I mean it's really enjoyable to watch because of course you've got Matthew McFadden playing Tom who just makes everything hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. It's a situation where the mentor maybe needs the mentee more which is a, you know, unhealthy dynamic. But I certainly in my work life have experienced the difference between a boss who acts like that and a boss who doesn't.
Hello and welcome back to part two of this special episode with Lucy Prebble, the executive producer and writer from the hit tv show Succession.
In part one of this series we learned about Lucy’s background as a playwright in London’s West End, her time as a TV Showrunner and how she nearly didn’t accept the offer to work on Succession, and how saying yes ended up being one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
In part two it’s a deep deep dive into the world of Waystar Royco and Succession.
Succession at it’s core is about love and power. It’s about the need for it, the absence of it, and the lengths people will go to keep it.
In this episode you will learn about the real world examples used to create this fictional company, why Logan Roy’s media mogul character was the only archetype in the show, and how the writers room use the power of constraint to work out what was the most successiony way to tell a story, and yes that’s a word.
If you’re curious about why Logan was loveable and hateable, why it was important for Shiv to be as deeply flawed as her brothers and whether we will ever see a bromance like Tom and Greg ever again, then all those questions and more will be answered.
Let’s head over to Part II of my conversation with Lucy Prebble..
It does sound like you had a really great culture first style writing room and that you were able to sort of really, like you said, it set the tone and you were able to really bring the best out of this really dynamic set of people all brought together in order to bring this story to life. Very stark contrast to the company culture we saw in Succession, I guess, where did you look for inspiration when it comes to the portrayal of the company culture in Succession and how much were you reflecting on real world corporate dynamics that you were either hearing of or maybe even experiencing in previous workplaces?
Oh sure, I mean, Succession's really built on the idea of research and truth. Almost nothing happens in the show that we can't find some sort of real life corollary for. That doesn't mean that it's based on that thing. It's more that we come up with ideas and then check whether or not they would happen. Because I think the danger with a show like that is you could just like, you could fly away into just things happening that you want to happen because it would be funny or interesting, and then there's just no truth to it.
So we, yeah, we read a huge amount about media companies. Obviously there's a large number of sort of tectonic plates moving in terms of deals over the last 10 years anyway. And we studied them in the last season and season four. We talked a lot about the AOL merger and examples of other sort of mergers and purchases by very large companies and the kind of culture clash that those things had engendered.
Also the weird, surprising top-down or bottom-up way that there's a lot of purchases that firstly seem a little counterintuitive. When you think about the, you assume that Discovery, for example, was not able to purchase what they did. And when you actually look into the way in which those sales and mergers work, they are fascinating.
So we talked a lot about AOL and Time Warner, and of course also Fox. I mean, one of the things that we were fascinated by early on in succession was when people talk about Fox buildings and corporate culture, they talk about it being incredibly tatty and really old. You know, you'd be walking in and seeing sort of like big gray computers, like Amstrad era computers and you know, that the walls are just really like styrofoam, you know, like no money, no expense is spent at all if it doesn't have to be. And we found that really interesting, you know, and when thinking about Logan, who probably is a, has a personality that has at its heart a kind of frugality and an anger about having to spend money, we were quite interested in that being a little bit what Waystar might be like on the lower levels, which you rarely see, but sometimes you do. So yeah, we were inspired by a lot of real life stuff. And of course, some of the relationships come out of personal experiences that we've had in workplaces or in family life. It's as much about family as it is work. But we also read a lot and started to listen to a lot of tech podcasts as well recently particularly for writing Kendall. There are a few over the last few years, Silicon Valley Tech podcasts that are coming out where we found a lot of language and useful sensibility for Kendall particularly.
Yeah, like you said, there's the family aspect, there's the traditional media company, but then, you know, from the very first episodes, there's this potential acquisition of a new tech company and the way that it all sort of plays out and certainly, you know, one of the things that I think, uh, many culture amp customers, you know, have had to deal with is the idea of bringing two cultures together and, you know, surveying, uh, employees from different companies to see how those things really play out. You, the show like did such a good job of, I guess, really showcasing really important moments that happen inside of, you know, I guess, everyday aspects of companies in both a way that was, you know, full of lightness and sometimes humor, but then also seriousness. So I might touch on both of those. Um, and I might start with maybe one of the more serious ones, which is, I guess the use of boardroom negotiations and creating dramatic tension with the goal of, I guess, a realistic portrayal of company communication and decision making. Why was it really important to, I guess, try show to people what really happens inside some of those boardrooms in that can be full of so much drama and tension, which for most people, we probably really never see the inner workings of the boards that we actually work for.
