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Alan Ruck’s Day Off

What do Connor Roy and Cameron Frye have in common, besides terrible dads and collectors’ anxiety? That would be Alan Ruck, the genial ‘Ferris Bueller’ actor who’s found a second career-defining role as the eldest failson on HBO’s ‘Succession.’

Michelle Rohn

Some people collect baseball cards, some people collect stories, some people collect debt. And then there are the people who collect the desiccated dicks of antiquity, just because they can.

Standing in the quiet “Collecting in Northern Europe, 1450-1600” gallery at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, 63-year-old Alan Ruck lowers his voice to a reverential stage-whisper in order to share something he learned while preparing for one of his scenes as Connor Roy, the eldest and oddest of four siblings in the HBO tragicomedy Succession. “This family in New Jersey,” Ruck says, glancing around the quiet space containing a tiny 500-year-old bronze boar figurine and various ceramics funded by the Medicis of Florence, “they’re like, dentists, and they own Napoleon’s penis—which, apparently, when he was alive, was not very impressive.” (Ruck is mostly correct: It was a late New Jersey urologist who owned the penis.) “But also,” Ruck continues, “Rasputin’s penis is in a jar! I forget where it is, but it’s like—it looks like it might have come from a donkey.”

When you’re playing the part of Connor Roy, an eccentric so obsessed with Napoleonica that he participates in the secondary market for the noted little dick’s noted little dick, all of this is relevant research. Connor is a damaged soul: part presidential candidate, whose only specific platforms seem to be “I don’t want to pay taxes” and “I want my father to love me”; part suaveless sugar daddy to his party-girl-turned-escort-turned-aspiring-playwright girlfriend, Willa; and part weirdo with an antiquities broker on speed dial. “It’s obviously not an item of interest to serious scholars, but as a curio, sure,” Connor tells his family members with haughty I-wouldn’t-expect-you-to-understand remove. (Willa, meanwhile, says it looks like a piece of beef jerky.) “It’s a mere trifle, historically speaking,” Connor says.

During filming, Ruck tried to get in an additional ad-lib line at this point, one that would highlight his offscreen research findings. “I said: ‘Rasputin’s penis? Is amaaaazing,’” Ruck remembers. The line didn’t make it into the final cut, but it did make the respected British thespian Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Connor’s brother-in-law Tom Wambsgans, break character and crack up, according to Succession creator and 2019 Emmy winner Jesse Armstrong. “Alan can play straight and heartfelt,” Armstrong writes in an email from London, “but of course he is also an enormously talented comic actor too.”

In front of Ruck, on a marble table at the Getty, is a small but elaborate piece of furniture called a “kabinettschrank,” German for “display cabinet.” Measuring about two cubic feet and made of ebony and ivory and gemstones and marble and tortoiseshell and pewter and glass and brass, the kabinettschrank is decorated with tiny paintings of biblical and mythical scenes and filled with intricate networks of doors and drawers. According to its information card, it was likely once commissioned by some mid-17th-century European bigwig, maybe even an emperor, to “display their collections of curiosities, demonstrating their intellectual and aesthetic prowess.” (It’s not hard to imagine that urologist from New Jersey storing some of his other treasures, like Abe Lincoln’s bloody death-collar or Hermann Göring’s delicates, in a similar fashion.)

It’s exactly the kind of opulent, obsolete artifact that a Connor Roy would love, as well as a reminder that, strange as the character may be, he’s also a genre of guy who has existed through the ages: Someone who just wants a place to show off all the things he wants people to see, and a place to hide the things he does not. “The whole thing is a gift,” Ruck, dressed all in gray from ’stache to shoes and sitting on one of the roof decks of the Getty Center, says of his role in Succession. “The writing is a gift. This show is a gift.” For Ruck, it’s also a career-redefining opportunity, one that lets him romp with a deft ensemble cast and explore the contours of a funny, fraught role and, most importantly, become something of an expert on, er, comparative history.

Alan Ruck and Matthew Broderick in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’
Paramount Pictures

Ruck has Big Dad Energy, even if his two arguably biggest roles to date, Cameron Frye and Connor Roy, are both very sad sons. He has four children: two adult kids with his first wife, Claudia (the couple divorced in 2005), and two elementary-age kids with The Killing actress Mireille Enos, whom he married in 2008. Arriving at the Getty’s “people mover” tram on a recent Wednesday morning, Ruck says he has not eaten breakfast but also asks whether there is any chocolate on/in his salt-and-pepper horseshoe mustache, a classic parental state of affairs.

