For Jeremy Strong, playing the tormented, drug-addicted media scion Kendall Roy on Succession is not what you would call a laff riot. The ensemble cast of HBO’s Golden Globe-winning drama generally feels free to joke around on set, but Strong says it’s hard for him to shake Kendall’s dark moods while shooting. “Sometimes I feel really envious of these guys and the way that they can experience the shoot,” Strong said during a recent interview with co stars Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin for EW’s Entertainers of the Year issue. “I’m just not in a place most of the time where I would break [during the scene].”
Strong was apparently in a much more mischievous mood on the set of his upcoming film, The Trial of the Chicago 7. The Aaron Sorkin-directed drama (opening Sept. 25) is based on the 1969 trial of seven defendants, including Abbie Hoffman (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) Tom Hayden (played by Eddie Redmayne), and Jerry Rubin (played by Strong, who replaced Seth Rogen). They were charged by the federal government with conspiracy, inciting to riot, and other charges arising from counterculture protests in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
To channel the spirit of Rubin — who “was a real prankster,” says Strong — the actor decided to play a joke on his Oscar-nominated costar, Frank Langella, who plays the trial’s fiercely authoritative judge Julius Hoffman. On Langella’s first day of shooting in the courtroom, “I got the prop guys to get this remote control fart machine that I placed behind the judge’s stand,” Strong recalled, adding that even notorious ambush comedian Baron Cohen was nervous when he saw what his co-star had planned. “Sacha was like, ‘Dude, you can’t do that! Did you ask Aaron?'”
But Strong was undaunted. “I just set it off — this loud fart in a courtroom of like 300 people during [Langella’s] lines. And then I started laughing so hard, I couldn’t stop,” he said. As for Langella? “He got so pissed off,” noted Strong gleefully. “That’s what I wanted. I wanted to piss him off.”
Call it Method acting: The real-life Rubin and his fellow defendants regularly tormented the real Judge Hoffman during the trial. (Rubin once showed up to court wearing judge’s robes, which he removed to reveal a blue Chicago Police shirt.)
Though he wishes he could be more playful on the set of Succession, strong says “the spirit of Kendall is not that way.” Still, he shared the story with EW to prove that he does, in fact, have a silly side. “I’m really just saying this for Kieran,” he joked, gesturing to his costar, “because I want Kieran to know that it’s in me.”
The Trial of the Chicago 7 opens Sept. 25, 2020