“I don’t know what the opposite of commitment phobia is, but I do The“says Mark Mylod, who directed 16 episodes and executive produced 37 episodes of the two-time Emmy drama series Succession. The writing and characters lead to a personal connection with the writers and the cast.”
The 58-year-old was born in the south-west English village of Newton Abbot – once voted “Britain’s fifth most boring town” according to Mylod – and had a nomadic upbringing. His low-ranking father, a police officer, was repeatedly reassigned to new posts throughout Devon County and regularly uprooted Mylod, his older sister, and her mother, a factory worker. The 17-year-old eventually dropped out of high school and fled to London to find success in the theater. “I had no qualifications,” he admits. “I never wanted to be an actor, but I had a fantasy of being a director.”
In a turn of events, Mylod calls it “ridiculously lucky” because the first West End stage door he knocked on was that of the grand Theater Royal Haymarket. The porter called the head carpenter. “He looked me up and down and said, ‘Yes, you can do that.’ “You can start tomorrow at 2 p.m.,” recalls Mylod, adding that he went home with no idea what his job would be. It turned out he’d be the swing showman, a fancy nickname for scene-changers, in a risqué production of The Cherry Orchard.
Moving through a hierarchy of jobs from there – production assistant at the BBC; third, second and first assistant director appearances; and finally he ran a UK game show – it was his work on the pilot of the original 2004 UK version of Shameless that brought Mylod to the attention of HBO in America. An invitation to direct an episode of “Entourage” not only turned into 23, but Mylod also served as non-writing executive producer on 33 episodes. He also served the same dual roles on Showtime’s pilot The Affair and the US version of Shameless, directing 12 episodes and executive producing 47 episodes.
When “Succession” came out, HBO had a hunch that Mylod and showrunner Jesse Armstrong were about to take off. “As our relationship progressed, particularly towards the end of season one, we found a meeting place where we were incredibly effective and also very joyful to work together,” notes Mylod. “I doubt I’ll ever have a collaboration like that again.”
It is in this unusual double task that Mylod feels most constructive and alive. “I’m totally focused on directing, but I also inherently think about the bigger picture — the arc of the characters, the arc of the story, the tone of the show, how does that fit in two seasons ago or two seasons in.” ahead,” he says. “The relationship with the showrunner becomes incredibly important to me — that I can support and hopefully amplify her voice.”
“It’s a partnership that works well for both of them,” says Armstrong. “My work with Mark is considered one of the most fruitful and meaningful I’ve had in my career,” he says via email, noting that what’s special about it is that on the rare occasions the two disagree: “We are capable of.” Tough arguments under the heat of the production lights while the clock ticks, and everything seems geared towards not finding a compromise where director and writer each get 50% of what they want, but that we both get 100% of something Great, we agree on that.”
Mylod says he’s just in awe of writers and actors who are “so brilliant at doing something I’m so bad at.”
His message of support for his esteemed striking colleagues? “Hold on,” he says. “In my opinion, actors and writers are not paid appropriately. And that can only go on for so long, and there can only be so many excuses for how much you’ve invested in your streaming service. You can’t expect the artists to pay for it.”
Looking back, what surprises Mylod most about his experience on the show? “My goal in participating in the series was always to really try to uncover the layers of these seemingly despicable characters, to find context and humanity behind their pretension and arrogance, and to really understand how broken they were. This vulnerability, to find this inner child,” he says. “Especially in the last season, there were times when I would break down completely unexpectedly during a recording. And then, afterwards, in the cut, as I watched it one last time, when Nick Britell’s brilliant score was added. I always hoped that I would take care of them, but I never thought they would make me cry.”