He boasts about how his son recently came home from school and lectured him about the dangers of going swimming during a lightning storm. Slightly more harrowing was a visit, yesterday, to his third-grade daughter’s school: “The principal was begging us not to get the kids cellphones, just please don’t,” he says, with the mild horror of a dad who has just realized that the fun’s just beginning. He confirms a rumor that he freakin’ loves Monster energy drinks. “I think if he was stuck on an island,” says Justine Lupe, who plays Willa, “it might be one of his top, like, five items.” Ruck used to drink coffee by the gallon, he says, but lost his taste for it along the way. Now “Monster screw-top, blue,” is his go-to can. “You know, I’m, I’m trying to do this career thing and I have small children,” he says. “I have a younger wife, and I need to keep up.”

He tells the story—oft-repeated, but now foundational—of how he nearly blew off the audition for Succession altogether in 2016 because, after having been on the road in Chicago to shoot the TV show The Exorcist, he had promised Enos that he’d be back for a Mommy and Me class. The rules of Mommy and Me presented a logistical problem: “You have to put your phone in your shoe outside,” Ruck explains. When he and his family emerged, the shoe was blowing up with emails and text messages, all of which came to the same conclusion: just get to executive producer Adam McKay’s house, now. “So I went,” Ruck says, “and I said, ‘I don’t—yeah, I don’t really know this.’ They said, ‘Make it up!’”

It wasn’t the first time that he nearly turned down a big break before it even began. In 1985, when Ruck was a respected young actor in the Chicago theater circuit, he got an offer to fly to New York to try out for the Neil Simon play Biloxi Blues. He told his manager no: He was sick of paying his way to fruitless auditions. But producer Manny Azenberg said he’d reimburse the airfare if Ruck didn’t get the part. The promise wound up being unnecessary when Ruck was cast, alongside young hotshot Matthew Broderick, in the role. “Now I’m not just an actor doing a play,” Ruck told the Chicago Tribune when he bid the Windy City adieu for the bright lights of Broadway. “I’m in show business, which I suppose is not a bad thing.”

He has been in show business ever since, in roles ranging from a storm-chaser in Twister to a crass political adviser in the series Spin City to a horny dad in I Love You, Beth Cooper to a Department of Defense empty suit in Brad Pitt’s recent Netflix film War Machine. But two of his performances have stood out above the rest: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’s Cameron and Succession’s Connor, one of them a long-ago breakout role that, for a time, he kind of wanted to escape; the other a ridiculous and often odious human who many viewers can’t help but embrace.

In 1985, in The New York Times, Frank Rich—now an executive producer of Veep and Succession, but at the time the paper’s influential theater critic—called Biloxi Blues on Broadway “joyous and unexpectedly rewarding.” In the play, set at a military boot camp in Mississippi, Ruck and Broderick have one scene in which they are seated next to one another as Broderick scribbles in a notebook and Ruck naps on his shoulder. “I used to free associate in that book,” says Broderick, speaking by phone from New York. “I would just write anything that came to my mind.” One day, he nudged Ruck to look at what he had written: that he’d been cast as a character named Ferris Bueller in a new John Hughes film.

Broderick made it clear to the filmmakers that he thought his buddy Ruck should be cast in the movie too, and that the role of the melancholy, hockey-jersey-clad Cameron would be perfect. The only issue was Ruck’s age: Cameron was a high school kid, and Ruck was a 29-year-old married man. (“It was kind of cool that he was married,” says Broderick, who was 23. “He was like, a real man, and we were all like, overgrown children.”)

“Twenty-nine?” laughs Janet Hirshenson, the veteran casting director who worked with John Hughes for the first time on Ferris Bueller, laughing over the phone. “I thought he was twenty-six, maybe!” Either way, she recalls initially having qualms about the age thing that were quickly dispelled when she went to see Ruck and Broderick together on Broadway. “They had great chemistry,” Hirshenson says.

