All About Succession Star, Jeremy Strong

Jeremy Strong never fails to captivate audiences with his piercingly precise performances on screen and stage alike. Famed for going "method" in his roles, the actor has built a career on intense dedication.

As Matthew in "The Gentlemen," he transformed into an eccentric, money-hungry villain who stole scenes with his dry humor. In "The Trial of the Chicago 7," he portrayed Jerry Rubin, the ultimate radical hippy. In "Armageddon Time," he embodied Irving Graff, a Jewish father in 1960s America. But it was his portrayal of Kendall Roy in "Succession' that catapulted Strong to A-lister status. His astounding performance as the tortured, power-obsessed heir to his father's media empire led to two Emmy nominations (one of which he won) and internet fame.

With "Succession" complete after four acclaimed seasons, Strong is looking to the next big thing. "There is a feeling of 'Now what?' that I don't have the answer to," he admitted to GQ in 2023. Whatever does come next for the actor, he's sure to give it everything he has — just as he always does.

Jeremy Strong grew up in Boston

Before becoming known as one of his generation's great actors, Jeremy Strong led a pretty ordinary childhood. He was born on Christmas Day in 1978 to parents Maureen, who worked as a hospice nurse, and David, who worked in juvenile detention centers. Strong grew up in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston, Massachusetts.

"My parents felt tremendous economic pressure, just trying to survive and tread water," Strong recalled of his childhood to The New Yorker. "Often, it was somewhere I just wanted to get out of." Another influence was his grandfather, who was Jewish and lived in Queens. The actor told Vulture, "I used to live in his basement growing up in the summers. I was very close to him."

Although Strong was eager to leave his childhood home, he quickly became emotional when returning to the house with a reporter. "It just feels — big feelings coming back here," Strong told CBS as he glimpsed his old home for the first time in two decades. "I don't want to monumentalize it, but in a way, these are like the waters of childhood."

He had a near-death experience as a child

When he was young, Jeremy Strong's family may not have had much money, but they would do anything for each other. As the actor told CBS, his father saved his life, risking his own. When Strong was 8 years old, he was nearly struck by a vehicle. "There was a car coming, like, 40 miles an hour that wasn't slowing down for the traffic light," Strong told CBS. "So, he picked me up and he threw me out of the way. And he got hit by the car, broke all the bones in both of his legs. Saved my life."

Unlike Kendall Roy in "Succession," a man who has a tortured, complex relationship with his father, Strong had a healthy relationship with his real-life dad. "I don't think I understand how I have access to that relationship," he reflected when speaking with CBS. "There's not some hidden trauma in my life or my background."

Jeremy Strong was a natural performer as a child

From the very beginning, Jeremy Strong seemed to be destined to be an actor. As he put it when speaking to W Magazine, "It was preconscious. All I ever wanted to do was act."

As a child, he displayed the signs of being a natural performer and was constantly putting on shows for his family and trying to make them laugh. Although he was introverted, the stage became a place where he could express himself. He recalled one of his early roles, telling the publication, "When I was 7 or 8, I played Winthrop in 'The Music Man,' and the character has a speech impediment. I think I played the hell out of a lisp. We're all so playful when we're young. We're present; we're full of wonder."

By the fifth grade, Strong was a member of Act/Tunes, a children's theater company. A young Chris Evans, who went on to play Captain America, saw him perform as his sister was also in the group. Even then, he made an impression. As Evans told The New Yorker, "I was probably nine, ten, going to my sister's shows, and even then thinking, 'Damn, this kid is great!'"

He studied at Yale

After falling in love with acting at a young age, Jeremy Strong continued to pursue his dream of being a professional actor with dogged determination. He landed a scholarship at Yale but once at the university, Strong felt like an outsider. "I don't come from a very highly cultured, highly educated ... I come from a family that has a lot of emotional intelligence and presence and empathy," he confessed to GQ. "But when I went to Yale, I felt like I had a lot to compensate for, and part of it was probably a way to cope and a way to feel a sense of belonging in that environment." In fact, he even thinks that Yale gave him the serious persona he is now known for.