Yeah, well we were just fascinated in it for the same reasons, that it's an area you're often kept outside of. And I think first and foremost we of course wanted to be dramatic, we also wanted to be funny. So of course there are scenes where you're deliberately writing for characters to be incredibly self-involved or selfish, you know, things that provide humour, which isn't how everybody in a corporate culture is. But one thing we always found amusing ourselves is we would employ a lot of background actors to come in for, let's say, when the bankers are looking at a deal and there's a lot of pressure to push a deal through, you've got sort of 50 people in the background who are actually doing the work while you've got sort of two, like, protagonists here having an argument about a dick pic or whatever. Because that is true to a lot of corporate experience, particularly in this, in this company, which is a sort of family media empire. You've got people who don't necessarily do that much work, but are incredibly, you know, self-involved and self-important. And then you've got 50 people behind them actually doing the work. And that's, um, you know, that, that can happen in a lot of corporations.
But also, yeah, bored romantics are interesting, sometimes because what you learn is how, you know, at the top of corporate culture, there is often quite a lot of a, I just wanna make my life easier nepotism. And I thought it was important for us to show that sometimes the motivations for people making decisions aren't the motivations of, I hope my employees are protected and my shareholders are protected, quite often they're, you know, I like this guy, I don't like that guy, or, you know, I wanna cash out desperately, and I just wanna buy, you know, an island close to Mauritius that's mine. And of course, those are satirical points that we're making, but then they're not based on nothing. So I think it's important to also show that there is a sort of self-interest, sometimes at a board level, that if you could see it, would annoy or depress you. And that's some of what we were trying to show.
Which I think the show, what the show does a really beautiful job of is you could spend three or four episodes on something and you go into so much detail about how something's going to potentially play out. And then you get to the moment where the decision is made and it comes like in a few seconds. And I think it is a metaphor about like what sort of plays out in companies, which can be sometimes, you know, months and months and months and months and work of all this work and always planning all these things. And then like you said, someone's like, I just want to get out of his room and if I can say yes to something that gets me out of his room quicker, then I'm just going to vote on this thing and then I'm thinking about something else. And I think that is some of the hardest things that we balance inside of a company is this constant, you know, I guess, yeah, like the, where the power lies and I guess how much of our work ends up being impacted by decisions that we have absolutely no insight into.
Right. Yeah, and that can be really challenging. I mean, the flip side of that, I suppose, is that when people make and build a company that runs in a slightly different way, it can be hugely successful and really dynamic and inspiring because it isn't five ex-CFOs on the board who don't care at all anymore except about their pay. It's people who really do believe in what the company's doing and who are really alive to it.
aren't just there to turn up and get their, you know, however many thousand a month for voting golden parachute type thing. They're people who really, you know, care about what's being done. So there's a sort of what not to do about that as well, that I think people can be inspired by. Not all companies need to run like that. And in fact, when companies do run like that, they tend to be very inefficient, because as you say, you've got, you've got people at a board level who kind of are just like, oh, I don't, you know, I don't really care. And also what makes my life easier? And that's it. Yeah.
You touched on, I guess, your work within the landscape of both TVs, Hollywood films, as well as, I guess, creative, the whole creative industry, where there can be these leadership personas of people that you don't really want to work under and how Jesse Armstrong was so different from maybe what typically you might see in terms of getting the best out of people. When it comes to the character work that you did on Logan Roy as a leader, I guess, you know… How do you describe Logan? Is it like that sort of that, you know, that person where you're like, they get results, but like would not want to work for them. Obviously, there's already been a whole bunch written about, you know, leaders that you obviously sort of looked at in terms of other media empires. But I would love for you to kind of really delve into the type of leader that you saw Logan Roy ended up being over the course of the four seasons.
