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“It Was Painful”: Justine Lupe on Connor and Willa’s Disastrous Succession Wedding

Aside from being born to a billionaire, why can’t Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) catch a break? He’s the family laughingstock and money-burning presidential candidate whose escort-turned-fiancée Willa (Justine Lupe) walked out of their rehearsal dinner. And when he finally gets her to the altar in Sunday’s episode “Connor’s Wedding,” this happens. His father, Logan Roy (Brian Cox), drops dead—a helluva bad omen if there ever was one. Even more hurtfully, Connor learns that his father died while blowing off his wedding—traveling to Europe on a private jet for a business deal. “Oh man, he never even liked me,” Connor blurts out. 

The shocking death overshadows the wedding festivities. But Connor and Willa go through with their nuptials anyway—even after Willa admits to Connor, shortly before marrying him, that “money and safety” are a motivating factor in her decision. She adds, though, “I’m happy. I am.” She promises not to leave him—“not today, anyway.” And that’s enough for her husband-to-be.

“Poor Connor,” says Justine Lupe, the actor who plays Willa, on a phone call with VF Monday morning. Lupe was originally only supposed to appear in three episodes of HBO’s Emmy-winning series, but Willa’s dynamic with Connor proved so fascinating that the character remains four seasons later. It speaks to the Roy family’s epic dysfunction that Willa and Connor’s relationship seems like one of, if not the, most stable of the series—with Willa taking on more of a protector role to the off-discounted Connor. She may not be head-over-heels in love with Connor, but she’s come to like him enough to marry into a Guinness World Records-qualifying toxic family.

Below, Lupe discusses filming the episode, hearing the shocking news of Logan’s death, and the details of Willa and Connor’s prenup.

Vanity Fair: Was there ever a chance that Will and Connor were going to have a joyous, glitch-free wedding day?

Justine Lupe: I think [series creator] Jesse [Armstrong] told me [about Logan dying] before the table read, because maybe he wanted to protect me from having the notion that [laughs] this was going to be a massive, successful ceremony for Willa and Connor. There’s also a tradition [on Succession] of having episodes with weddings where there are even bigger events on the episode taking place around the weddings. But it was shocking and sad. I remember after the table read, all of us felt similar to the way that I felt last night watching the episode—quite shook. Logan dying and it being Brian’s last moment on the show hit everyone quite hard. 

Was last night your first time seeing the episode? If so, how did it feel watching it even though you knew what happened?

It was painful for me. I was in L.A. with my brother, boyfriend, and a friend, and just seeing how fucked up they got. . . my brother kept going, “Oh my god. Oh my god.” It was almost like he was actually watching [a person die], because it feels so real.

There was something really effective about Tom letting the siblings speak to [Logan] over speakerphone. Their goodbyes hit me in a way they didn’t on the page—the actors did such a good job of lifting this element of, “I don’t know what to say to this man right now” into the air. Those goodbyes felt completely tragic last night, in a way that I hadn’t fully registered when I read it. 

I’m glad Willa and Connor went through with the wedding, though. 

I was too. I just thought that it was incredibly sweet, and loved that they were kind of alone [for the actual wedding]. It felt intimate. I root for them.

Before the wedding, Willa and Connor have a conversation about whether they should go through with it, and Connor asks her point-blank if she is marrying him for his money. Willa doesn’t really sugarcoat it—she says yes, but that she’s also happy

There’s a transparency and a sense that she’s taking care of him at the same time. Her being really honest—there is an element of taking care of him through that moment. You can feel that she’s trying to kind of like, hold him as she’s telling him the truth. And he’s being really honest with her in that moment—like, my dad is dead, and I feel old, and I’m scared that you’re going to leave me. I think that’s the first time that he’s been that honest with her.  It’s heartbreaking and kind of beautiful, that scene, the way they communicate with her. Also, normally when I’m on the screen, I’m like, “Oh fuck, I don’t want to watch.” [Laughter] But I was so glad we got that scene last night—it felt like a moment of reprieve from that level of [tension]. I mean, I felt anxious.