Broderick says that whatever Ruck’s age was at the time (“I’m sure he lied about that,” he chuckles) he always seemed to be going-on-55. “And he still seems that age!” Broderick exclaims. “Like, now he seems younger than he really is.” It’s true: a Succession fun fact that is always good for a whoa is that Brian Cox, who plays family patriarch Logan Roy, is only 10 years older than Ruck, who plays his son. And Ruck points out that Justine Lupe, the actress who plays his girlfriend, Willa, is at 30 years old a year younger than his oldest daughter. “But yeah,” repeats Broderick, “he was like, a Midwestern grown man, I felt. I think he had slicked-back hair even.”

This generational elusiveness worked perfectly for the role of Cameron, a pessimistic and hypochondriac latchkey kid with an old soul and an angry-old-man voice to go along with it. (Ruck’s famous pardon my French! impersonation of Sloane’s dad was actually an impression of Broderick doing an impression of Gene Saks, their distinctive director in Biloxi Blues.) Still, for as fun and everlasting of a finished product as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was, the experience of filming had its ups and downs. When they shot the scene in which a catatonic Cameron pitches nihilistically forward off the diving board and into a backyard swimming pool, Ruck did his own stunt, but “I couldn’t sink,” he says. “I was scrawnier than I am now. No muscle mass.” A special effects guy named John Frazier had a solution. “He said, ‘I got my dive equipment in the car!’” says Ruck. “So they put a dive belt on me underneath my T-shirt. Went right to the bottom.”

Like so many great works of artSuccession recently included!—reviews for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were mixed, and it was not immediately the cultural phenomenon that it later became. But it didn’t take long before the movie came to define Ruck’s body of work, an outcome he bristled at for years. “I thought I was a one-trick pony,” he told Playbill in 2005, “and people had seen the trick.” Still, he knew he was lucky to have the role. Charlie Sheen, a fellow Ferris castmember (“We all have our issues,” is how Ruck sums him up, “It’s just that he wrestles with his issues in the town square”) once passed along a remark from his father, Martin, that Ruck found extremely relatable. “Martin said: ‘By the time I get a script,’” says Ruck, “‘there’s like five other guys’ coffee cup rings on the cover.’ That’s definitely true for me.” He points out that Sheen’s other famous son, Emilio Estevez, was offered the part of Cameron initially.

When it came to the part of Connor, however, there were no coffee rings, just a figurative blank space where that blue Monster screw-top could go. Francine Maisler, who cast the pilot of Succession, had worked with Ruck on War Machine and suggested him for the Succession part. “It was just sort of unanimity,” says Rich, “that he just seemed right for it.”

Jeremy Strong and Alan Ruck in ‘Succession’
HBO

If it weren’t for a light, stubborn buffer of smog, the view from the rooftop of the Getty Center’s north building would stretch all the way to the ocean. It is a blessed vista: admission to the Getty is free, a genuine civic good, the kind of access that makes the idea of philanthropy feel like a noble thing and not just a tax avoidance strategy. Groups of schoolchildren are everywhere around the property, which was designed by Richard Meier and opened in 1997 and is a calming oasis of paintings and topiaries and cactus gardens and an enormous chandelier with a bowl for live goldfish.

Growing up in Parma, Ohio, Ruck benefited from the largesse of a similar noblesse oblige. His father was a granulator contracted to, say, grind up the powder that would become Flintstones vitamins for a pharmaceutical company, or to pulverize platinum for a metals business. Ruck’s mother, one of nine children, was one of just three who graduated from high school, the only to attend college, and eventually became a fifth-grade teacher with a master’s in education. His parents took him frequently to the art museum in Cleveland, which was free, and to local plays that cost a quarter.

“It was like, the Rockefellers or the Carnegies or whoever, making all this money,” Ruck says, “but maybe they were living in Pittsburgh, maybe they were living in Cleveland. And then the wife was like”—here, he makes his voice whispery, like a proper robber baron missus—“‘Well, I need to have something to talk about when I visit my friends in New York. I’ve just founded an opera company! I’ve just started an art museum! Oh that’s wonderful.’” He reverted back to his own voice. “So there was a lot of ego involved but, you know, we wound up benefiting.”

