The wild and unforgiving world of Succession has added a new cast member to its roster of consistently captivating characters, the wonderful Sanaa Lathan. Assuming the role of Lisa Arthur, a high-profile lawyer with a penchant for taking on cases shrouded in publicity, she can be best described as a fictional Gloria Allred. Tackling her duties with a ferocious tenacity, Lisa is written as a more level-headed personality that sharply contrasts her rather acerbic co-stars. S/ recently spoke with Lathan about her role in Succession and how being on set was an actor’s paradise.
Were you a fan of the show before signing on for the latest season?
“You know I had heard about it but I had not yet watched it. It was last year in the fall during the second wave of the pandemic and people weren’t getting out, the vaccines weren’t out, and I was asked to join them. However, I didn’t want to go to New York or get on a plane at the time. But then I started the series and binged the first two seasons in a matter of days. I knew as soon as I started watching it that I had to join, it has such great acting, great writing—just top-notch TV.”
What were some of your favourite moments from those seasons?
“For me it was the humour, the fact that these characters were so realistic and yet so acerbically funny too. The fact that they can have that perfect storm of great drama, great acting, while having you laugh constantly is what makes the show runners so brilliant, as well as the actors.”
Courtesy of HBO
You play a highly sought-after, high-profile lawyer in the third season. What drew you to the role of Lisa Arthur and how did you prepare for stepping into this character?
“I was told when I was going in that she’s based on the idea of the ‘publicity lawyer’ such as Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom, who are celebrities in their own right. They take on these high-profile cases and use the publicity to win. I talked to a lawyer who is a part of Gloria Allred’s firm, which was very insightful. Getting into headspace of someone who actually works in the field and takes on notorious, #MeToo-like cases was helpful.”
“I just love doing investigative work with characters, it is so much more fun for me. I watched and read a lot about Gloria Allred and put myself into those situations as the character of Lisa Arthur. The great thing is, when you have great writing, it makes the job easier.”
What is your creative process when approaching a script that is so uniquely written?
“The producers and directors are very actor friendly; they create a set where you can’t fail. That takes you off the hook, since, as an actor, you don’t feel like you’re hung out to dry. They write well for the characters, and everything is meticulously thought out.”
How was it working with Jeremy Strong and the rest of the cast?
“Oh it’s great! One of the reasons why I joined the cast was that I wanted to work alongside these actors. I come from a theatre background, and these are performers who are in the same tradition as me. It’s a treat to be able to be a part of a cast that is on that level.”
Why do you think this show has resonated the way it has?
“I think we all are human and these people are really tapping into their ‘human-ness,’ not caring about those moral bars that we are having to live by these days. We’re always told that the American Dream is to get rich, and to see that these people who have all the money in the world are actually miserable is very interesting.”
New episodes of Succession air every Sunday on HBO and available to stream here.