Arian Moayed Hopes the ‘Succession’ Stewy Hive Comes Out For ‘You Hurt My Feelings’

Oddly enough, Arian Moayed enjoys the sweat, grease, and grime of productions based in New York City. Three of his ongoing projects—Succession on HBO, the upcoming comedy film You Hurt My Feelings, and A Doll’s House on Broadway—have kept him tied down to the metropolitan hub. The city’s not for every actor, but Moayed says he appreciates having to dip through the crowded streets of Manhattan.

“You have to be nimble,” Moayed says. “That brings a sense of danger to it all.”

When I ask him why he’s drawn to these fast-paced city stories, Moayed seems almost apologetic about his attraction to the Big Apple. It’s like he’s revealing his guilty pleasure, as if enjoying New York is akin to eating greasy dollar slices or wearing sneakers without socks (more on that later).

Moayed, dressed in a crisp business fit for Stewy Hosseini (his Succession character, a longtime friend of the Roy family and vicious business collaborator), reveals this preference to me during a chat on a sunny day in Nolita. Not only does he love grungy New York, he says, but he also loves a low-key set. “It sounds kind of crazy, but I also love the indie-film budget. There’s a scrappiness of it that gets you to make quick decisions. Even on a show like Succession, we have to do that a little bit.”


Perhaps another actor would be peeved by an angry New Yorker shouting obscenities at a cast of renowned celebrities, as they’re filming on a busy sidewalk. But not Moayed, who revels in a memory of just that he has from filming Nicole Holofcener’s upcoming You Hurt My Feelings in early 2022. During production, a good number of city dwellers were still sporting masks, but the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t part of the movie, which releases on May 26 in theaters.

Moayed was shooting one of the most tense scenes in the movie, in which Don (Tobias Menzies) vents to his brother-in-law Moayed’s character Mark, about how he secretly dislikes his wife Beth’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) new novel. While Don and Mark talk in a packed Paragon store, Beth listens in, unbeknownst to them. As they filmed, Moayed witnessed true New York kindness: A young PA asked a masked passerby to step out of the frame.

“And the guy says, in typical New York fashion,” Moayed recalls, “‘Shoot it in the studio!’”

Moayed has a good laugh, though neither of us envies the PA who faced down the aggravated local. Moayed also recalls having to use some of that New York agility himself during the shoot, when cameras started rolling. While Moayed and Menzies waited for Louis-Dreyfus and Michaela Watkins (who plays Sarah, Beth’s sister and Mark’s wife) to enter Paragon, the actors were tasked with improvising a few lines as the comedy-of-errors was set into motion.

“I remember we needed to fill in with all of this sock talk,” Moayed says, seeing as his character is a sock fanatic. “I [improvised], ‘I just like to sit with the wall. I like to sit back, watch the wall of socks, and see what socks speak to me.’ I remember Tobias being like, ‘Really?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ So we just looked at the socks.”

In another movie, perhaps this scene would be cruel and dramatic—but not through the lighthearted human lens of Holofcener, who cushions her attacks against Beth with a hilarious Moayed ranting and raving about socks. You wouldn’t guess that these lines were off-the-cuff. The actor speaks with such conviction, such sincerity, and such care about socks—socks!—that you believe every word he comes up with.

It helps that Moayed, himself, is a bit of a sock head. (Or whatever sock fans are called. There are “sneaker heads,” but I couldn’t find anything online for the “sockies.”) “True story,” he says, chuckling, before he launches into his Christmas list from a few years ago, which included a number of pricey socks. Ironically, though, one of his most popular characters has the exact opposite opinion.

“On Succession, I purposely wanted no socks. [Stewy] never wears socks,” Moayed says. He’s fixated on the intricacies of his characters’ footwear on Succession and especially You Hurt My Feelings, which details Mark’s sock fascination to build his character’s eccentric personality. But he thanks director/writer Holofcener for that detail. “That’s Nicole, and that’s the beauty of Nicole’s work. It’s all about these specific things that make people click.”

