How 3 Directors Handled the “Barely Controlled Chaos” of “Succession” Season 3

“I actually think this is the first time I’ve seen below your nose,” Mark Mylod says when Cathy Yan signs on to our Zoom call.

Mylod, an executive producer and director on Succession, is reuniting with Yan and Lorene Scafaria for this video chat, and this is one of the first times they’ve seen each other without the masks, face shields, and other COVID-19 protective equipment that they had to wear on set. And soon the trio—each nominated for directing episodes of the HBO hit’s third season—will get to reunite in real life at the Emmys, hopefully with their masks replaced by black-tie ensembles.

Mylod is a Succession veteran who has been with the show since the first season and already has one Emmy after the show won best drama series in 2020. The prolific TV director, whose past credits include Entourage, Shameless, and Game of Thrones, received his Emmy nomination this season for “All the Bells Say,” the gripping final episode of season three, which saw Kendall (Jeremy Strong) finally reveal his deep, dark secret to his siblings in one of the most talked-about episodes of TV this year.

Yan, who made her feature debut with the dark comedy Dead Pigs in 2018 and helmed the 2020 superhero film Birds of Prey, came into the show with almost the exact opposite path. Succession’s “The Disruption,” the third episode of season three, in which Kendall sabotages Shiv’s (Sarah Snook) speech at the company town hall, was Yan’s first TV episode ever.

Also from the feature world, Scafaria, the writer-director behind 2015’s The Meddler and 2019’s Hustlers, took on the “Too Much Birthday” episode, which centered around Kendall’s insanely eccentric birthday bash (complete with a birthing canal experience).

So how does one show land 25 nominations and three of the seven directing slots? Mylod, Yan and Scafaria sat down with Vanity Fair to reveal secrets from set, including how they navigate the very different acting styles of the show’s ensemble and the driving force fear can really be.

Vanity Fair: What makes directing Succession unique?

Lorene Scafaria: Cathy and I, we’re both just such big fans of the show. I had seen every episode so many times, it felt kind of burned in my brain. So for me it was like going to Disneyland or something. And then with writing this good, it really does feel like directing theater. It kind of goes back to what felt like my roots of just, following the text and tearing it apart and trying to just make those big connections and those moments between characters. I think directing for TV is so different from film. It’s such a strange role to be a special guest and yet have to control the set and try to be an arbiter of taste. But with writing this good with acting this good with a crew that, it’s such a well oiled machine, some of it’s trying to keep up and some of it’s trying to take the lead.

Cathy Yan: I learned so much because it was actually my first episode of television ever.

And coming from the feature world as does Lorene, I think you are almost a little nervous because it’s such a different world and maybe you’re a bit more of a control freak and having to let go of that control. But I found it to be actually quite liberating. And that was one thing I said: I so trust everyone else. And watching the actors work and just really knowing their roles, knowing their characters so well that it was a joy. I was learning about how television was run at the highest level.

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