Sure, well, Logan Roy literally is a very particular kind of leader, which is he's a founder, and they do tend to have slightly different personality types as CEOs than other CEOs who sort of come in to companies and take them over. Founders are generally allowed to be more emotionally volatile. You know, there's an assumption of that firstly they created the thing that they're running so with respect is demanded for that but also they tend to be allowed to be a bit more psychologically complicated by the market generally and Logan's one of those people I suppose he probably doesn't have to live up to the more modern demands that we put on people because he's a founder and I think that's interesting.
Yeah, he's a leader who governs by fear. And one of the interesting things about the show is you see him as a father and it's very much the same mould. So you've got this sort of patriarch, whether you're talking about company or family, who leads by withdrawing approval and sometimes punishment. And I think what's scary about that point be effective to people. It's particularly effective to people who themselves have been poorly parented. So sometimes you also find within institutions there is this odd echo between family and company because it's a similar setup isn't it. You're sharing a space, you have different roles within it, you have people who are ostensibly in charge of you who are going to like follow your growth.
So they're very, very similar and the psychological echoes can play out. So you, so you often find that people who, um, who stay for long times and put up with aggressive leadership that is quite stick over carrot might be used to that in other areas of their life. And that can, and that, you know, that can be quite sad and, and difficult, but that's basically who, who Logan Roy is.
What I find really interesting is a little bit like Tony Soprano, culturally we have a respect for a Logan type character because of our cultural admiration for these guys. Like, there's a love for Logan Roy because he just tells it how it is and he's sort of quite straightforward and aggressive and strong. Logan's the only character that we don't really write an interior life for. So, sometimes he'll have like a temper explosion or he'll behave very petulantly or child in a childlike way but what you don't have is any of the introspection that you might write for Kendall or Roman or Shiv who can at least talk about how they're feeling and even self-ironize and be like yeah I am like that aren't I or I'm a bit like this. Logan has none of that he has no capacity for that and culturally again we love that actually like we you know people look at Logan and they really go, well, I really respect him because, you know, even if he's a monster. And I find that really interesting. It tells us something about what we continue to value in leadership and in capitalism. Even if you accept he's a monster, you're like, well, he's clearly the only one who can run the company. And, you know, at least he's not an idiot. But, you know, and I think there's a lot to reflect on about that because he's an archetype, really. So, yeah, I think other forms of leadership are possible and I think our romanticisation of Logan tells us as much about ourselves as it does about him really.
And I know many people who are fans of the show have tried to maybe stick away from like who they were sort of going for and who was their favorite person, who they wanted to win in the end. But when I have heard people answer that question, especially I was listening to all of the episodes on the HBO podcast that they did with Kara Swisher. And you know, a lot of people said, I guess still Logan, because like you said, they kind of still find it even though they wouldn't want to work for the person, kind of endearing that like that's just the leader he is and he's unapologetic and he's the only one who can get the job done. Yet the other people in the show are way more in tune with their emotions, way more having the ability to really reflect and probably provide feedback. And you feel like you understand a little bit more about the human, even though many of them are deeply flawed yet. So many of us still found ourselves kind of on team Logan.
Yeah, absolutely and I get that. We also have to accept that there's a great deal of idiocy and incompetence in the other characters. I don't think Shiv, Kendall or Roman would be very good at running the company, I'm not claiming that. But there are competent characters that surround Logan. People like Jerry, who does briefly take the interim CEO role, possibly even Frank. We don't know that Frank is in any way incompetent, he's just sort of like.. fickle-y pushed away by Logan and then brought back, which tells us again more about Logan than it does about Frank. So there are these characters who probably are highly competent and capable, but they're less romanticized and you know, yeah, Logan sort of inhabits what we kind of quietly want from a business genius, which is he's a bit of a bully. He's not really psychologically available to us.
He makes very, very impulsive decisions, but seemingly with confidence. He doesn't sort of sweat over them and internally ask questions like Kendall would. And those are things that we still really, really value. Even if he makes the wrong decision, if he makes it with enough confidence, we would prefer that. And again, I think that's something to question about ourselves. But important to say also, sometimes founders like this, they get all the credit, when somebody, let's say like Jerry or like Frank, or even Carl, who's a bit of an idiot, but clearly something of a financial magician, are actually doing quite a lot of the grunt work. And again, we see that often in institutions where you have a central figure who's considered to be brilliant, but they're partly brilliant because they're surrounded by people who are just beneath them, who are far less praised but actually making the institution function.
