‘Succession’: “Cousin Greg” Actor Nicholas Braun Talks the Final Season of the Hit Series and His Delicious New Venture
Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch in the HBO series 'Succession,' which premièred its fourth and final season Sunday night. Photo: Peter Kramer/HBO
Nicholas Braun is an old soul.
And perhaps no more so than when you get him talking tuna melts.
Having risen to fame as Cousin Greg on the mordantly absorbing Succession — playing his part with fish-out-of-water precision — the 34-year-old recently took on a side hustle: aspiring sandwich mogul.
“There is this restaurant called Eisenberg’s that has been around for 100 years. I used to go to it … Every time I was near the Flatiron (in New York City), I would go and get a sandwich or whatever,” he started to tell me the other day when I interviewed him in Toronto.
“So, I love this place. Its an old-fashioned long counter. They are making sandwiches right in front of you. Matzo Ball Soup, you know?”
Then COVID hits. It goes under. To be frank, as the actor admits, the iconic Manhattan spot had been faltering for several years even before then. Taking matters into his own hands in 2020, Braun posted about the place on Instagram, imploring any other restauranteurs who might want to get involved with him to save it to DM him.
It somehow worked. He is now part of a group of investors at the place that has been re-christened S&P and is serving up many of the old hits, plus some newer ones, too, like Lil’ Shonda — an egg-and-cheese event that slams together pastrami, pickled green tomatoes and something called Dinkee Sauce.
“The carrot cake! It is the very best carrot cake I have had,” he adds.
Having grown up with a healthy yen for nostalgia — Braun’s father, after all, was a gifted album designer who, among other feats, crafted the Rolling Stone tongue and the Velvet Underground banana — this agreeable hunk clearly soaked up his experience, too, on the Emmy-winning Succession, which just began its fourth, and final, season, on HBO.
The final battle royale: boom. Closing moves on a Machiavelli-happy chess board. A last howl of power and influence and intense family dysfunction, courtesy of the Roy family who may, or may not be, stands-in for the Murdochs.
Gushing about 76-year-old Brian Cox, the time-worn thespian behind the dastardly patriarch, Logan, on the series, he tells me, “Brian is always so good at being the conductor, the driver, of the scene. So much on the show relies on his performance of being, like, ‘I need answers from all of you,’ and we all answer to him. And so he creates this dynamic very easily.”
Exhibit A: the long scene on the yacht, in the finale of Season 2, which Braun counts as one of his most memorable.
“That is just people talking around the table. Incredible writing! And we all know our role in it.”
Those big, salty group scenes — all the players in the mix, sometimes in foreign locales — are, of course, catnip for fans of Succession. Whether it be that piece de resistance in Scotland in Season 1, or an everyone-goes-to-Tuscany arc in Season 3.
Braun relishes these, too: “There is this kind of real dance that is not rehearsed. A big unchoreographed dance. The cameras are going with us … we are probably going to know what part of the room we are going to have the conversation in, but that is it. Plus, you are watching actors who are just locked into their characters.”
In this coming final season (which premièred Sunday night on HBO and Crave in Canada), some of the action moves to Norway, which the actor counts as probably his favourite foreign shoot, bar none. Tight-lipped about precise plot points, he is more than happy to sing the praises of its atmosphere: “The most beautiful place I have ever been to. We were filming deep in the fjords … waterfalls pouring down from mountains, snow-peaked mountains in the distance. Matthew (Macfayden) and I would run through the forest. It was unbelievable.”
As for the trajectory of his own character over the four seasons — as he has gone from interloping outsider to quasi-insider within the Roy fold, his bumbllingness creased out to varying degrees — he says that Greg remains a hopeful person. At least compared to some of the sharks in that tank!
“There is an earnestness. Being the most earnest person in the room is very fun to me. You are neutralizing yourself.”
Since having his own life utterly transformed by the show — Cousin Greg is the hook for hundreds of memes, and Braun a dependable cover boy for men’s magazines — the actor has plenty on the go, post-Succession. For starters, there is his film, Cat Person — a chewy, provocative yarn that delves into the world of dating and was the talk of Sundance this past January. And, of course, well … there are always sandwiches to hawk, too.