Cutthroat family intrigue and vengeful CEOs are fuelled by bluster, hubris, and pure rage.
Karolina Novotney, on the other hand, is a model of restraint.
As the head of public relations for media and entertainment conglomerate Waystar Royco, she is a steady rock among warring yachts in Succession, which has its long-awaited season three premiere on HBO on Sunday.
Dagmara Dominczyk, who lives in Montclair, has played the character since the 2018 release of the popular Emmy-winning television series. Her Karolina is a solid foundation of the firm's executive leadership.
She finds herself adrift this season, though.
Kendall Roy is thrown into a dry bathtub after he receives . The high-profile corporate operative calls and taps another phone.
Kendall is fresh off a raucous press conference where he blames Waystar Roycos headline-making cruises sexual assault scandal on his own father, CEO Logan Roy. The son was supposed to be the scapegoat. Instead, he fired shots.
Karolina responded, My father is a malignant presence, he is also sexist, and liar, Kendall said, prompting the poised Karina to utter expletives into her phone and Logan to prepare for war.
Internal combat threatens to devastate the entire business.
Cousin Greg, the gangly family lapdog and Kendall ally, tags along as Kendall and Karolina enter the press room.
He yells at reporters, NO comment, NO comment!!.
Karolina says, You dont have to say that, Greg, giving him the throat-slash gesture as they make their way through the crowd. Just dont comment.
He continues to do it as they climb into a waiting black SUV.
Karolina would normally hand Kendall a carefully designed corporate statement. But he already had tore up the one she gave him, the One where il was supposed to take the fall. What now?
Dominczyk (Doh-meen-chik) says, Shes always gotta work to make sure nothing is a big problem and everything can be fixed. Until it cant, which is where we find her at the beginning of season three. This seems like its impossible to correct.
Kendall has gone so far off-script that all she can do is state the obvious.
Karolina reminds him, This is a company vehicle, which he just decided to destroy. Its possible that youre no longer with the firm, said the business president.
Karolina has her own choice: join Kendall or keep her allegiance to his father (or cut and run).
Kendall states, This is a fork in your life, Karolina, using his usual smug theatrics.
The PR executive, elevated from a recurring character in the first season of Succession to the main cast in season two, has carved out soaring recognition among the moneyed denizens of Waystar Royco. However, she isn't a major player in the family-business drama.
Being out of the spotlight has its drawbacks, the actor claims, but most importantly, for a fan.
Part of the beauty of having a role that isnt immediately rooted in every plot point in each scene is that when I watch it, I get to see it as if I were observing it in totality, Dominczyk, 45, tells NJ Advance Media. I read the script, but its one thing to read it at a table read and another to watch things you werent around for when they shot it. Also, I get to watch it as a voyeur. Not just from the inside, but also behind the scenes, which is always interesting. I love the show. I genuinely enjoy the show, she said.
The Succession mainstay has been working in film and television for more than 20 years. Dominczyk, who has projects that will debut at the end of this year and beyond, says shes currently three for three on some of the best jobs of her career, including her wild ride with the Roy clan. She will next appear in the Netflix film The Lost Daughter Maggie Gyllenhaals directorial debut, due out in December and screening at the Montclair Film Festival on Oct. 24 - and she is also filming the HBO series We Own This City.
These strange, horrible kind of people
Succession, created by Oscar nominee Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show and In The Loop with James Gandolfini), has won nine Emmys. That haul includes the 2020 award for best drama, two writing Emmys for Armstrong and one win for Nicholas Britells wonderfully melodramatic theme song.
Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, production on the hit HBO drama, which last aired in October 2019, was postponed, boosting anticipation for the next nine episodes.
Logan Roy (Brian Cox) will take over when he resigns (which is increasingly less likely) or dies, which is the central theme of Succession. Armstrong drew inspiration from the Murdochs, among other big money, and media families, when he wrote the show.
