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Lackeys, Flunkies, and Yes Men: A Tribute to Succession's Side Characters

Gerri, Frank, and a dozen other Waystar Royco stooges, explained.
  • Photos: HBO
    Photos: HBO

    One of the reasons why Succession currently reigns as TV's best drama is that it boasts an impeccable cast of characters, with the Roy family at its center. But if Logan, Shiv, Roman, Kendall, Connor, Tom, and Greg are the main course, it's worth pointing out the across-the-board excellence of the side dishes that help push Succession from great to fantastic. We're talking about the gaggle of corporate stooges that never fail to delight as they scurry and squirm to stay afloat at Waystar Royco when at any moment an ill wind could blow and get them fired.

    It can be pretty confusing what the tangle of lackies, yes-(wo)men, and flunkies roles are at Waystar Royco, and which direction the corporate directives are supposed to go. What exactly is Gerri's job? What does Laird do? Has Kerry been there this whole time?

    With that in mind, we offer the following, a tribute and guide to the Succession underlings. Long may they snivel and equivocate.

    Gerri Kellman

    Played by: J. Smith-Cameron
    Current position at Waystar Royco: Acting CEO
    Former position at Waystar Royco: General Counsel

    No one — least of all Gerri — is under any illusion that her promotion to CEO of Waystar Royco earlier this season means she's actually in charge, or even that she's all that well-positioned. But if nothing else, her promotion was the culmination of two-plus seasons of steadfast support and shrewd positioning. It's not that Gerri is any less of of a crony than Frank or Karl or Hugo, it's that she projects a far better, more self-assured, and less boot-licking posture than they do. Since the very beginning she's known when to pump the brakes on Logan's hotheadedness, and raise the alarm bells with the right people when needed. She is also, as revealed through her interactions with Roman, constantly making decisions based on how well they will serve her going forward. She's still supporting a deeply evil multinational conglomerate, and she mostly doesn't care, but if we had to bet on which character will be left standing if Waystar gets nuclear-bombed out of existence, it'd definitely be Gerri.

    Frank Vernon

    Played by: Peter Friedman
    Position at Waystar Royco: Vice-Chairman
    Former position at Waystar Royco: Chief Operating Officer (COO)

    Frank is probably the most tragic figure of the Waystar underlings, going all the way back to the series premiere when Logan cavalierly fired him after decades of loyal service, counsel, and what Frank would have called friendship. After Logan's stroke, Frank conspired with Kendall to drum up a vote of no confidence and a plan to take over the company, both of which failed so spectacularly that Frank was forced to return to his place under Logan's thumb, where he's resumed an existence of resigned supplication. (Further evidence that Gerri is playing the game better than anyone is that she was also in on that plan and suffered no consequences for it.) Frank is acutely aware of the monster that is Logan Roy, and every once in a while it feels like he's on the brink of doing something about it, but we know better; he never will. Sometimes, the fish in the bucket is just struggling, and that's Frank.

    Karolina Novotney

    Played by: Dagmara Dominczyk
    Position at Waystar Royco: Head of Public Relations

    For a few minutes there in the season three premiere, it seemed like Karolina was going to jump ship and join Kendall and Greg in open rebellion against Logan. Of course, that notion was quickly dashed — not even Greg stayed on the Kendall train for all that long — and in a telling moment, when asked directly if she was prepared to make a decision that would drastically alter her professional life, Karolina did what most of the characters on Succession do: she balked and chose the comforting familiarity of the devil she knew. In her position as head of PR for Waystar Royco, Karolina has been plenty busy, helping put out various fires, and drafting enough statements to paper the world in non-denial denials. She was also, from a very early stage, keeping a wary eye on the impending disaster in Parks and Cruises that eventually blew up into a full on Justice Department investigation. Karolina seems like she is very good at her job; she also probably has the worst, most stressful job in the company, and it's honestly a wonder she hasn't been fired a dozen times for being the bearer of bad news. Still, it's tough to argue she'd have been better off on Kendall's side.

    Karl Muller

    Played by: David Rasche
    Position at Waystar Royco: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

    In the season three premiere, while everybody on Team Logan was scrambling, making calls to the White House, and arranging private jets to countries without extradition treaties, Karl just wanted to find himself a sandwich. This is why we love Karl. He's the most outwardly weaselly of Logan's underlings, which is probably why Logan made him play Boar on the Floor in Season 2. He's willing to say two completely contradictory things in the same sentence if he senses the temperature in the room changes while he's in the middle. The image to hold in your head of Karl is one of him scurrying down the hall at the most recent investor's meeting to go "vamp" while a deal gets hammered out, only to, when he arrives on the stage, pass the buck on to Frank. But he's also been around long enough to know where plenty of the bodies are buried. As Logan said to him in the season premiere, "If your hands are clean it's only because your whorehouse does manicures."

