Succession director Mark Mylod (right) with cast members Brian Cox and Hiam Abbass

Peter Kramer/HBO

Succession creator Jesse Armstrong and director Mark Mylod

Peter Kramer/HBO
Fill 1
Fill 1
December 13, 2021
In The Mix

Mark Mylod's Willful Intent

For a director of Succession, a season forged during Covid called for skillful pivots and a dedicated focus.


Bob Makela

Mark Mylod, an executive producer and director of the Emmy-winning Succession, doesn't want to sound grandiose when confessing that he's "a massive fan and hugely influenced by" director Robert Altman and his way of working.

"I think some of our writing process reflects his method — certainly in the way we shoot and the elements of improv and this search for authenticity," the British director says via Zoom from Savannah, Georgia, where he's directing The Menu, a feature starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes.

Mylod directed the first two and last two episodes of Succession's third season, now on HBO and HBO Max. He says the tense, high-stakes family drama isn't like most directing gigs, in which visuals and camera language are used to augment the story, subplot and characters. With Succession the priority is capturing an energy and an authenticity.

"That becomes the driving force of the camera, above and beyond the grammar of traditional cinematic language," Mylod explains. "The staging and authenticity trump everything. So it's a very different kind of hat to wear than, say, the grammar that's used in Game of Thrones, which employs a much more traditional language and grammar."

After directing six episodes of Game of Thrones over three years, Mylod was looking for a new challenge. "There were some lovely invitations to do big fantasy work," he says. "But I tried to go contemporary and away from that. None of us wants to be pigeonholed, do we?"

Season three of Succession presented new challenges. Following up the show's much-lauded second season left him, he jokes, with "blind terror."

Then there were the Covid obstacles — from worrying about keeping everyone safe to struggling to make connections with cast and crew while wearing masks and face shields.

"It was really hard," Mylod recalls. "Not hard like for frontline workers — 90 percent of people have much harder jobs. But it was tough to get that scope and scale and intimacy. All those elements were more difficult."

The production also had to pull back on the Roy family's globetrotting, an enticing feature of previous seasons. All nine episodes of season three were shot in the New York area, save for an undisclosed location in Italy seen in the last two episodes.

"Luckily, Jesse [Armstrong, the show's creator] and the writers were smart enough to pivot and make that into a strength," Mylod says. "Because our initial outlines had a lot more travel, we did need to adjust for that. But the smartness of the writing made that work and made a plus of it, which was very clever."

"We haven't rested on our laurels in terms of the intensity, the emotional and visceral connection to the characters," he adds. "We've done well. So I don't walk away from the season thinking, 'Well, that was a Covid season. They'll give us a bye.' I feel proud, even with all those difficulties of production. 

This story appeared in Issue #12, 2021, of emmy magazine.

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