It's one of the sayings that you sort of hear a lot in scaling companies, especially scaling startups is that, you know, leaders and founders have to surround themselves with people much smarter than themselves. And if they constantly find themselves as the smartest person in the room, the company's not going to have the right people in order to get that sort of moonshot trajectory that you are sort of really looking for. And I think there's certainly a lot of capable people, like you said within this company, but they certainly do not get the recognition or even probably the amount of respect. Because when you think about how quickly some of them are thrown out on a whim.
Yeah, I mean, that's the thing. Logan is extremely petulant and fickle, which are not qualities that we normally associate with great leadership, but we sort of let him get away with it because he inhabits other things. But yeah, I mean, people who talk a lot about this, obviously Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, these are all people who have talked at length about how you want to be surrounded by people who challenge you because I'm sure we've all been in situations where once somebody becomes very powerful and successful as a leader, and I've been around it in terms of fame actually, just people who become very famous, they stop wanting to be around people who challenge or question them, and they start to have the option to be around people who only tell them good things about themselves. And it takes quite a lot of strength of character to choose to withdraw from that when that's available to you and choose to have people who might not just challenge you but also sometimes think what you're doing is really stupid or annoying. You know obviously Lincoln may be the most famous person, the book about him called Team of Rivals which is an extremely good book about leadership in all ways, talking about how that is actually the most effective thing that you can do is to try and eschew the courtier and surround yourself with people you might even consider rivals.
I love that. And like you said, it takes a lot of, uh, takes a lot of, I guess, courage in order to be willing to put out those differing views, which is something that we've certainly touched on a lot on this show before. There is, um, there is two, I guess, other things that I've seen within succession that I really wanted to kind of cover because I feel like they play out a lot inside of workplaces. The first one is the role of a mentor and
To me, the story of mentorship doesn't get much stronger than, you know, Greg and Tom. From episode one, I know, I hope, you know, like from episode one, their stories start, you know, really start to intertwine and, you know, Tom has this ability where he's either being bullied by those above him, but then also like bullying those below him, yet still cared for by those above him and he finds a way to care for Greg.
And I wouldn't say this is a traditional mentor-mentee relationship, but I think over the course of the four seasons, it is one of the strongest ways that we really do see what does it mean to take someone underneath your wing. And when you see where they end up at the very end of their character arc, you know, they are still side by side. So I guess, did you have conversations about how to showcase mentors and mentees in the show? And, you know, I guess, how did you really explore this dynamic with those two characters?
Well, like a lot of things in succession, a lot of it is inspired by what not to do, right? So part of the Tom-Greg relationship in terms of a mentor and mentee, hopefully it's funny because it's somewhat upside down or toxic and messed up. But by looking at that sort of like weird dark mirror, you can hopefully see what the good version would be. As you rightly point out, what you see with Tom is somebody who's so shut on by people above him and that includes to some extent his wife, you know, a relationship that's got quite a complicated power and balance within it that he finds somebody in Greg who he can take that out on and that's a psychological dynamic you see a lot in workplaces and families you know um that thing of passing down the pain or the trauma or whatever.
But I think what keeps you interested is that there's also this weird sweetness at the heart of Greg and Tom because Tom doesn't just bully Greg, Tom needs Greg desperately. Again, that's not an ideal mentor-mentee situation. You know, you don't want to sort of like rely on your mentee for your self-esteem and for your everything. That's a what not to do. But it's funny in this case to see it play out and it creates this rather sort of sweet, complicated, weir, a loving relationship between them that allows Tom to feel safe and powerful when he doesn't really feel safe and powerful anywhere else in his life. Now of course as far as Greg's concerned what it does for him is it offers him a way up a ladder so there's pure ambition on Greg's side I think and something more emotionally complicated on Tom's side. But yeah I mean it's a really interesting dynamic as somebody who's also mentored a lot just in writing terms.