Although he initially wanted to study theatrical theory, he eventually decided to major in English. "Something in me just shut down," Strong said of the theater class to The New Yorker. "I remember feeling, I need to run from this and protect whatever inchoate instinct I might have." Instead, he continued acting on the side, joining Yale Dramat, a student group. But even there, he didn't fit in. Unlike the other amateur student actors, Strong was single-mindedly focused on his future acting career. "You always had the feeling that he was operating on some level that was past the level that you were at," one of his fellow student actors said. "I'd never met anyone else at Yale with that careerist drive."

Jeremy Strong's career began slowly

After leaving Yale, Jeremy Strong dove into the professional acting industry — but he didn't meet with much success initially. In fact, he struggled to find work for years, aside from a few small screen roles and off-Broadway plays. In the meantime, he waited tables and worked at a hotel. "The first year in New York was really hard," he told The New Yorker. "I don't think I had any auditions. It was this feeling of being cut off from your oxygen supply."

Eventually, he moved to Los Angeles, where it was even tougher. When he auditioned for a role in "Cowboys & Aliens," the producers suggested he audition to play the body double of Captain America. "I was broke. I needed money. I considered it," he told The Times. "But that's my story of LA. It was just never going to happen for me here. It didn't feel like what I had to offer was valued."

As time went on, his friends began to progress in their careers. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult to see people I was close to getting work," Strong admitted. Despite the pressure from family and friends to find a plan B, he never did. 

He was fired from Detroit days before his wedding

After years of struggle, Jeremy Strong hit yet another painful snag in his career. In 2016, he cast in what would be his biggest role yet — a guard in Katheryn Bigelow's "Detroit," which followed the race riots of 1967. He was thrilled and rearranged his wedding plans in order to star in the movie. While the rest of the wedding party celebrated, he worked.

After diving headfirst into the role, doing hours of research and preparation, Bigelow fired him after just one day of filming. "I was just not the character that she had in her mind," Strong later told The New Yorker. "It was a devastating experience." According to Bigelow, she felt the character simply didn't work in the story. Even though she found him a small part in the film, Strong was crushed. He went straight from set to get married in Denmark.

Jeremy Strong started a family

In 2016, Jeremy Strong married Emma Wall, a psychiatrist and documentary filmmaker, in an extravagant wedding in Denmark. The pair went on to have three daughters — all of which were born while Strong was filming "Succession."

As the actor told GQ, being away from his daughters while filming the show helped him connect with his character. "I have three young children right now, and I'm at work almost all the time," he said. "That's something that Kendall, in a way, is experiencing."

His children also changed his perspective on his life and his work. When he was younger, he explained, he always imagined his entire life would be dedicated to acting — having a family wasn't even on his radar. "And now, of course, I would do anything for them," he told the outlet. "It's the one thing I feel like I've done right in my life is have these beautiful children, these three girls that I have."

He initially hoped to play Roman in Succession

It's hard to imagine anyone else playing Kendall Roy in "Succession." Who else could embody his intense obsession with his father's company or his facade of male bravado? However, there was a time when Strong imagined himself playing a very different role — that of Roman Roy, Kendall's younger brother. 

Apparently, Strong had been given the script by executive producer Adam McKay. Strong immediately felt a connection to Roman. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, Roman is such a cool part. He's, like, this bon-vivant prick. I could do something that I hadn't done before,'" Strong recalled to The New Yorker. However, Kieran Culkin was cast in the role.

Nevertheless, Strong didn't give up. He convinced the team to let him audition to play Kendall instead. In the audition room, he eventually learned to capture the irreverence of tech bros. As he put it, "It was about, like, Beastie Boys-ing it up. I was missing the patois of bro-speak." The rest, of course, is history.

As Kendall Roy, Jeremy Strong was catapulted to TV stardom

After years of small roles and relative anonymity, Jeremy Strong suddenly found himself in the spotlight as one of the leads of HBO's "Succession." His character quickly became a sort of internet darling, with fans obsessing over his every move. As one writer noted in a piece for Paste, plenty of fans even developed "weird" crushes on Kendall.