Logans adult children, Kendall Roy (Emmy winner Strong) and his ally, Logan's great-nephew Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun); Shiv Roy and her husband Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfayden); and Roman Roy et Gerri Kelman (J. Smith-Cameron), general counsel for Waystar Royco, are all jockeying for power. (Connor Roy, played by Alan Ruck, is a non-starter.)
Logan has a firm grip on the firm ever since his health scare in the first season. Any attempt to cling to power is usually met with a consolidation of that power.
Karolina is a point person with little of 'backstory' as the long-simmering rivalry simmers away. At least not so far.
Armstrong, the showrunner, wrote a monologue for the role as part of the audition process, but it never ended up in the production, according to Dominczyk.
She was delighted to be given the role, not necessarily because of the quality of her tryout, but because the character could have been understood in any number of ways.
They decided to go my way, so it was one of the nicest surprises of my career, Dominczyk says. To be a part of this ensemble and able to be part if amazingly talented, envelope-pushing creative team is truly, really, very special.
Karolina, surrounded by bravado, brutal family maneuverings, and general chaos, can fade into the background.
Because the role is written so authentically, people dont remember the PR person, says Dominczyk. Theyre not supposed to. Karolina is written in a similar way. Now Jesse and I have discussed what we believe is her personal life, why we think shes still with this family, how she's doing this job, what keeps her there, and her family or whatever. Weve come to a few decisions that are most likely to be private. Who knows if theyll ever be revealed?
Other Jersey connections in this season of Succession include Emmy-nominated actor Hope Davis (In Treatment, American Splendor), who grew up in Tenafly and is set to have a recurring role as Sandi Furness, daughter of Logan Roys corporate rival Sandy Furiness. Lorene Scafaria of Holmdels Lorec Scaffaria (Hustlers) will also direct an upcoming episode.
Because Dominczyks role on the show is so low-key and pokerface, almost, she claims she isnt recognized as the character. But when she tells people shes on Succession, they cant contain their excitement.
Everyone is so excited about it, she says. Amazed by these strange, terrible people. They seem to enjoy being witnesses to their f---ed up lives. Most of us dont live these kinds of lives.
Finding a beautiful dance in The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaals The Lost Daughter takes Dominczyk from a family in war to...
Callie, a Queens resident on maternity leave in Greece, is played by the actress. Gyllenhaal's first feature as a director is interrupted by her crew, loud and large, who disrupt the tranquility of solitary Leda (Oscar winner Olivia Colman), the main character in Gyllinghail'' "First feature". Callie and her family, namely Nina (Dakota Johnson) and Nino (Nina) Johnson's daughter, are both supportive of Leda. Her fascination with them evokes haunting memories of her own motherhood struggles.
Gyllenhaals adaptation of the 2006 Elena Ferrante novel of similar name, which also features Tenafly's Ed Harris enthusiastically dancing to Livin on a Prayer, won best screenplay at the Venice Film Festival in September. Dominczyk will be at the Montclair Film Festival with the director on Sunday, Oct. 24 for a Q&A after presenting The Lost Daughter. Gyllenhaal, who will be honored with the festivals breakthrough director and writer award, will also be in conversation with Stephen Colbert on the same day.
Maggie is a wonderful actor, and Ive always loved her as. I think Maggie has mastered her craft, says Dominczyk. Working with her behind the camera, however, revealed a shocking fact: Ive only been directed by two women in my entire career, she adds.
The other was Jerseys Vera Farmiga (Whitehouse Station by way of Irvington). The actor, a longtime co-star of Dominczyks husband, Patrick Wilson, in the Conjuring movies, plays teen Livia Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark, based on the film premise. Farmiga played Dominczyk in the 2011 film Higher Ground (she also played a woman who experiences sanity).
Both were similar experiences for me in the fact that both women were able to perform exactly what they wanted on their set without being controlling, without becoming obsessed with this idea of control, and without raising their voices, Dominczyk says. It was this kind of beautiful dance. They knew how to get it done, but they didnt have to assert their authority. I think it has a lot to do with women in general learning how to navigate through life and acquire the things we desire knowing when to fight for it and knowing how not to bend.