I, yeah, it's a really interesting relationship because it isn't always what you expect it will be. I've mentored a lot of younger writers, particularly women, and I found, you know, there's sometimes a moment where I start to think, oh my gosh, this person's so much more sorted than I am. There's a generational difference sometimes that comes into play where, I'm noticing that, for example, people in their early 20s or mid-20s are so much more sometimes just sorted in terms of their expectations and their boundaries, terms like that we use now. When I was in my early 20s and mid-20s, I would have done anything that a boss told me to do. I would have been, I was buying Christmas, I was an assistant at the time, I would go out and buy the Christmas presents for my boss's family and then wrap them up and everything. And he would then give them to me at Christmas. I was that kind of an assistant. And of course, now I look back at it, I think, well, that's really... That's over and above what my admin role was at the company I was working for. And now I work with mentees and people who are very secure in saying, I don't think that's appropriate or I'm not prepared to do that. And I just sort of think, oh my God, I'm quite jealous of them, which is quite complicated. So there's all those sort of things that inspire, not really Greg and Tom, but certainly when you're writing about mentors and mentees, because it can be a surprising relationship where it's not necessarily you that's the one that knows everything and is very in charge. Sometimes it can make me feel quite insecure about my own talents and boundaries.
And I think Greg does sort of balance that line between doing whatever is kind of asked because he's like, he knows what his outcome is. He's trying to get ahead and stay in the family. But then there is a couple of moments in time, which I think is really interesting from a mentee perspective when you actually feel like you've outgrown your mentor and you want to go get other opportunities. And there's two really pivotal scenes that I think a lot about, which is the two times Greg tried to leave Tom. And Tom's reaction the first time was pelting water at him and the second time was asking whether he wanted to wrestle him, which was his only kind of coping mechanism to keeping Greg, which doesn't really make a lot of sense, does it?
Yep.No, I mean it's really enjoyable to watch because of course you've got Matthew McFadden playing Tom who just makes everything hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. But yeah, those are really interesting points because as you said it's a situation where the mentor maybe needs the mentee more which is a, you know, unhealthy dynamic. But I certainly in my work life have experienced the difference between a boss who acts like that and a boss who doesn't. So for example I was doing a show called I Hate Suzy at the same time as I was working on Succession. And one of the things that I had to negotiate, because I Hate Suzy is my own show that I write and show run, was how I was going to make that work doing both two full-time jobs. And so, and of course, Jesse being Jesse, you know, sat me down and was like, okay, what can we do to make this work for you? And I think wisely what he knew is if you employ a certain type of person and you're kind to them.
Actually, in my experience, that employee is going to fight much harder to be present and successful at that workplace than somebody who does feel afraid of you. And because if you employ the right sort of person anyway, they're going to have a feeling of sort of guilt or of real appreciation for how they've been treated, that they'll want to give back to you more. So I ended up in a situation where I was able to do these two jobs, one of which I was really all mine and creatively I massively cared about, but I was also doing Succession as well. And I really, you know, gave everything to both projects, which was quite exhausting for me. But it's an example of how Jesse managed that really well. He made it possible for me, but he also knew that I wasn't going to scrimp on working on Succession because that's not the kind of person I am. And also because he'd worked quite hard to give me that extra space, there was some part of me that was going to feel like I owed him doing a good job. And it's one of the reasons why actually being a benevolent boss, unlike Logan Roy or sometimes Tom Wormscams, actually probably with the right employee gets you better work in the long run. And whereas formerly I'd had an experience years ago working for somebody who, when I left, was extremely angry.
Even though I was leaving to do a job that was more artistic, I was going for being an assistant basically of some kind to being a professional writer. And rather than being very supportive of that, they were very frustrated and angry. And I felt so much like shame and confusion around that. At the time, I felt really like I was letting somebody down. And there's a scene which is partly based on my experience of that when Jess leaves Kendall, in season four and well basically says I think I want to work for somebody else and one of the things that he says is you know um you're being stupid you're being stupid you know and that came from an experience that I'd had um which in retrospect it's only now I can see how unhealthy and how um controlling that was but at the time all I felt was that I was failing somebody and that I was making a stupid decision which obviously in retrospect was wrong.
But that's the difference, I think, between an unhealthy boss relationship and a good boss relationship. A true mentor and one who has your best interest at heart actually wants you to leave them one day. Like they want you to go on and succeed, you know, and I'm, I really appreciate you sharing that and how that personal story came into the show because straight away I was like, pardon me. It was like, this is the moment that Kendall can show that he's really human and be so happy for her. And like, because for Kendall to succeed, he needed people closer to him who were going to be in his corner, who didn't always work for him. And it was an opportunity to have someone like that. And his immediate response was, this doesn't serve me. And now I'm put out of place. So to me, you are gone.
