The recent New Yorker profile of Succession star Jeremy Strong has proven to be something of a Rorschach test for folks online. That is, pretty much everyone who reads Michael Schulman’s (undeniably fascinating) presentation of Strong’s whole vibe seems to come away with a different read on what spending a prolonged amount of time with him on a movie or TV set might be like.
(Current co-workers Kieran Culkin and Brian Cox, both quoted in the piece, come off as a mixture of impressed, worried, and just slightly annoyed by Strong’s dedication to portraying profound shithead failson Kendall Roy in body, mind, and soul.)
But while most people seem to have gotten at least some sense of the writer’s own affection for his admittedly intense subject from Schulman’s piece, at least one former co-star has become clearly incensed at what she views as a hit piece on her friend. To wit: Jessica Chastain is not happy about that New Yorker profile, to the point where she’s shared an editorial from The Telegraph in defense of her Molly’s Game co-star on social media, and has now offered up a letter from director Aaron Sorkin (who’s quoted in the New Yorker piece) defending Strong.
Sorkin’s letter is mostly concerned with giving the full answers to five questions Schulman asked him for the piece, which do, admittedly, seem to be focused on some of Strong’s more extreme on-set behaviors. (Especially the confirmed detail that he floated the idea of being tear gassed to get in character for Sorkin’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7.) Sorkin’s basic point (which also pops up in the New Yorker profile, which, we can’t help but note, is extremely complimentary about Strong’s talents) is that while Strong is certainly intense, he’s not the kind of intense that’s irresponsible or disrespectful to others. Sorkin notes, among other things, that when Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen deliberately went off-script to antagonize Frank Langella’s judge character in Chicago 7, it was in a way Langella felt okay with. The Being The Ricardos director also asserted that he’d work with Strong again in a heartbeat.
All of which, again, seems to spawn from the assumption that you think, as Chastain and Sorkin clearly do, that Strong comes off as especially awful in the profile. (This writer’s own take is that he reads as someone who it’d be interesting but extremely draining to have a lunch with, not necessarily in a terrible way.) It’s kind of sweet, in a sticking up for your friends sort of way—even if we’re not wholly convinced that wealthy, well-connected Emmy winners necessarily need such a full-throated defense at the moment, especially given how obsessed everyone currently is with Strong’s performance in this season of Succession already.
Update, 3:53 p.m. at 12/11/21: And now even more of Strong’s famous friends have come out of the woodwork to defend him from what is, we repeat for the nth time, not actually a particularly mean portrayal of the actor. Adam McKay (who executive produces Succession) has echoed Sorkin on Twitter, while Anne Hathaway posted a black and white photo of Strong on her Instagram, along with a very touching eulogy for her fallen friend.
Meanwhile, The New Yorker has issued its own statement on the whole situation: “This is a nuanced, multi-sided portrait of an extremely dedicated actor. It has inspired a range of reactions from people, including many who say that they are even more impressed by Jeremy Strong’s artistry after having read the article.”