Illustration by Maria-Ines Gul

Succession writer Georgia Pritchett: ‘I’ve built a career on just uttering filth’

The screenwriter on how she avoids turning Succession into “a filthy version of Friends”
December 9, 2021

Speaking to Georgia Pritchett, it is hard to believe that this warm, self-effacing woman could be one of the brains behind the narcissistic and entitled family at the heart of HBO’s hit show Succession. When I put this to her, she laughs and tells me there were doubts “from some quarters” over whether a “small, scruffy, shambolic group of British writers” could pull off this “big, glossy American drama.” The show, currently in its third series, charts the machinations of ageing media magnate Logan Roy—rumoured to have been inspired by both Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump—and his conniving children who vie to succeed him. Given the show has received Emmys and near-universal critical acclaim, it seems Pritchett and her fellow writers have pulled it off.

Born in London in 1968, Pritchett had a creative, semi-bohemian upbringing. Coming from such a prestigious cultural background—her grandfather was the writer VS Pritchett and her brother, Telegraph cartoonist Matt—she perhaps has an inkling of the pressure of inheriting the family profession. Alongside Succession showrunner Jesse Armstrong, Pritchett has worked on political satires The Thick of It and Veep. Her favourite Succession character, youngest son Roman Roy, is a “filthy little pixie,” she says, whose sublime vulgarity rivals that of spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. “I’ve written for a few sweary shows now—built a career on just uttering filth, really. But I think what we tried to do—if this isn’t too highfalutin’ a way of describing swearing—is be very creative and almost have Baroque swearing… using swear words creatively to describe things, not just insult each other.” 

Pritchett wrote some of Succession’s funniest scenes—including Logan’s son-in-law Tom pelting his subordinate Greg with water bottles while locked in a safe room. She aims to humanise the characters just enough to engage viewers. “I’m a bit soppy,” she says. “I think Jesse is very good at keeping us on point and not letting it turn into a filthy version of Friends, which is probably what I would do if I was left in charge.” 

The writers meet every day for four months, planning what will happen to the minute, before breaking off into pairs to write each individual episode. She mentions two maxims pinned to the writers’ room wall: “You can never escape the family,” and “the family are poisoning each other and poisoning the world.” 

Despite being part of such a successful project, Pritchett, I sense, isn’t entirely comfortable with the limelight. Having been forced, as a woman, to fight for recognition throughout her career—her early jokes for Radio 4 comedy show Week Ending were mistakenly credited to a George Pritchett—she may find it surreal to receive so much now. She hates dressing up to attend an awards ceremony—something she protests only happens because she is “lucky enough to have stood near someone clever like Jesse while they made something brilliant.” But she is not just standing next to someone clever. She is currently showrunning the Apple TV comedy The Shrink Next Door. Pritchett is quietly transforming the landscape of television writing, one sweary insult at a time.