Yeah, and it reflects really badly on him, as you say, but also underneath that, I suspect there's a knowledge for Kendall, which is Jess is really good at her job. And I think we kind of see what she puts up with in a really comic way throughout the show, cutting to Juliana's amazing face as she just sort of reacts to what she's being asked to do is just a gift for the show, right? And Jess, And I think we assume from that Jess puts up with a lot and does a lot. And so I think you're right, it's partly that it doesn't serve Kendall, but I think also there might be this creeping awful realization that if I have to employ somebody else, what if they don't? What if they don't put up with that stuff? And what if I, you know, what if I don't get these kinds of permissions and sort of, I don't know, yeah, what if it's uncomfortable for me, as you say?
And it's another way in which family and company are so deeply entwined, both in the show, but also in what all of us do for a living, which is in the same way that if you have a kid, what you want for the child, even if it's deeply painful for you, is for them to grow up and sort of detach from you and evolve and leave. That's preferable to them staying living in your house forever and never being able to grow past you and the same is true as you say of a good mentor or sometimes even just employer-employee relationship.
As an Australian, I couldn't not ask you about the incredible role that Sarah Snook played in the TV show Succession. I do know because I do my research that no one gets assigned to one character and that everyone in the writer's room has to have the ability to write for any character. But I have heard you say that you had quite a fondness for the character Shiv and you were involved in a lot of her kind of character arc and the way that she was really played out.
On a recent episode of the Culture First podcast, we had a whole episode dedicated about how to make work actually work for women. And in that episode, we spoke a lot about how, you know, for too many people in minorities, it's them having to stand up for themselves in order to kind of get ahead and push against the power that is being held by those in the majority. And when we see the role that Shiv really plays as the only female in the Roy family, and when she is given power, sometimes she really is just rolled out as the female Roy as opposed to being really good at her job or being brought in for her expertise. So I just wanted to maybe ask you like, what did that character kind of mean to you and how did it feel to kind of have a chance to really play such a critical role in the development of the only female character within the Roy family?
Yeah, thanks for asking about that. I mean, Sarah's an extraordinary actor and so virtuosic, can do anything, which is unusual. So working closely with her and working closely on the character of Shiv was one of the things I was most passionate about in the show. I'm proud of a few things about it. One of them is actually that I feel like it was important to make Shiv as annoying and flawed as her brothers because I think the evolution of writing female characters generally has been interesting over the last few decades. You know, they, early on they either didn't exist at all or were ciphers, you know. Then we did a thing where we started to just sort of swap men for women. So you had like, you know, Angelina Jolie playing an action figure, an action character in Salt, but who could have easily has been a man as a woman. Which, you know, is was a good but a difficult weird evolution. And then you move forward into a stage where you're writing women, but they have to be powerful and strong. So they're more, they're female, but they always win, you know, or they're the sensible one, whereas the boys are the idiots. You see that a lot in comedy, which works really well. There's nothing wrong with that, you know, you think about the classic example of that, it's like the Simpsons or something, where the joke comes from, you know, Marge and Lisa being kind of sensible and eye rolling and clever, and the boys being like, you know, idiots. And I think, so I thought it was really great to get to a point where we could write a woman who was as like, who didn't need to like win and go, well, of course Shiv should be in charge of the whole company. She's the sensible, great, clever one. She's just, you know, not um she's just not given respect because she's a woman whereas the truth is yes she is not given respect because she's a woman her dad is undoubtedly misogynist and probably loves her very much as a daughter but doesn't really think she should be running a company but yet also she is a deeply flawed annoying individual just in different ways from her brothers and that more possibly ways related to the fact that she's a she's a woman and that gave me great pride. You know, I wanted her to be a sort of messy tragic figure, just like they are, and not necessarily just a sort of ball breaker who wins in the end. So that took a lot of thought and work and worked very closely with the other writers on that, obviously, but also Sarah. And yeah, I think she's...She does some pretty awful things in the show to try and further herself, including sort of threatening or almost blackmailing Jerry and about her own perceived sort of weird sexual unprofessional stuff with Roman. And it was always really interesting and fun to write those moments, to see her false feminism coming into play and exploring that because Shiv's, you know, we see a lot of that in life. We see a lot of, obviously we talked about people like Ivanka Trump but also Shari Redstone, you know, people who have acquired levels of power. So, and there's obviously Elizabeth Murdoch as well, but they're not, she's not drawn from any of those as much as she's drawn from our own personal feelings about, you know, Shiv as the daughter.