    Hugo Baker

    Played by: Fisher Stevens
    Position at Waystar Royco: senior communications executive for Parks and Cruises

    We didn't meet Hugo until season two, when the Cruises scandal became an undeniable problem. With the scandal threatening to take Logan down this season, Hugo has become a constant presence in Logan's inner circle, even if all of his ideas are bad — he was the one with the bright idea to have Tom Wambsgans testify in front of Congress — the only thing he seems to be good at is wrangling private jets. Hugo always appears to assume some kind of second-in-command mantle that nobody else honors even a little bit, so it's fun to watch him say something and then recede right into the background when no one responds. Or worse yet, he comes up with something as terrible as the "We Get It" slogan in response to the sexual abuse scandals, and then everybody gets to round-robin on him about why that's a terrible idea.

    Cyd Peach

    Played by: Jeannie Berlin
    Position at Waystar Royco: President, ATN cable news

    If the Roys of Succession are indeed analogues for the Murdoch family, then the head of their cable news division must be a real piece of work. And indeed she is! Cyd Peach is a formidable enough presence in the Waystar Royco ecosystem that she's often just referred to as "The Peach." When Tom gets transferred from Parks to News in season two, he's got some big ideas how to make his mark and impress Logan, almost all of which get shut down by a thoroughly unimpressed Cyd. She certainly seems way more formidable than the show's other flacks, but we've not seen her in Logan's orbit too much — and certainly not in conflict with him. Maybe she knows better than to end up in such a situation.

    Jamie Laird

    Played by: Danny Huston
    Position at Waystar Royco: Investment banker; Special Advisor to Logan Roy

    Laird's position within the Waystar hierarchy has always been purposefully vague. He's definitely a level above the Frank/Karl/Hugo class of bootlickers. His position at Waystar's investment bank puts him near and dear to money, so Logan has actively sought out his counsel at least a few times. Of course, Logan's respect only goes so far (i.e. nowhere at all), so even Laird and his investment banker clout is going to get shit from Logan and be accused of deception by Roman after being held hostage by terrorists in Turkey.

    Jess Jordan

    Played by: Juliana Canfield
    Position at Waystar Royco: Assistant to Kendall Roy

    Jess enjoyed quite the season three premiere, coming into her own as Ken's point person after his fateful press conference. Jess works harder than pretty much anyone on Succession, enduring Kendall's every paranoid, faux-cool whim, and even acting as a momentary go-between on the phone as Logan threatened to grind Kendall's bones for his bread. Jess does all of this with infinite patience and some deeply hilarious wide-eyed reaction shots, making her an invaluable part of the Succession experience.

    Berry Schnieder

    Played by: Jihae
    Position at Waystar Royco: Media strategist for Kendall Roy

    Kendall is smart enough to know that if he's going to beat his dad, he's going to need a top-notch publicist, and so in the season three premiere, he hires Berry Schneider — the best in the business — to handle his media strategy. The look on her face as she realizes the degree to which Kendall intends to micromanage her, right down to the cool tweets he demands, tells you everything you need to know about where she's situated in the power structure. And if it wasn't clear enough then, fast forward to Kendall's birthday party, where Berry was stuck having to manage the appearance (or lack thereof) of Tiny Wu Tang.

    Comfrey

    Played by: Dasha Nekrasova
    Position at Waystar Royco: Crisis PR Representative for Kendall Roy

    Comfrey works with Berry and was introduced alongside her. Since that introduction, though, she's mostly been around to be awkwardly flirted with by Greg, craft a PR message throwing Greg under the bus, and ultimately agree to a date with Greg after being so spiritually deadened planning Kendall's birthday party that Greg actually started to look like the more fulfilling option. Also, her name is Comfrey.

    Kerry

    Played by: Zoe Winters
    Position at Waystar Royco: Personal Assistant to Logan Roy

    For a while Kerry was just there. A striking presence in long, dark hair and severe straight bangs, Kerry was most often deployed to announce that someone was in the building or that Logan was needed in the conference room for something. And then she was around more. And then Logan started conspiratorially letting her listen to the President's angry diatribes on mute. And then she was the only person with intimate knowledge of Logan's UTI that led to him going piss mad before the investors meeting. And then Shiv and Roman started noticing her increased presence and wondered whether she and Logan were having sex. And then Logan let her air her two cents about Lukas Mattson, which pretty much confirmed that she and Logan were having sex. And now all we want in this world is for Marcia Roy to return and size Kerry up once and for all.

    Succession airs Sunday nights at 9:00 PM ET HBO and streams on HBO Max.

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    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Succession, HBO, Dagmara Domińczyk, Danny Huston, David Rasche, Fisher Stevens, J. Smith-Cameron, Juliana Canfield, Peter Friedman