How to square this generous expanse with one of the most well-known stories about its benefactor, oil magnate J. Paul Getty? In 1973, when his grandson was kidnapped and held for ransom in Rome, Getty first dragged his feet on paying, then charged his progeny interest on a big portion of the funds. It’s not impossible to imagine Logan Roy, Succession’s grizzled chairman and CEO patriarch, having a similar episode. It also isn’t hard to imagine a helicopter swooping onto Getty property and the Roys stepping out, never having to engage with the world down on the parking lot level. The sweeping hills of Los Angeles, with their complicated terraces and gardens and homes under construction, also feel like a privileged gaze, a reminder that for some people, all this—the views, the solace, the beautiful art, the ability to literally look down upon traffic—is just the default.

When Ruck auditioned to be Connor there was little direction, but one exchange still stands out. “There was this one line,” Ruck says, “where I said, ‘Dad, there’s this job I want, it’s called president of the United States.’ And I said: He’s putting the old man on, right? And Adam said, ‘No, he’s deadly serious.’ That was the first major clue to who this guy is, and how removed from the real world he is. Since that time, everything I’ve picked up from Connor has reinforced that.”

Looking out toward the east, Ruck reminisces, pointing out a studio—dirty and full of pigeons, as he remembers—where he filmed a bizarre sitcom called Muscle in 1995 that involved a cannibal, a brothel, and fitness instructors and was “dead last in the ratings for 13 weeks,” Ruck says. He remembers the first time he came to visit the city while filming a 1983 film called Class, and a young Brat Packer who was “16 going on 45” offered him blow immediately upon his arrival to the airport. (“I mean, in those days I was happy to do that stuff,” Ruck says.) Working with so many people and on so many varied productions over the years, he has accumulated many stories.

After college, Ruck made his way to a burgeoning Chicago theater scene that featured institutions like the Steppenwolf Theatre and local playwrights like Neil LaBute. “There was a little bar that everybody went to,” he says, “and it’s like, that’s Chris Walken. That’s Harvey Keitel. That’s Bill Hurt. That’s Sigourney Weaver. She’s a tall girl.” Ruck once spotted Tennessee Williams in a “teddy bear coat” turning down a wardrobe girl’s offer to buy him a drink: “Oh no, darlin’, 13 is my limit,” says Ruck, imitating Williams’s lispy, Southern drawl. Ruck chickened out of introducing himself to the legend, Williams died not long after, and ever since then, Ruck says, “Now anytime I see somebody that I admire, I just go out of my way to tell them.”

Alan Ruck in ‘Speed’
20th Century Fox

He mooched off Broderick’s Winnebago on the set of Ferris Bueller, much nicer digs than Ruck had been assigned. (“A heroic move on my part,” Broderick says. “Seriously.”) Ruck doesn’t remember meeting Donald Trump on the set of Spin City, where Ruck played a crude political adviser whose quips would probably not pass muster at a network today, but he does recall meeting Ed Koch. (Why did that encounter stick out? “Cause he’s Ed Koch!”) When Ruck filmed Speed, everyone got to hang around the not-yet-completed 105 freeway, which was cool. (Ruck’s character in Speed was one of the only things to be totally altered by sub-rosa script-doctor Joss Whedon, who felt that Ruck wasn’t assholish enough to be the rude BMW owner as originally written and made him a parochial tourist instead.) When he was offered a role as Captain Harriman in 1994’s Star Trek Generations, it was via fax machine; he still makes appearances sometimes at fan conventions. (One is coming up in England this month.) “There’s a lot of crazy people,” is how he describes the scene, “but it’s life-affirming because it’s really kindhearted.”

Ruck played a storm-chaser in Twister, a movie that also starred the late, great actors Bill Paxton and Philip Seymour Hoffman. “When a big personality like that just leaves the planet,” Ruck says quietly, “it’s really hard to absorb.” But he smiles as he explains that Paxton loved movies so much that “he started out as a set dresser on porn.” He mentions working with Helen Hunt in Mad About You and on a pilot whose name he doesn’t mention but which brought them to Thailand and resulted in this Mad Lib of a memory: “And the little band of Thai people started to play the Tennessee Waltz,” Ruck is saying, “and Helen Hunt was there, and we just looked at each other and we were like, well, we have to. So we got up and we danced.”

