fellow actors) should indeed be the topic of discussion. The veiled digs at him as a person as one profitting from famous people (while living rent free in their basements when broke …) felt cheap. Also, it can be argued those were indeed one-sided portrayals as there was no mention of accounts from younger actors who have given the now reasonably famous Jeremy Strong credit for helping them. But maybe there will be similar profiteering profiles on them when they in turn become better known :).

    P.S. Serenity is indeed wild; why Matthew McConaghey got a Rassie nomination for that performance beats me.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *