Jeremy Strong on New Yorker Profile: 'I Felt Foolish'

'Succession' actor is speaking out on the commotion, calls article a 'profound betrayal'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2021 12:06 PM CST
Updated Sep 3, 2022 8:30 AM CDT
Magazine's Profile of Actor Causes a Ruckus
In this video grab captured on Sept. 20, 2020, Jeremy Strong accepts the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for "Succession" during the Emmy Awards broadcast.   (The Television Academy and ABC Entertainment via AP)

Update: Jeremy Strong has stayed mum since last year's polarizing New Yorker profile on him, which portrayed the Succession star as an extremely serious actor considered by some to be "self-indulgent." Now, the 43-year-old actor is speaking out, telling Vanity Fair that the article "felt like a pretty profound betrayal of trust." Strong goes on to say that both the profile and the reaction to it were "painful," and that "I felt foolish." But, "as an actor, one of the most vital secret weapons that you can have is the ability to tolerate feeling foolish." As for how seriously he takes his craft, Strong notes, "Acting is something that's hard to talk about without sounding self-serious, but it is something that I feel very seriously about and care about and have devoted my life to." More of Strong on that, and on his new film, Armageddon Time, here. Our original story from December follows:

The New Yorker recently profiled 42-year-old actor Jeremy Strong—currently starring in HBO's hit series Succession—and reaction to it might be generating more attention than the original piece. Author Michael Schulman presents Strong as someone who takes his craft extremely seriously. "His mild appearance belies a relentless, sometimes preening intensity," writes Schulman, who adds that Strong speaks with a "monk-like solemnity" about his work. At another point: "Strong's dedication strikes some collaborators as impressive, others as self-indulgent."

  • Example: The piece quotes Aaron Sorkin, who wrote and directed The Trial of the Chicago 7, in which Strong co-starred. Sorkin recounts that Strong asked to be tear-gassed at one point to help get in character for a scene, a request that Sorkin rejected.
  • Too serious? Strong tells Schulman of his character in Succession: "I take him as seriously as I take my own life." And Schulman writes: "He does not find the character funny, which is probably why he's so funny in the role." Adds executive producer Adam McKay: "That's exactly why we cast Jeremy in that role. Because he's not playing it like a comedy. He's playing it like he's Hamlet." Co-star Kieran Culkin relates that when he told Strong he thought Succession was, in fact, a comedy, "he thought I was kidding." For those unfamiliar, Schulman notes that Succession is a "dark comedy" and is indeed very funny at times.
  • Pushback I: Actress Jessica Chastain has been among those publicly pushing back on the profile. She tweeted that she's known Strong for 20 years and worked with him on two films. He's "a lovely person," she writes. "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."

  • Pushback II: In a long statement (tweeted via Chastain), Sorkin accused Schulman of cherry-picking his responses to questions to paint a "distorted" picture of Strong, per Deadline. Sorkin presents his full answers, including the phrase, "Jeremy's not a nut." In his own tweet, McKay backs that up: "I couldn't agree more. Jeremy is not only a lovely guy but a brilliant actor who was cast in Succession precisely because of his passion the New Yorker writer mocks."
  • Not so bad? At the AV Club, William Hughes makes the case that the New Yorker profile isn't as critical as Strong's defenders think. Yes, Strong comes off as intense in the article, but that's it. "He reads as someone who it'd be interesting but extremely draining to have a lunch with, not necessarily in a terrible way." The profile, it seems, has become something of a "Rorschach test," with different readers coming away with different takes, writes Hughes.
  • New Yorker responds: "This is a nuanced, multi-sided portrait of an extremely dedicated actor. It has inspired a range of reactions from people, including many who say that they are even more impressed by Jeremy Strong's artistry after having read the article," says the magazine in a statement, per Deadline. TMZ notes that Strong himself hasn't commented.
(More actors stories.)

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