Emmy nominee profile: Hiam Abbass makes a delightful return to ‘Succession’ as ‘belle of the ball’ after Logan’s death

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After appearing in the majority of “Succession” episodes, Hiam Abbass is finally an Emmy nominee. The actress recurred in all four seasons of the HBO series as Logan Roy’s (Brian Cox) wife Marcia, even as their relationship was rocked by Logan’s affairs with Rhea Jarrell — who could forget Abbass’s shakedown of Holly Hunter? — and others. Abbass returned for two episodes of the final season, for which she nabbed a bid for Best Drama Guest Actress. Could she prevail on her very first try?

To do so, Abbass will have to best a formidable group of contenders, including two others from her own show. Cherry Jones reprised her Emmy-winning character Nan Pierce from the second season of “Succession” in the fourth season premiere and earned her fifth career bid, while Harriet Walter has earned her third nomination for “Succession,” and fifth overall, as Logan’s former wife and mother to Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin). Three performers from “The Last of Us” round out the category: Melanie Lynskey, Storm Reid and Anna Torv.

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In a different year it might be difficult for Abbass to win with two other “Succession” actors also vying for the trophy and potentially splitting votes. Just last year Walter, Hope Davis and Sanaa Lathan were nominated in this category but lost to Lee You-mi for “Squid Game.” That won’t be as big a factor this time around, though, as all of the non-“Succession” performers are from “The Last of Us,” so everyone is at equal risk of a vote split.

Even though she has fewer nominations than Jones and Walter, Abbass appeared in more than twice as many “Succession” episodes as those two guest stars combined over the four years, so fans within the television academy may want to vote for one of the original cast members who finally broke through for her first nomination. Double nominees Walter (“Succession,” “Ted Lasso”) and Lynskey (“The Last of Us,” “Yellowjackets”) will be formidable contenders, though, as will three-time winner Jones.

Abbass submitted the episode “Honeymoon States” for Emmy consideration, and she has a number of memorable scenes. The episode takes place the day after Logan’s shocking death as the Roy family and top Waystar Royco executives congregate in his penthouse to mourn and to vote on who will be named interim CEO. As Kendall makes his way up to the apartment and steps off the elevator, he is surprised to be greeted by Marcia, dressed all in black, who calls her estranged husband’s death “a terrible shock.” Although she admits their relationship was “complicated,” she tells Kendall that she and Logan were in constant contact. The children seem suspicious of her motives, calling her “the belle of the ball” at Logan’s memorial.

SEE How far ahead is ‘Succession’ in the Emmy race for Best Drama Series?

Although the characters are all grieving, Abbass gets to show off her comedic chops in a scene opposite Alan Ruck’s Connor. When Logan’s true “eldest son” arrives at the penthouse, he inquires about what she plans to do with the apartment and she negotiates a selling price of $63 million with him on the spot, which she wants to seal with a spit handshake. It’s a short, charming moment that lightens up the machinations unfolding elsewhere.

Abbass’s best scene is opposite Zoë Winters as Kerry, with whom Logan had been having a not-so-quiet affair. When Kerry arrives uninvited to collect some of her belongings, Marcia treats her frigidly, even as Kerry breaks down in sobs. While Roman tries to show Kerry some kindness, especially as she spills her bag, Marcia looks on, utterly unmoved. Roman later asks Marcia if the harshness was necessary, to which she replies, “We’re calling her a taxi to the subway so that she can go home to her little apartment.”

Abbass’s delivery of these lines, which went viral, is unforgettable. It’s a screamingly funny takedown of a character Marcia perceives as her enemy as well as an unflinchingly mean display of callousness. In this moment Abbass lets the audience see just how much Marcia and Logan were alike.

This article is part of Gold Derby’s “Emmy nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2023 acting contenders.

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