Succession Writer Lucy Prebble On What To Expect From Shiv In Season Three Of Succession

'When Shiv lets her hair down, she absolutely loses her mind.'

Shiv succession season 3

by Rebecca Holman |
Updated on

‘One of the interesting things about Shiv is that she thinks of herself as a good person yet does almost nothing that a good person would do.’ Chances are, if you’ve watched the first two seasons of Succession, you’ve spent hours dissecting the plots, the dialogue and the characters, not least Siobhan ‘Shiv’ Roy, one of the most compelling female characters on TV right now. But if there’s one person who’s an expert in Shiv-ology, it’s Lucy Prebble, the award-winning playwright and screenwriter, for whom a casual gig in the Succession writers’ room composing many of Shiv’s lines is one of several hats she’s wearing right now.

So in a show that’s all about exquisitely-drawn characters reeling off beautifully crafted dialogue, who is her favourite person to write for? ‘My favourite is Shiv and I like to write Logan – I like to write the more Shakespearean characters. I also write a lot of the lines for Gerri [Logan Roy’s acerbic General Counsel]I, a lot of the Roman/Gerri sex scenes, and that’s something I’m very proud of.’

But just what is it that makes the character of Shiv Roy so compelling? ‘Firstly it’s a woman who we have no interest whatsoever in you liking.’ Prebble also believes that her unlikely relationship with clownish Tom is part of the appeal. ‘Early on people were worried about Shiv and Tom as a couple. We felt really confident that you see a lot of very, very successful, powerful women with men who are less successful and powerful than them, and it’s a really interesting dynamic. I think there’s something about her marriage that is funny and dark.’

And then there’s the planet-sized gap between the good person Shiv thinks she is, and how she actually behaves. ‘She’s a very arrogant hypocrite. Some of the other characters in the show are quite clown-like in their hypocrisy – she takes herself quite seriously. It’s really interesting her being the only daughter as well and what that does to her psychology and her sense of specialness and contempt that she has for her brothers.’

Succcession may have been off our screens for far too long - one of many shows that has been held up by the pandemic, but Prebble's writing hasn't. She wrote and co executive produced I Hate Suzie with her friend Billie Piper, who stars in the titular role. The pair originally met on the set of Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, in which Prebble wrote, and Piper starred as Belle Du Jour, a high-end call girl living in London.

I write a lot of the Roman/Gerri sex scenes, and that’s something I’m very proud of.

Writing about women and sex can be fraught with pitfalls. Did she approach the project with trepidation? ‘Probably not as much as I should have done.’ What she had originally written as an hour-long drama was whittled down to a 23-minute show. ‘I conceived it as what I wanted it to be, as a complex, quite deep British drama about working in that echelon of sex work. So you’re working with a very slight format, and they wanted to sell it on the basis of Billie in her underwear.’

Prebble’s philosophical about the experience now. ‘Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot in that show I wanted to explore and write about and Billie is always amazing in everything she does, so there was a lot to like, but I always felt like it was an opportunity missed. And Billie and I became close friends off the back of it, so I got this great friendship out of it.’

But for Piper and Prebble, I Hate Suzie was very much the programme they wanted to make. ‘We’re at an age where we’ve realised the mistakes we’ve made in the past and we’re trying not to make them again.’

‘Sometimes Billie will feel really passionately about something that I won’t have that strong a feeling about, but I will stand behind her because I trust her completely. If you stand with your friend in those moments, you tend to get what you want, and the show is much better for it. You’re more powerful in the room, because there’s no dissent. The most important thing to me is my friendship with Billie so everyone else has to work around that.’

If the idea of a harmonious working relationship with your work wife who also happens to be one of your best friends sounds like bliss, I tell her that I imagine the writers’ room for Succession to be, in contrast, a hotbed of masculine energy and big egos. She laughs. ‘It’s an incredibly supportive environment. ‘His [Jesse Armstrong Succession showrunner, and writer of Peep Show and The Thick Of It] energy is nothing like the cliched, bullying show writer. He’s lovely in every way and is so talented.’

Writing interesting, nuanced female characters seems to be stock-in-trade for Lucy, but the big question is, who would she rather go for a drink with, Belle du Jour or Shiv Roy? ‘They’re not totally dissimilar – I would probably rather go for a drink with Shiv. I think – and we might see a bit more of this in season 3 – when Shiv actually lets her hair down, which is almost never because she’s so controlling, she absolutely loses her mind. So I suspect after six drinks Shiv would be wild.’


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