These two films were probably the best experiences of my life because Vera and Maggie are both actors and they speak the actors language, she says. Maggie would come up and whisper these beautiful, intimate notes in my ear right before camera rolled. And this gave me the freedom to play. She was the ultimate truth hunter. She just wanted the truth of the story... She gave us the freedom to dance together. That boosted my confidence. It boosted my confidence and my level of security. She did it so brilliantly for all her actors, top to bottom, it didnt matter if you were Olivia Coleman, who won an Oscar, or me or a day player. You received the same attention and love from her as you did. Thats incredible, he said.
De Kielce to Montclair, from Kielces to Monteclair
Dominczyks Lost Daughter character is from Queens, but the actor turned her inner Polish immigrant for the role.
She describes herself as my inner Greenpoint, as well as a distinctive form of mothering: You gotta be really bossy about how warm you are.
Callie is very confrontational in the best way possible she offers Leda birthday cake to disarm her. But the way she says cake is critical, as if the whole story of her being can be described in one word.
Since Callie and her family have Greek heritage and appear on a Greek island in the film, Dominczyk recalled her own summers in Poland as the American girl.
She was born in Kielce, in southern Poland, and raised in the city of Kielces. Miroslaw Dominczyk, a leader in Polands Solidarity trade union, was arrested and imprisoned while her family moved to the United States when she was 7 years old. The group was instrumental in ending the Communist regime in the country (Solidarity leader Lech Walesa, the future president of Poland, received the Nobel Peace Prize the same year).
The actress 2013 novel, "The Lullaby of Polish Girls," which is set between Kielce and the United States, echoes her story. The protagonist and her family including her father, who is active in the Solidarity movement are Polish refugees who move to Brooklyn.
After her fathers release from prison, Dominczyk lived in Brooklyn projects in Manhattan. She attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan and continued her studies at Carnegie Mellon School for Drama in Pittsburgh, where she met her future husband, actor Patrick Wilson.
Wilson and Dominczyk, who have been married for 16 years, have starred in a series of films, including Running with Scissors (2006), Big Stone Gap (2014), and Lets Kill Ward s Wife (2015), which featured her younger sister, actor Marika Dominiczy, whose husband, Scott Foley (Felicity), directed the film.
Wilson, 48, is currently in London filming Aquaman 2, officially titled Aquamann and the Lost Kingdom (he plays the villain Orm Marius/Ocean Master). When Dominczyks mother helps out with their sons Kalin, 15, and Kassian, 12, when she goes to Baltimore to film her role in We Own This City, the actor is accompanied by her two son's.
The family has lived in Montclair for 11 years. Dominczyk was initially dissatisfied that the place was the right one for her.
I never lived in a house with stairs and stuff, she adds. I only lived in apartments in the city. And it was a difficult transition for me. My husband grew up in a house with fenced yard and dogs and all that (in St. Petersburg, Florida). And he really wanted to get out of Brooklyn. We moved here in the winter, and I was playing in The Village. I didnt drive. New York I never had a license. So I would take the DeCamp bus every night to the theater and return in the snow to go back in my car in snow.
And I was like, What the heck are we doing here? Dominczyk says in a plaintive tone. Warum are we here?!?! Whats the noise level at night? Where are the people in the streets? It felt like I was in a strange place. Then spring arrived. Its so cliche, but trees blossomed and flowers, and all of a sudden I settled into it. My kids were happy running around, biking, and running. People that were extremely friendly, helpful, and kind were there for me. It has a thriving art scene. Our boys go to public schools here. I thought it might be our home.
Dominczyk made her film debut in the 2000 romantic comedy Keeping the Faith with Edward Norton and Ben Stiller. Her first major role as Mercds in the 2002 film The Count of Monte Cristo was opposite Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.
