TV

Succession: Who Are The Characters Based on?


The Roys on Succession are based largely on one family in particular but the real life references go even deeper than that.

Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, and Brian Cox in Succession
Photo: Graeme Hunter | HBO

The real life inspirations for powerful oligarch Logan Roy and his dysfunctional family on Succession are well-documented. Roy and his right wing media empire Waystar Royco are very clearly based on Australian billionaire Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp imprint. Neither HBO nor Succession creator Jesse Armstrong made much of an effort to hide that early on.

In fact, the seed for the idea that would eventually bloom into the beloved four-season drama began when Armstrong sought to tell the real life story of the Murdoch family’s malevolent influence on the world. In the book Succession: The Complete Scripts, Armstrong fleshes out what that story would have been like.

“The original idea, a faux-documentary laying out Rupert Murdoch’s business secrets, with them delivered straight to camera, evolved as I worked into a sort of TV play, set at the media owner’s 80th birthday party. Channel 4 were supportive, but it was an odd form, this docudrama/TV-play, and difficult to make happen. Around 2011, after a read-through in London where John Hurt played Rupert, the project essentially died.”

Still, the Murdoch story leaked into the conception of Succession. Like Murdoch, Logan Roy is an outsider from a foreign English-speaking nation (Scotland) who came to wield immense political and financial power in the U.S. through his biased news programming that gave viewers the culture war red meat they didn’t yet know they craved. Rupert Murdoch to Logan Roy is about as close a 1:1 comparison you’ll find in the fictional television world. But that doesn’t mean that the Murdochs are the only real life family that Succession draws from to create its Roy dynasty.

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