'Succession' is ending, but the characters live on in TikTok impressions

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Sundays are serious business for Taylor Graysen and James Neal. By the time they sit down to watch “Succession” on HBO at 9 p.m., they’ve already spent hours with the Roy family — by becoming them.

The L.A.-based couple, who met in acting school, have gone viral for their 22 episodes-and-counting “If Real Life Was Succession” TikTok series, which transposes the high stakes of the hit show into everyday settings, like preparing Thanksgiving dinner or buying a Christmas tree.

Succession (Courtesy Taylor Graysen)
Succession (Courtesy Taylor Graysen)

“Sundays are pretty crazy for us,” Graysen, 28, says. “They’re spent getting ready and editing. We drop the video, put our phones away, and then zoom into ‘Succession.’”

They’re among the many plugged into “SuccessionTok,” the booming online ecosystem of takes and videos that interact with and interpret the source material, allowing the characters to live on in fans’ hands past the May 28 series finale.

Content ranges from impressions to reimaginings, but one factor unifies them all. Each video takes the characters out of the context of "Succession" and into a more approachable, relatable setting, demonstrating how a hit prestige show can be redefined by its online fandom.

Matthew Friend, a celebrity impressionist, has gone viral for his Tom Wambsgans impressions, and he eventually met a few cast members through his online success (J. Smith-Cameron is a fan).

“The way the (characters) spoke and the dialogue was just so outrageous that it was easy for me to fall in love with the show,” Friend tells TODAY.com.

He was drawn to Tom, Logan Roy’s cloying son-in-law, and says he couldn’t be “luckier” he became “central to the plot.”

Becca Bastos, a 26-year-old content creator from L.A. who went viral for a TikTok imagining what would happen if "Succession" had a Gen-Z character, says part of the show's appeal is simply being in on the joke.

“You watch the show just to know what the videos are referencing," she tells TODAY.com.

As to the secret behind their impressions, Graysen and Neal credit the source. The specificity of “Succession,” with its award-winning writing and performances, makes impressions easy, they say.

“The characters are all so unique and heightened. It does make it easier to find their tendencies as actors or as characters,” Neal says. “Tom’s voice is either up when he’s subservient, or if he’s talking to Greg, it’s down. Greg is always questioning everything.”

Their videos quickly cut back-and-forth between caricatured — but immediately recognizable — versions of the characters as they discuss things like attending Coachella, making coffee and playing Taboo, rather than boardroom dealings.

Stripped of business jargon, the couple’s TikToks expose the family dynamics underpinning “Succession,” which is what Graysen was first drawn to in Season One.

“People kept making comparisons to my family to the Roys because I have two brothers, I’m the girl and my dad is the good version of Logan Roy. Everyone says ‘f off’ in my family,” she says.

Neal adds, “Whether they understand the business conversations or not, at the end of the day, we’re watching relationships.”

SuccessionTok also makes room for populations not depicted in the HBO show to be involved in its world.

Vick Krishna, a 34-year-old actor and director based in New York, co-writes the “If Succession Was Indian” series, in which Shivani (Shiv), Jindal (Kendall) and Raman (Roman) try to make chai, in one episode, or in another, call an Uber for their dad Logesh (Logan).

“We don’t see our South Asian representation on the show. That’s not commentary on the show itself. (But through the videos), we get to see ourselves in that world. We get to inject ourselves, at least on TikTok, into that show,” he says.

Krishna, who plays the series' Roman equivalent, says he and his co-creators saw their families reflected in the show’s competitive siblings.

“I’m sure that’s relatable to many families — but the desire to be the exceptional one in a brown sibling group, that dynamics in parallel to the show,” he says.

The cast of
The cast of

For Gen-Z, Bastos brought popular slang into her version of the show, with characters bringing a ring light into Waystar Royco and calling Gerri, "mommy."

“Everyone knows Succession. Everyone knows Gen-Z. When you put the two together, it adds a new layer,” she says.

The rise of SuccessionTok is undeniably tied to HBO bringing TV appointment viewing, with weekly phenomena like “The White Lotus,” “The Last of Us” and “Succession,” into the 2023 streaming world.

Succession (Courtesy Taylor Graysen)
Succession (Courtesy Taylor Graysen)

The cadence takes Bastos back to the “old days" of watching shows like "Survivor" on a weekly basis with her family.

“I don’t think ('Succession') would be as much of a conversation if it wasn’t weekly,” she says.

While the curtain will fall on the show May 28, Graysen and Neal say they have no plans to stop their SuccessionTok videos — even if it means deviating from some of the plot lines of Season Four.

“We’re definitely not going to say goodbye to the characters. We can’t do that,” Graysen says. “We’re keeping the Roys alive.”

Because on SuccessionTok, there is no plot, there are no rules and there is no finale.

“In our version, Logesh hasn’t passed away," Krishna says. "We want to keep him alive."

This article was originally published on TODAY.com