When Ruck appeared in Young Guns II, in 1990, “I got the hell beat out of me,” he says. “A scrawny guy, and I got dumped off of horses twice, really hard. But the good news is after that I met my chiropractor.” Nearly 30 years later, Ruck and the chiropractor are still going strong. Some stories have happy endings.

“No, no, nonononono,” is what Ruck remembers thinking when it dawned on him that a magnetic actress 19 years his junior might actually be hitting on him backstage. “Nooo, no, nonononono.” It was 2005, and Ruck was in the midst of his divorce; he had gotten involved in a Manhattan Theatre Club production called Absurd Person Singular in order to shake things up and get out of the apartment. The last thing he wanted was to go on a date, particularly with a fellow castmember. “I don’t even know how to go on a date,” he says. “I never actually learned how to do that.”

But to the magnetic actress doing the propositioning, there was never really a moment’s hesitation. “I just started, like, shamelessly flirting,” says Enos, who at the time had just appeared with Kathleen Turner in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and who swears that she had always preferred Cameron to Ferris. “It was, like, larger than me. And then I watched his poor little brain, its wheels turning, trying to figure out what was happening.”

One night, Ruck recalls, his friend Joey Slotnick, who had also been in Twister, came to see the show, they all went out to dinner together, and a few days later after a performance Ruck ran into Enos. “And she looks like one million bucks,” he says. “I’m like, you look amazing. I said, what’s going on? She was going on a date with Joey. And I just had the zoom-in, dolly-back moment.” When Slotnick called to coordinate timing, Enos answered the phone, hooked her arm through Ruck’s while she spoke, and looked him in the eye the entire time. (“Total, like, backstage floozy,” Enos laughs.) Ruck drove home that night repeating “You’re so stupid, you’re so stupid, you’re so stupid” to himself like a mantra, and he wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Even Lupe loves to tell the story of her scene partner’s romance. “I was like, go Mireille!” she says.

In the years since, Ruck and Enos have wrestled with the bountiful, though incredibly logistically fraught, problem of managing two thriving acting careers as well as two kids. Ruck’s version of his Mommy and Me Audition Story is good, but Enos’s is even better. She tells a long, vivid tale about how she and Ruck had for years been taking turns managing their careers to allow one another to professionally thrive while also taking care of the children, and about how Ruck had been away for a while filming The Exorcist in Chicago right at the same time that she was back in L.A. with two young kids and a lead role on a network show called The Catch, and about how that damn class had been the light at the end of her tunnel during a harrowing time, and, and, and ...

“You go into survival mode,” Enos says, “and it’s like, everything will be OK if we can go to Mommy and Me together as a family.” When Ruck told her the great news that he’d heard from HBO—HBO!—Enos says, “I had a full-blown, embarrassing, ugly-crying meltdown. And because he’s such a good guy, he was like: ‘Say no more! It’s done! I’m not going! I’m going to class! I’m going to hit tambourines!’”

After class, Enos says, the gist of all the messages blowing up her husband’s phone was: “‘If you walk in the room, it’s basically yours. But you have to walk in the room.’” Ruck did, and it was. Lately, Succession filming has brought Ruck to places like Croatia and Wales while production on the fantasy series Good Omens stationed Enos in Toronto and London. This June and July alone, Ruck slept in 11 different beds and took seven different long-haul flights. (It’s part of why he’s still so tight with the chiropractor.) “In the old days,” says Ruck, “you moved to Los Angeles because you wanted to get into television and you did everything right here. But now you meet people here, and then you film everywhere else!”

Sometimes they bring the kids along with them, homeschooling them on the road. Once, they left them with caregivers for 10 days. “We’re never gonna do that again,” Ruck says. “Even though we have wonderful people, it was just too way too hard for everybody. Mireille was heartsick.” Another time, with Enos filming in South Africa and Ruck in England, the pair decided to meet in Budapest for a long weekend they referred to as their Budamoon. But “our Budamoon,” Ruck says, “consisted of me watching her sleep because she was so jet-lagged.” Ruck and Enos have been trying to follow the three-week rule—the longest they go without seeing each other—suggested to them by Macfadyen and his wife, the actress Keeley Hawes.