Her other film credits include Rock Star (2001) with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston; Kinsey (2004) with Liam Neeson; and Lonely Hearts (2006) with Jerseys own John Travolta and James Gandolfini; "The Letter" (2012) with Winona Ryder and Jim Franco; The Immigrant (2013) with Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard; & The Assistant 2020) together with Julia Garner and Domin
Her credits on Broadway include The Violet Hour, Enchanted April and Golden Boy.
Next year will see the release of My Love Affair With Marriage, an animated independent film (for adults) starring Dominczyk and Matthew Modine in a supporting role. Zelma, a character from ages 7 to 30, is on scouting for perfect love and lasting marriage.
The Kickstarter-funded project, headed by Signe Baumane, has been in the works for six years.
Dominczyk says, She does everything by hand. No CGI or anything. Her animation (is) old-school on a drafting table... I cant wait for that.
We Own This City is a real-life drama set in New York City.
Dominczyk has appeared in several television series, including Boardwalk Empire, The Deuce, and Bedford Diaries. Shes now taking on a regular role on HBOS We Own This City.
Right now, HBO is responsible for my midlife career, she adds. I owe them!
The six-part limited series, which was created by David Simon and George Pelecanos, writers and producers of The Wire and Deuce, is being headed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, director of the upcoming Will Smith film King Richard. Dominczyk claims that production will begin in mid-November.
The show is based on the book We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption, which was released in February by Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton. The story follows the Gun Trace Task Force, a Baltimore Police unit that was plagued by crime. As part of the scandal, Task force members were indicted on charges that included extortion, robbery, and selling seized drugs. The scandal came in the wake of riots over the 2015 death of singer Freddie Gray as a result of injuries he sustained while in police custody.
Dominczyk plays Erika Jensen, an FBI agent from New York who investigates the task force with Baltimore police Sgt. John Sieracki (Don Harvey of The Deuce). Jon Bernthal, who played Johnny Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark, portrays Baltimore Police Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, a figure at the center of the corruption.
I dont think Ive ever played a living real person before, the actor says. The FBI headquarters approved a phone conversation between us, which is really exciting and stimulating. Because I was so nervous. I thought, Well, if shes from Baltimore, thatll be the toughest accent ever. Kate Winslet did such a fantastic job in Mare of Easttown (playing fictional Delco Det. Mare Sheehan is a farm in Mare Heegan, Ireland. But this FBI agent that Im playing is actually a New Yorker. So I was like, Yeah, score. Shes been bare bones, tough, no glamour, and she doesn't wear high heels or pencil skirts. Shes passionate about her job and is very serious about it. Its something Ive never done before, of course. Thats also really exciting, he adds.
Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield), Tray Chaney (Malik Poot Carr), Jermaine Crawford (Duquan Dukie Weems), Nathan Corbett (Donut) and Chris Clanton (Savino Bratton) are all in the shows ensemble, as are The Deuce actor Thaddeus Street (Francis Black Frankie Reed).
Its one of the most wonderfully diverse casts and crews Ive ever been on a set, Dominczyk says. Its sad to say that a place where Im one of the few white people on set isnt uncommon. Its so freaking awesome. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, and everyone does their a-- off. Theres no hierarchy. Theres no ego. It's a really lovely group of people.
Reinaldo Marcus Green, the director, is an amazing, lovely human and hes doing a fantastic job. Its a tough tale to tell. Its a very f---ed up piece of history, what happened in Baltimore, and whatve happened over the last few years. I believe were telling it as authentically as possible and with as much truth as is practicable.
At 9 p.m., Succession will be released. Sunday, Oct. 17 on HBO, ET. The Lost Daughter will be released on Netflix on Dec. 31. Dagmara Dominczyk and Maggie Gyllenhaal will be at a 4:30 p.m. screening of the movie at the Montclair Film Festival. Sunday, Oct. 24; montclairfilm.org.
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Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @AmyKup on Twitter.