J. Smith-Cameron on Taking the Reins of Waystar Royco in ‘Succession’


“She’s like a cat,” says J. Smith-Cameron. “She lands on her feet. She steps very subtly just out of the line of fire.” The 64-year-old Kentucky-born actor is describing Gerri Kellman, the nimble, strategic, and frequently hilarious character she plays on HBO’s epic comedy-drama Succession. Once the straight-talking general counsel of Waystar Royco, the fictional conglomerate run by the dysfunctional Roy family, in the first episode of season three, she is named interim CEO as patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) takes a step back. Logan’s “number one boy” Kendall (Jeremy Strong) is eager to end his father’s reign, while two of his other children, Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin), are jostling for power. The latter has also formed an alliance with Kellman following a delightfully subversive flirtation that began in season two.

Will the pair actually get together? It’s a question that has countless viewers on the edge of their seat and Smith-Cameron’s slippery, critically-lauded performance keeps them guessing. The actor, however, is hardly an overnight success: She’s worked for more than four decades across stage and screen, appearing in acclaimed dramas such as Rectify, Nancy, and Margaret (the latter’s writer-director, the Oscar-winning ​​Kenneth Lonergan, is also her husband).

Shortly after Succession’s season three premiere at the London Film Festival, Smith-Cameron sat down with us to discuss her best one-liners, her puzzling conversations with the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong, and why she doesn’t want Gerri and Roman’s “honeymoon phase” to be over.

Vogue: When did you first hear that Gerri would become CEO?

J. Smith-Cameron: The writers’ room kind of gave me a heads up and since the beginning of season two, that’s floated as an idea. It feels a little like I’m CEO, but I’m also not because Gerri knows from the beginning that she’s sort of a figurehead. But, at the same time, the wheels are turning in her mind and she’s thinking about how she can influence things. Logan is surrounded by yes men who are scared to be honest with him and I think, even though I annoy him sometimes, he knows he’ll get a straight answer from me. So, I think he’s made a strong choice.

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