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Emmy nominee profile: Harriet Walter (‘Succession’) shows the compassionate side of her devilish character


Dame Harriet Walter has long been a household name across the pond. Revered for her work in the British theater scene, most notably in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, she holds three nominations and a win from the Olivier Awards. She has also featured in a variety of British television programs and films. However, over the past few years her global notoriety has increased thanks in part to “Succession,” which arguably cemented Walter’s late ascension into the Hollywood spotlight.

In “Succession,” Walter plays Lady Caroline Collingwood, the former wife of media giant Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and the distant mother of the series’ three central Roy siblings. Her current Emmy nomination for Best Drama Guest Actress is her fifth overall, and her third for this role. Her episode submission, “Church and State,” introduces her character with her daughter Siobhan’s (Sarah Snook) colorful remark, “Thought I could hear the sound of Dalmatians howling.”

That is rather indicative of the view of Caroline in the eyes of her children and therefore the eyes of the audience in some respects. She has shown a knack for making life difficult for her children, including right from the outset of this episode, when she flips her daughter’s reveal of her pregnancy on its head, leaving Shiv looking violated and ashamed.

Walter is an effortless scene-stealer; she doesn’t need to say much for us to be transfixed. Even though she only appeared in seven of the show’s 39 episodes, a love-to-hate dynamic developed between Lady Caroline and the viewer. With this in mind, the portrait of her character grieving the loss of her former husband is an especially compelling showcase for Walter, who reveals multiple layers in Caroline. Her most memorable scene is right before the funeral begins: a poignant moment when she brings all of Logan’s former flames together to sit in the front row. This sudden injection of tenderness and compassion is a shock to the system. The very character we scoffed at moments earlier is bringing tears to our eyes.

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With a win, Walter would be yet another winking devil to hold an Emmy. It would be a crowning achievement for Walter to be acknowledged for her final outing on the show, and she would become the oldest ever recurring guest star to win this category.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Emmy nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2023 acting contenders.

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