Filming Shiv's Succession Season 2 Meltdown Was Terrifying For Sarah Snook

This article contains spoilers for "Succession."

Siobhan "Shiv" Roy seems like the most capable character in "Succession" to take the company off of her father Logan Roy's hands — at first. Logan seems to think so too, right up until she blurts out that he's promised her the company right in front of mixed company. This changes Logan's mind, changes the audience's minds, and totally shakes Shiv's confidence. From then on, her previously rock-solid ego stands on much shakier ground and filming this uncomfortable scene made actress Sarah Snook feel just as uneasy as her character.

Logan promises Shiv the company in the midst of his attempts to buy up one of his biggest competitors, a liberal-leaning media outlet. Lots of people in his camp take moral and financial opposition — it would be like Fox News buying MSNBC — but he knows that having a future female CEO could be a good bargaining chip. Shiv knows this too, but she doesn't understand that Logan wants to play coy, maybe even to entertain taking on someone from the Pierce camp, like Rhea. When the Pierces invite the Roys to dinner and press Logan to name his successor, Shiv can't help but reveal that he already has someone in mind — her.

This scene, like many others in the series "work as little plays," Snook explained to Variety "Within the scenes, they're so great at structuring a journey for all the characters at the table." Snook was excited to shoot such a major scene but ran into some difficulties with the script as it was written.

Snook says she was 'the most terrified I've ever been on set'

"As we were rehearsing, and then as we did it, it wasn't working, I guess," she admitted. "Jesse [Armstrong, series creator] ended up going to this situation, going, 'Well, what would you want to say? What's the first thing that comes to your mind? Let's just simplify it.'" The script for Shiv's pivotal "Succession" scene in the "Tern Haven" episode was initially much more dialogue-heavy. "It was a much more wordy thing that [Armstrong]'d written," Snook revealed. "We just simplified and simplified, and turned it into this very short word vomit."

Shiv blowing her chances was a scary moment for the actress and the character alike. At that moment, Snook was just as afraid of Logan's disappointment as Shiv was. In fact, it was the most nerve-wracking moment that she'd ever had as an actress. "I think the most terrified I've ever been on set, in anything, ever, was when you, Brian [Cox], started dinging your glass in a take," the actress admitted. This brief moment passes quickly in the episode, but the actors were forced to sit with this pregnant pause during the shoot.

"Shiv stands up and everybody leaves and the scene as written is over long before that, but what I love the way that we shoot is we'll play it out until the moment is done," Snook explained. "Then in the edit, they'll cut and they'll change it and shape it. What is going to happen when Logan and Shiv are faced with each other? [Cox] dinging that crystal glass is the death knell. I've never been so terrified. I've just seen death come with a scythe."

The actress got over it, but Shiv never fully recovered

Brian Cox, who plays Shiv's father Logan, was equally struck by his onscreen daughter's incredible vulnerability. The only Roy sister rarely finds herself in a compromising position, but both Snook and her character were in rare form that day. "It was a funny scene, that scene, because it's so naked," Cox recalled. "It's like you take all your clothes off suddenly. I almost found it shocking that you did what you did. I thought, is it in character? Is this what she does, is this who she is? It was such a surprise that suddenly in a forum where we don't know who the people are, we're guests, she suddenly blows it so big."

Co-star Alan Ruck also remembers seeing that the impact of Shiv's actions had shaken Snook to the core. "The look on your face after she made her announcement, it all showed," he told the actress. "You didn't say a word." Shiv's tumble at Tern Haven set off a chain reaction that she never quite recovered from. From that moment on, the other characters don't quite take her seriously in the same way. Her proposals to improve the company are laughed at around the office, and she's even caught dancing barefoot at Kendall's party in season 3 — a true indication of "a mental break."

With Shiv finally out from under her father's wing and into Kendall's camp at the end of season 3, is there hope for her to finally gain control? Or has her submissive husband's power-play in the finale ensured that she will never truly feel powerful again? Only the fourth and final season will tell what Shiv's future has in store.

"Succession" returns to HBO on March 26, 2023.