That intense level of “micro-comedy,” as he calls it, is what Moayed found alluring about the role, in which he is one-half of something that is so rare in movies these days: a middle-aged, healthy, happy New York couple. Sure, they fight. But Mark and Sarah—as well as Beth and Don, who are the main couple—understand each other on a molecular level. Literally. Sarah carries around each over-the-counter medicine Mark might need on any occasion, from GasX to Tums.


Jeong Park / A24 Films

“Those are the things I really respond to,” he says of those relationship specifics. “Big broad gestures of, ‘We’re in a fight, so we must divorce!’ It’s very binary. To hear a little bit of nuance—both of those relationships are super-healthy. They’re complicated, and they’ll surely have turmoil going forward, but that being said, it feels lived in and honest.”

The pair work incredibly well together, which is in part thanks to Holofcener’s vivid writing and Watkins, who, Moayed says, looked him in the eyes and transfixed him: “Seeing she loves you and feels bad for you at the same time, it’s all you need.” But a marriage is made up of two halves, and, for his part, Moayed is an erratic and loving presence. He panics over everything—but is also the only person who can calm Sarah down at any given moment.

“What if you didn’t like one of my designs?” Sarah, an interior designer, asks Mark one night, while they contemplate Beth and Don’s tricky disagreement.

“But I love your style,” Mark responds. The conversation ends. They settle back into bed, which looks as cozy as their meditative conversations sound.

Mark is a stage actor, akin to Moayed, though they differ in the fact that Moayed is actually able to secure big roles. Over the course of You Hurt My Feelings, we see Mark secure a role in a play, then get fired for his poor performance, and, later, land another role that actually fits his style. While Moayed says he doesn’t “go depression” when he loses roles—which Mark does, canceling his big birthday bash after some bad casting news knocks him out—he completely relates to all of Mark’s jams in trying to find work.

“All of us in the creative world have to put ourselves out there in a vulnerable, tough, scary way,” he says. “Any type of reaction to that—small, bad, good—you’re constantly analyzing it. Every creative person that I know is like, ‘Why did I write it like that? Why am I not as good as this person?’ It never ends.” Then, Moayed points his finger to me and back to himself, indicating that we’re both creative types. “We give a shit.”

There’s a moment in the film where, after Beth hears all of the nasty things Don thinks about her book (he only really says that it’s “not good,” but that alone is enough to send her into a full-blown panic attack, fixed only by some of her son’s weed), Sarah tells her sister that she’s lied to Mark about liking a handful of his performances. But why say that she doesn’t like them aloud?

With regards to his own artistic life, Moayed prefers hearing and telling white lies too.

“What are we gaining from it, for me to come up and be like, ‘Yo, I hated your article. But what do you want to have for lunch?’” he says. “If you’re putting yourself out there, with hard work and as much energy and talent as you can throw at it, and [someone] hates it, I think it’s okay to [tell a] white lie. Just let it go.”

Moayed admits that he’s had to employ this tactic before “Sometimes, you’re backstage waiting for the friend to come out of this shitty play that you just saw. You try to find the most honest, positive things you can put out into the world. And then you leave with a couple of other friends, who are like, ‘Did you like it?’ and you’re like, ‘No, I hated it,’” he says, grimacing. “It’s a tricky dance, but we deal with it all the time.”

Someone he won’t have to lie to about their work, however, is Succession castmate Jeremy Strong, who was just cast in a 2024 production of An Enemy of the People. It marks Strong’s first Broadway role since 2008, when he starred in A Man For All Seasons. Before this news dropped, Strong came to visit his pal Moayed (head’s up, KenStewy hive: They see each other quite a bit in real life, even if their scenes together are often cut from Succession) and see him in A Doll’s House.

“I remember going up to him and being like, ‘When are you going to get back up here?’” Moayed recalls his interaction with Strong after A Doll’s House. “He was like, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do this again.’ Lies! Cut to a month later, when this is happening. He’s perfectly cast for this.” Like any actor, however, Moayed says that “I’m sure [Strong is] going to be shitting bricks too.”

