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"Argestes," Episode 6 of Succession (named for the fictional power summit where billionaires, CEOs and venture capitalists gather), finds the Roys' once ironclad, blockbuster, paradigm-shifting company-saving acquisition of Pierce Media—which they locked down in 5 to the tune of $25 billion—suddenly on increasingly shaky ground thanks to an ill-timed exposé on sexual misconduct (and potentially worse) in one of the conglomerate's many different departments. From there, a ticking clock is imposed on Logan (who has an obsession with acquiring Pierce that goes beyond good business), Kendall, Shiv and co. to get Nan Pierce to sign the paperwork before the allegations render the Roys too toxic to align with. In the final 10 minutes it looks like Nan (played with a stern inscrutability by Cherry Jones), could still reasonably go either way—that is until the Roys foolishly attend the summit's roast and the standup comedian on hand hits the family with a barrage of fresh jokes about the new scandal that push Nan over the edge. She storms out, Logan breaks his usual reserve and literally runs after her, and the deal is done, just like that.
The scene was already engrossing given the stakes, but it took on an added delight when we recognized the man torpedoing Logan's deal as none other than Nore Davis, comedian and frequent Complex collaborator (catch him in our new series Group Therapy here). He isn't playing himself—the comedian is introduced as "Zell Simmons"—but the delivery nonetheless has Nore's overall flavor and style. Complex caught up with Nore by phone Monday morning to discuss filming the scene in Lake Placid, how it came about, and just how terrifying Brian Cox is.
How did the opportunity come about?
It was two ends working in my favor. So my manager submitted me, I got to casting, and then I'm a fan of the show since Season 1, so I was like, "Oh shit. This is dope," and plus there's standup involved. This is right up my alley. And then I got the sides, and I was like, "Oh." The jokes were intertwined within the storyline, which is fire. And then I just added my own Nore Davis persona on stage, what I do with standup on there, and just did it once, and then Avy Kaufman was like, "Yeah, you nailed it. Perfect."
I added extra jokes of roasting Kendall Roy and shit, and she was just like, "Yeah, you nailed it." And then the next day or two I got the call like, "Yeah, you got it." But then also, the episode's writer Susan Stanton, she's a mutual friend of mine and this other girl that we did this pilot for Michael Moore. And Susan asked her, and she was like, "Oh I know this standup comedian Nore Davis, I worked with him on the Michael Moore project. You've got to put him in there. He'll kill it." So Susan also looked out for my name.
But then, it almost didn't happen bro, because... It was scheduled to shoot Tuesday, and I had my second appearance on Conan on Wednesday. They had it booked for Tuesday, and then they pushed the shooting to Wednesday, and then for two weeks, I was just like, "Oh shit." Because I'm going to take Conan [if forced to choose], I'm going to take my own career over that spot, but I was just so conflicted. I hated that. So for two weeks, I was pissed. I was like, "We'll just leave it to the universe." I told the universe I want both [laughs]. But who came through in the clutch was Cherry Jones. Cherry Jones couldn't shoot the same day I couldn't shoot either, so they pushed it a day before, on a Monday. So they got Cherry Jones in there they were like, "See if Nore can do it." And then they got me back. And then did Conan the following day.
Damn. It always works out if it's meant to.
It all worked out. I'm glad.
So you were a fan of the show originally going in?
Yeah. For sure, so I knew I wanted to nail it. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. It's one of these shows where these niggas is actors, man. Like for me, I'm a standup comedian, and I love the clubs. For them, they see a theater. That's why you always see Denzel kill it, but this nigga's like, "I'm going back to the theater," right? Because that's his love, and so it was great to be around J. Smith [-Cameron], and Nicholas Braun, and even Jeremy Strong. That dude's straight method.
Yeah, Jeremy Strong is nuts. He's going crazy!
He's going crazy! But even behind the scenes, he's a great dude. He's a sweet, genuine man, because he came up to me in the makeup trailer, and he was like, "Look man, I know you're funny, and you're going to look at me into the audience, and see that I'm not laughing, but just know I'm in character, but I know you're funny." And that touched my heart. I was like, "Oh, good looking man," because you know we need that. It's not like music where you can just hide behind the guitar. You need some type of reaction with standup. And so to hear him say that just made it much more comfortable for me, and I tell you nigga, doing standup or doing roasting jokes, looking into Brian Cox' eyes, I was like, "No, let me not look at this nigga." I don't know if that's character or not, but he be in it. He's like that old white racist man, like "Who let this black man on stage, man? I will sell all this nigga's family." He's got that type of look, but that's not his demeanor though. He's a sweet dude too, I heard from other actors. But he's one of those that's like... He's method. He's like, "Yo, let's do this," kind of like how... I don't know if you ever heard how Alec Baldwin was running in 30 Rock. He was like in and out, boom boom bang bang. Brian Cox is professional, you know what I mean?
How did you discover the show? A lot of us came around on it as it aired live last summer, and then a lot of people came to it after the word of mouth. Were you part of that first wave, or did someone put you on?
Fam, I was on first wave, first out the gate. It felt like... What's that other show? It felt like a funnier Billions to me.
I'm all about comedy. Billions is much more serious. I started Succession first, and people told me about Billions. I was like, "Nah." And plus Adam McCay and Will Ferrell are attached to it, so you knew it was going to be that nice dry, real humor, that is so fucking awkward and so real, and those family situations are real bro. So I was on the first wave with it, hell yeah. Season 1 was fire.
I've read a lot about the show and the way they shoot, and they tend to have a lot of camera operators and do a lot of takes, where everyone is "on" even if the coverage isn't specifically on them. So what was it like actually filming the scene? First of all, I've got to imagine that roast went a little longer and you had some more jokes in the stash.