So to close out this episode, which I feel like, um, we probably could have been having this conversation for a long time, just based on your generosity with really giving us an insight into the writer's room on succession, as well as your incredible career as a both a world creator and a storyteller. Something magical obviously happened within that writer's room on succession in a way that was done differently with a very different, maybe style of leader.
Are there any final lessons that you could maybe share from your experience in the writer's room to give us that little bit of insight into what it was like to inspire us all to kind of be more like that culture first room?
Sure. One thing I found incredibly inspiring about the writer's room was how much creative power and control we were all given towards making the whole show. As somebody who went into it with a limited amount of experience in television, although I had some, because we were given responsibilities not just to write the show but also to help cast it, to help find locations, to be on set while it was being filmed, all the way through, in my case, to editing as well, you rise to the occasion when people put faith in you, I think, because if somebody you respect believes in your capacity to do something, you believe in it too. You know, you think, well, they must be giving me this responsibility for a reason. And so the amount I've grown as an artist, but also as a manager of people, as a person who understands, you know, what to do on, you know, how to stand up and say, actually, I know this location is really pretty and looks great on camera, but it's just not the room that this would happen in and we need it to be true. Actually being allowed to have those experiences, occasionally get them wrong, but also often rise to them over time, has just been amazing for me and for other writers that I've seen. So for me, it's about giving creative faith in the people that you're working with and seeing them rise to it.
Also being part of a team that really respect each other, so that when something does go wrong, or you're not sure what to do, you have someone you trust who you can ask or fall back on. And yeah, feeling respected in that world, rather than terrified, you know, in a Logan Roy way that you're constantly gonna get yelled at, actually doesn't produce the best work from people. And of course, the great irony of that, which is so funny is, it was such a beautiful, healthy workplace that produced such an ugly, toxic workplace. And I just, yeah, I just think there's something really interesting about that.
I think that is the perfect story that like a truly culture first kind of room was able to create something that honestly, I'm not sure if there's any positive parts from that company culture that we should all be trying to recreate in our own companies.
No, I think always do the opposite of succession is a good rule.
Well Lucy, I just want to thank you so much for your time and giving us an inside look into both your career as well as a TV show that like you said, really captivated the world of people and culture for all the right and wrong reasons in terms of the right being our interest and the wrong reasons, maybe being it showcased the things that keeps HR leaders up at night. But I just want to say thank you for your incredible work and for sharing all that with us today.
Oh not at all, it was a pleasure to talk to you, thanks.
A huge thank you to Lucy Prebble for what was by far one of the most interesting and entertaining conversations I’ve had on this show.
As Lucy said in part one, stories are not just entertainment. They can also be powerful tools for understanding ourselves and the world around us.
As a social commentator on the world of work, I found this show enthralling to firstly watch, and more recently to analyze. While Ted Lasso gave us the feel good moments of a sporting rags to riches comeback story, Succession was the gritty underbelly of the modern world of work. The impact of toxic leaders, the lengths people will go to acquire power and all of the ways that we carry our stories, our baggage and our trauma into the world of work.
Lucy reflected on the magic created in that writers room and the co-creation that was required to make what I believe will go down as one of the best TV shows of all time. I’ll admit, the brilliance of it also made it hard to watch at times, as they showcased the dark side of the world of work. But I think it’s an important one to cover on the podcast, by talking about the culture and company that we don’t want be part of, it can help get clarity on the types of companies and company cultures that we want to create and be part of.
This is my invitation to you. Is there a TV show, a movie, a book that you’d like me to cover on the Culture First Podcast? Reach out and let me know.
If you haven’t listened to it already, check out our episode that came out recently where we compared the meeting cultures of Ted Lasso and Succession with Priya Parker and Gary Ware. You can find a link to that in the show notes.
This is also a shameless plug, but the more reviews and subscribers this show gets, the bigger the guest names can get. So leave a review and five stars if you’ve enjoyed this episode and let me know who else you’d like to hear from.
I’ve been your host Damon Klotz and the Culture First Podcast is brought to you by the team here at Culture Amp, the world’s leading employee experience platform. Learn more about Culture Amp by heading to www.cultureamp.com
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