Unfortunately, Strong and Moayed won’t cross paths on Broadway, as Moayed’s stint in A Doll’s House will end on June 10—the night before the Tony Awards, at which he’s deservedly up for his second Best Featured Actor in a Play nomination.

“Hopefully we’re not hungover at the Tonys!” Moayed jokes. “There are 30 minutes of the play where [co-star Jessica Chastain and I] are literally two inches from each other, loving and hating each other at the same time. I’m definitely going to miss that challenge, sparring with such a legend.”

Another show that’s about to close its curtains: Succession. Writing these words fills me with sadness—say it ain’t so! Only one episode in the HBO show’s fourth and final season remains, and the hour-and-a-half-long doozy of a finale will air this Sunday.


Macall Polay

“Knowing how it ends, seeing some of the ending, I am both so happy and incredibly sad,” Moayed says. “We end with such a big bang that will feel, hopefully, satisfying to everyone. [Fans] are going to have a series of emotions that are epic in nature—huge and full and satisfied. Jesse Armstrong’s statement about this class and this world and money and capitalism—[the finale] really zeroes in on what he’s trying to say.”

Though Moayed only has a recurring role in the story of the brutal Roy family, Stewy has become quite the fixture. The character has developed (and, thoughtfully, interacts with) an avid fan base on social media, where his minor role has exploded into a fan-favorite thanks to clever lines and a snarky performance. He’s particularly popular on Twitter, where fans rioted in protest when his character was present at Logan’s (Brian Cox) wake but not his funeral.

“These episodes are full, full, full,” Moayed says, explaining that he was originally supposed to be in last Sunday’s episode. “There were a bunch of scenes in that episode that were cut out, which happens. Luckily, that was the first time that happened for me, which is nice.” But the moment we lost sounds like it would have been a good one: “We had a lovely scene with Jeremy and I, a little bit with Ewan [James Cromwell] and Stewy.”

Stewy fans, rest assured: “I am in the last episode,” Moayed confirms.

The actor also urges his fanbase to keep supporting him once Succession ends, of course. After viewing Stewy’s final moments on the show, why not go see You Hurt My Feelings? “If the Stewy hive goes towards a Nicole Holofcener addiction, I am happy to be that conduit,” he says.

Going out to support your favorite actors is especially important right now, as the threat of a Screen Actors’ Guild strike looms, which would take our favorite stars like Moayed out of work and onto the picket line for an immeasurable amount of time. If the studios won’t come to the contract renegotiation table, though—which Moayed unfortunately predicts will happen, akin to the ongoing Writers’ Guild strike—striking be necessary action.

“We’re in an existential moment right now. Are we going to really continue to let others get all of the goods while everyone else is fighting for survival?” Moayed says. “We live in a world very much like Succession, where it seems like so many at the top are getting so much richer while everyone else that’s putting the work and the hours in to make that content are not. We’re not asking for too much here!”

Until his world is possibly turned upside down, though, Moayed continues to hunt for stories that will challenge him. Any of those New York-based productions, which keep him on his toes, will do. But he holds himself to a pretty high standard when choosing his next projects.

“The guiding post for me is this old Iranian/Zoroastrian philosophy, called ‘Good thoughts, good words, and good deeds,’” he says. “In a weird way, as I’m getting older, I realize I’m picking the stories I want to tell by having that mantra. Does this story have good thoughts, does it have good words, and does it have good deeds? If it doesn’t, or if it’s just evil for evil’s sake, that’s not something I’m interested in. If [Mark] is just a terrible actor—I’m not interested. If Stewy hates everyone and just wants to get ahead, I’m not interested.”

Moayed has, at the moment, selected the following stories: that of a headstrong businessman, who cares deeply about his twisted CEO best friend; an actor who is strong enough to secure callbacks but never land the part; and Jessica Chastain’s controlling husband. You wouldn’t be telling him any white lies by saying he’s nailing all three.

This post was originally published on Daily Beast

Share your love