Suddenly, acting offers started pouring in. After the first season of "Succession," Strong landed parts in films like "Serenity," alongside A-listers Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. He also starred in Guy Ritchie's "The Gentlemen" and Aaron Sorkin's "The Trial of the Chicago 7."

Finally, everything seemed to be falling into place. And because he had never once wavered, he was ready. As he put it to The Times, "I've spent my life preparing for this moment." Not only was Strong prepared for the fame, but he was also ready to take on just about any role Hollywood could throw at him.

A 2021 profile of Jeremy Strong went viral

When Jeremy Strong's interview with The New Yorker was published in 2021, many fans and friends of the actor were shocked by the piece, believing it to be overly harsh regarding his intensive acting techniques. The interview quickly went viral, with fans weighing in on social media. The author of the profile, Michael Schulman, tweeted the article and it racked up over 14,000 likes. "It was a wild ride. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster," he later said of the reaction to the profile on the "Longform" podcast.

Many of Strong's friends leaped to his defense after the profile came out. Jessica Chastain took to Twitter, writing, "The profile that came out on him was incredibly one sided. Don't believe everything you read folks." Anne Hathaway shared her thoughts on Instagram: "As the week ends, I would like to send some love to Jeremy Strong who I'm lucky enough to have worked with twice and who I am proud to consider a friend." Even Strong responded to the controversy. It was, as he told GQ, "15 minutes of shame, with a long tail," adding that it reminded him of being an outcast in college. "I hadn't felt judged like that in a very long time," he said.

He lives in both New York and Denmark

Since tying the knot with Emma Wall, Jeremy Strong has lived between New York and Denmark, where his wife is from. Denmark seems to offer Strong some respite from his work. For an actor who goes all in for every role, it's easy to see how this might be important.

"I love Denmark. I find it a very sane and gentle place," he told The Guardian. "It feels like a refuge for me, and it's great to have somewhere that's a docking station after all this work, which I find very enervating and scary and stressful." 

In fact, as he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2023, after wrapping "Succession" for the final season, he shaved his head and flew straight to Denmark. "I have a house near the ocean," he said. "I went to my house directly from the airport, took a long walk, sat on the beach, watched Kendall go down with the sun, and said, 'Adios.'"

Jeremy Strong took on a new challenge in Armageddon Time

In 2022, Jeremy Strong starred in "Armageddon Time" as a 1960s father in New York. The film deals with racism in the United States at the time — for Strong, the film gave him a chance to explore something completely new. "The script landed on me like a tidal wave," he recalled to W Magazine. "This character, who's described as a Jewish Stanley Kowalski with an engineering degree, reminded me of my grandfather, who had been a plumber in Flushing and had a temper."

"Armageddon Time" fell in line with a string of socially conscious films that had recently piqued Strong's interest. During the pandemic, Strong began to reconsider the types of roles he was drawn to. As he told the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, "I think [the pandemic] has made everyone sort of take stock of what matters to them and what's essential — and certainly for me, it's made think about what kind of stories I want to be part of and what kind of stories I want to serve." Some of the projects he said he's proud to have worked on include "Selma," "Detroit," and "The Trial of the Chicago 7."

Leaving behind Kendell Roy was 'like a death' for the actor

For Jeremy Strong, who had given everything to his portrayal of Kendall Roy, the end of "Succession" wasn't an easy loss to bear. After all, he had always treated his character as a real, living, breathing person. In early 2023, ahead of the series finale, Strong told GQ that saying goodbye to Kendall "will feel like a death, in a way."

After the finale aired, this turned out to be true. Strong spoke to Vanity Fair about moving on from the character. "It was hard for me to watch last night, what he goes through, because he's become very real to me, and in a way is indistinguishable from myself," he confessed. "This, to me, was a life and death thing. And I took it as seriously as I take my own life." His whole world, he said, revolved around Kendall. "But then when it's over, it's, it's like vapor," he explained.

It's clear that Strong will be mourning the loss of Kendall for years to come — and to be honest, so will we.