‘Succession’: Which Real-Life Families Inspired the Roys?

The acclaimed HBO show Succession is a biting commentary on wealth and power. It focuses on the curdled dynamics of the Roy family, the moneyed center of a media empire. While fans may notice references to Greek and Roman mythology, there are also links to the real world. In particular, the Roys were based on at least three real families. 

Brian Cox sits at a table with candles and crystal glasses in 'Succession.'
Brian Cox in ‘Succession’ | Peter Kramer/HBO

The Roys own a media conglomerate in ‘Succession’

In Succession, the family company Waystar Royco is constantly at the edge of some disaster. The CEO and family patriarch, Logan (Brian Cox), suffers a stroke in the first episode. From there, the company weathers record-low stock prices, congressional hearings, and a rocket launch disaster. All through this, Logan attempts to pick a successor. 

Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong, and Alan Ruck stand in a hospital room in 'Succession.'
Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, Alan Ruck, and Sarah Snook in ‘Succession’ | Peter Kramer/HBO

While he has four children, Logan’s youngest three — Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Roman (Kieran Culkin) — compete most ferociously for power. As each gets close to obtaining the title of CEO, their father snatches it away. Logan, though over 80, is not quite ready to cede control over his empire. 

The Roys were based on several real families

Though Succession is entirely fictional, the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong, admitted that he took inspiration from the Murdoch, Maxwell, and Redstone families. All three run media empires like the Roys. 

While Armstrong was inspired by all three families and possibly others — a season 1 moment draws comparisons to the Kennedy family — the Roys share the most significant similarities with the Murdochs. According to The New Yorker, Armstrong has even written specifically about the Murdoch family in the past.

Murdoch’s company, News Corp, has several major holdings across media and publishing. Waystar Royco, the Roy’s fictional company, has television, theme parks, cruises, and film. Both companies, however, own notable conservative news networks. For Waystar Royco, it is AGN; for News Corp, it is Fox News. 

Armstrong has also drawn similarities between Logan and Murdoch. Both aging patriarchs have held control of their companies long past the typical retirement age. In addition, both have children competing for overall control once their father does step down. 

According to Cox, some of the Murdoch family even watches Succession. Per Deadline, Cox was once approached by a man who said that while he and his wife were enjoying the show, his wife sometimes finds it a bit difficult to watch. 

“He said, ‘my wife is Elisabeth Murdoch,’” Cox explained. 

However, James Murdoch, who many speculate inspired Kendall’s character, has publicly stated that he has not watched the show. 

“Why would I?” he asked The New Yorker.

‘Succession’ Season 3 is coming fall 2021

After two yearsSuccession is returning for a third season. The second season departed from the wealthy families who inspired the show: Kendall publicly turns on his father in the finale. The third season will pick up just after this moment, with both Kendall and Logan attempting to navigate next steps. 

The series will return to HBO in October 2021. Until then, fans can revisit the first two seasons on HBO Max or watch the recently released teaser for season 3

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