As their children have gotten older, the decisions have grown trickier, Enos says, but then she hears her daughter say something like “Oh, I had forgotten that the light in London is so different from Los Angeles,” and she feels better. Ruck says he got some great advice from his friend Jay O. Sanders. “We were talking about raising kids in the city,” he says, “and he said: ‘Raise them anywhere. Just love ‘em. You know?’” It’s the kind of advice that you just wish someone had given to Logan Roy in Succession, even if it would probably make for a far less interesting show.

Alan Ruck in ‘Star Trek Generations’
Paramount Pictures

At its darkest moments, Succession is a show about what can happen to a person, however “set for life” they may be, when that sort of vital, unconditional love is withheld. “He started with nothing,” Ruck says of the profane lion of a patriarch that is Logan as he sits in the Getty cafeteria for a meal of veggie pizza and kombucha. “And then he fought and scratched and cheated and lied and did everything to get to where he is. And then, you know, he just handed everything to us on a silver platter.” And so, resentful of his children’s easy life, Logan routinely cuts the Roy children down to size through emotional manipulation and selfish decisions. It’s not always an easy watch, but neither are, say, the multiple entertainment properties this past year that have focused on the dysfunctional Getty family, and they are based on a true story.

Throughout his career, Ruck has sought out clarifying backstories on his characters, official or otherwise, wherever he could, and often these backstories include some sort of parental void. Take Cameron, for example. “Cameron had this dysfunctional relationship with his father,” Ruck explained to The A.V. Club in 2018, relaying what Hughes had told him about the character’s choice of hockey apparel, “but he had a really good relationship with his grandfather, who lived in Detroit. And the old man would take him to Red Wings games, which was one of the happiest aspects of Cameron’s life up to that point.” For Star Trek Generations in 1994, he similarly fleshed out his character beyond what was explicit: “Harriman came from a wealthy family,” he says, “and the position was basically purchased for him by his family as a stepping stone in the political career.”

And then there’s Connor Roy. Armstrong says that his vision of the character of Connor has remained effectively unchanged since he first wrote the pilot script in 2016. “I think the guy who brings the sourdough starter as a gift is basically the same Connor as now,” Armstrong says. Still, Ruck’s interpretation of the role has drawn out all the layers that Armstrong had hoped to see. “Our ideal is for all the characters in the show to have the complexities and contradictions of real people and he can hit everything I wanted from the eldest sibling,” Armstrong writes. “The enthusiasm and the sadness, the rather brutally reductive economic view of life, but also a certain strain of romanticism. He’s sort of impervious and thick-skinned but also wounded and vain.”

Ruck says that as he understands it, Connor—half-sibling to what he calls the “golden trio” of Kendall, Shiv, and Roman Roy—was probably the child of divorce at around 8 years old. “She was old money, New York family from back in the ’60s,” Ruck says of Connor’s mother, who has not been shown in the series to date, “and [Logan] was this brash upstart dude making money hand over fist. So it was really, it was a power marriage. And probably not a lot of love.” There have been hints, Ruck adds, that his mother had mental health challenges.

As Connor, Ruck plays a character who is running for president but also often possesses a childlike view of the world. (The tribute he recorded for Logan’s 50th business anniversary in Episode 8 was heartbreaking in how emotionally stunted it sounded: “I super-love you, Super Dad,” Connor said.) “There’s a whole other way to play Connor as a cartoon,” says Rich. “But what he does is very delicate, very layered, and very moving.” Connor is a guy who effectively pays Willa to be with him, pouring money into what seems to be an increasingly ill-fated production, but also seems to truly believe this might be how to find love. “I see Connor in a kind of sweet light,” Lupe says. “I see him almost floating through life, and kind of touching down. He’s living in his own world.”

About three months ago, Lupe’s boyfriend made her sit down and watch an Alan Ruck marathon, because despite working with Ruck for two seasons she had somehow never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or Speed (or, more forgivably, any episodes of Spin City). Cameron endures, but his target demographic is getting older, and these days, when people come up to Ruck to say hello, they mention Succession the way people used to bring up Ferris Bueller.