You nailed that right. First you've got to know, this is the type of show where they shoot film. So it's not digital. And I learned the meaning of it when I did Boardwalk Empire a long time ago. That's a whole other wave. The director Matt Shakman, he's from Always Sunny In Philadelphia. He's one of the co-creators and directors of that show. So he has a comedy background, so he was just like, "Go up there." At first he had me run my lines and do my act, do the act within the storyline, and then add jokes into it. And Susan was on set too, saying, "Hey, if you want to add anything, go for it, riff." And I'm the type of comic that doesn't like to do the same joke over and over, because I didn't want background [actors] to be bored and shit, because background was there and they were telling them, "When he says this joke, go 'ohhhh!'"
So I had to prepare my emotions for that. So every time [we filmed], I redid my set, and I put in new jokes in the beginning. The Burlington Coat Factory joke that's in the actual show was not until probably the eighth or ninth take, when I was just riffing in the beginning. I just needed something to get right into it, like an introduction. So I remember I had one... They had deers up top, and so I was like, "How you all got Rudolph's mom up here? You all don't have no heart." So it was cool to see that they kept my riff in there. I started roasting Logan as he walked out, and then they got that classic Logan Roy "fuck off," and after that I said some mean stuff that I know they're not going to keep... I was like, "Hey Logan look like a walking scrotum," or something like that.
Now, were some of those jokes written in, or did you come up with all of them? Like did Susan leave a space to build in? Or did she have a couple burns in there?
Susan had the burns in there. I added in the cursing. "Permission to never fucking board," the "fucking" was me. Susan put "permission to never board." And the intro, the Burlington Coat Factory. Oh yeah, the Hindenburg, that was them. That would never be in my reference, to bring up the Hindenburg in any of my standup ever. But it was good to have broadened my horizons about that. But yeah, that was all definitely Susan and the writers there. So I just made sure to deliver it in a way that that shit hurt. Make Cherry walk the fuck out, like this deal is done.
Yeah man. You fucking torpedoed a 25 billion dollar deal.
Yo. I did not know that, and even on set, I kind of didn't know that. I didn't know that. They gave me the sides. The didn't give me the whole script. So it was interesting to see. I did not know that the joke that Susan wrote and me performing it would ruin a billion-dollar deal and make Logan run after the car like a sidechick like, "Yo chill, chill. Take me back!" That nigga broke character, off of standup. Off of standup comedy, fam.
The episode is kind of a fictionalized version of a real summit that those type of dudes do. Would you ever take a gig like that in real life?
No, never. Those are the worst gigs ever.
I mean, it seems awkward.
Oh, it's very awkward. They pay the most money, those type of private gigs like that. They pay the most, and there's a whole bunch of white heads, and they just rich. It's just like [pantomimes forced laughter] "Ha ha ha." It's like that Wolf of Wall Street shit without the coke. But that shit was awkward, because they're just all about money, and money ain't got no soul. Money ain't got no passion, ain't got no love in it. So these people don't have anything emotionally to give. They just sit there, and they're just like, "Yeah, when's the next time I'm going to make some money? Next. What's next?" So I would never do a gig like that. Right now in my career, I wouldn't. But prior to now, I did do private gigs like that, and they're just awkward. It's kind of like that scene in Atlanta, where Paper Boi had to perform in front of that Mashable-type office. It's that pain. That pain, that awkwardness you felt watching it, it's that.
Did you have a little viewing party last night? Or you just watched it at the crib, you and your girl?
Watched it at the crib. Me and my fiancée. She doesn't really watch the show, so I just fast-forwarded to my part. And my heart was racing, because sometimes things like that, they just cut it out. I kind of spoiled it for myself. I was mad. I was like, "Oh damn. Shorty really ran out of him," because I saw that part [during filming]. Right after my scene was done, I saw them blocking for Cherry, Brian Cox, and the other actress that was in the Superman movie—
Holly Hunter, thank you. Yeah, they were blocking that out when I was done then I got to go to dinner with J. Smith, Hiam [Abbass, who plays Marcia], and the white dude that played the Indian dude in Short Circuit, that nigga. He dope.
Thank you. Fisher!
He's a legend.
He is a legend, yes. I even told him about that [Short Circuit backlash]. He was like, "Man, I didn't even know I was a thing back then." He was feeling real bad about that. It was great man, just vibing with real hardcore actors and directors. It's interesting how their world is somewhat similar to the standup comedy world.
Yeah. I would say J Smith plays my favorite character in the show.
She's the sweetest woman, and she still lives in New York. She was basically kind of like Momma Hen on set for me. She's like, "Every time you went up, I laughed. Even though I heard the same fucking jokes, I laughed." What is interesting with her, she was telling me she just realized Chris Evans is Captain America. She was like, "I knew him when he was doing theater." And I'm like "Yeah, that's fucking Captain America. Show respect." But with her, at her level, as with actors in theater, that's where it's at. That's where they just know each other. She was like, "Oh man he's been Captain America this whole time?"
I've got to have you weigh in on the debate that's been going each week: With your background in standup comedy, where does the show land for you? Is it a drama? Or is it a comedy?
Oh. It's definitely a dramedy. And it's the type of comedy that's not forced.
It's just the realest interactions that we all love, same thing that Atlanta does. No hacky punchlines, nothing like that. It's like the jokes are embedded within these characters, and you believe these characters would say that, not just write a joke in there, you know what I mean? So I say dramedy. I guess that's a neutral. That's Sweden right there. It's both.