Ruck has built a career making cameo appearances on other people’s shows, though there is nothing worse than showing up at a sitcom as a guest star “and everybody seems to be in a bad mood and nobody laughs at any of your stuff,” he says. It has given him even more of an appreciation for Succession, where he says everyone brings their A-game at all times, at times overwhelmingly so. Ruck says that Nicholas Braun, who plays Greg, reminds him of a mix of John Cusack and Jimmy Stewart. He frets sometimes about Jeremy Strong, who has become notorious for his intense process while playing the troubled Kendall. “He needs to keep himself in the zone in order for him to feel like he can deliver his best performance,” Ruck says. “But, you know, I get worried for him, because for a lot of last season and part of this season, he’s had to live in hell. It’s like, you can’t stay there 24/7! It’s too hard.”

It’s not only the acting: Succession often includes technically difficult scenes like the Tern Haven dinner party or, Ruck says, a long tracking-shot scene at Tom’s bachelor party that he calls “kind of a Scorsese kind of deal.” That same episode contains one of the more classic Connor lines of all time: “Little tip,” he tells Tom, the bachelor, about talking to women. “Ask them where they were on 9/11. If they don’t know, they could be under 21.” Ruck says this line with the exact same knowing tone he uses to brush off Napoleon’s ween.

Walking through the Getty lobby, Ruck spots a rare form that is both taller and thinner than his own, and stands next to it for a picture. It is a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti called Standing Woman I, and a similar statue can be seen in the background of the Art Institute museum scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a popular part of the film that to this day still brings tourists to Chicago in order to recreate some of the movie’s iconic shots.

Alan Ruck poses with Standing Woman I
Katie Baker

When Giacometti built all the slender and unsettling statues, back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he intended to display them en masse; they were meant for the lobby of the Chase Manhattan building in New York, where the public could visit them and interact. But the plan fell through, and the statues all went their separate ways, and as the writer Jean Genet pointed out: “The resemblance of his figures to each other seems to me to represent that previous point at which human beings are confronted with the most irreducible fact: the loneliness of being exactly equivalent to all others.”

When Ruck heard feedback early in the first season of Succession that some viewers felt there was no one to root for, he says he found it “baffling,” because he never saw that as the point.

“I’m glad that we shine a little bit of light,” he says. “’Cause I mean, the difference between these people and us is that they have a lot of money. That’s it. That’s it. And also that they think that they’re better than everybody else on account of the money. It’s like, well, I made all this money, so I must be, you know, one of the chosen few. And I truly believe that this is the way it’s been since the beginning of time, that the ruling class truly feels that everything on the earth belongs to them. That includes the other people, who are just another natural resource, you know?”

As he speaks, a Getty worker stands in waders in a nearby white stone reflecting pool, skimming it for dirt and leaves. The tableau resembles one of Succession’s trademark ultra-brief glimpses of its workers as they throw away uneaten lobsters and step off buses, all of them as integral to the Roys’ lives as they are unseen.

“And what’s also interesting is, I came from the working class,” says Ruck, who at one point was employed at an industrial laundromat to make ends meet. “People that start in the working class and become wildly successful, and all of a sudden they think their shit doesn’t stink? It’s like, wha? Are you forgetting your life?” But Ruck’s also genuinely fascinated by what it means to be in a truly rarefied echelon. As part of his research for Succession, he watched the documentary Born Rich and was surprised by how much he’d never even known to consider. “Like the reality of the prenup world,” he says. “With people at this level, you can’t just meet a girl and fall in love and say, ‘Yeah, you’re the one.’ She’s gotta be vetted by the family! And she might not make it! You know? And they might tell you to keep looking! So, they have to deal with all that kind of stuff. And not to feel too sorry for those people, but it’s just a strange world, that most of us will never deal with.”

Ruck is back on the people-mover, eager to get home: Enos is returning from London today through the weekend to see the family before heading back to England again for a couple of weeks. After that she goes on to Barcelona, where the whole family plans to meet her for a month. Ruck has a break before shooting Season 3 of Succession, and the kids will be temporarily homeschooled. “I’m going to need a tutorial on the math,” Ruck says. He eyes the traffic-choked 405 as it grows bigger and closer.

“I try never to drive on the 405,” he admits. “I kind of can’t handle it.” Without access to one of Logan Roy’s “whirlybirds,” though, there isn’t much of a choice; not everyone can stay put all the time at the top of the mountain. Music that sounds like something out of a garish Waystar Royco employee training video chirps over the PA system. “Back to the rat race,” Ruck mutters, as the gleaming Getty Center recedes above, “with all the other rats.”

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.

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