Jeremy Strong won Best Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in Succession during the 25th annual Critics’ Choice Awards gala at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. The HBO comedy-drama was also honored at the Golden Globes earlier this year, winning Best Television Series Drama. 

Strong has portrayed the power-hungry Kendall Roy in 20 episodes of Succession since June of 2018. As Kendall’s father is an aging media titan, the show centers on the offspring who vie for control in hopes of becoming the heir to the entertainment conglomerate. Although Kendall is the presumed natural successor to his father, he struggles with self-doubt, substance abuse, and has a tendency to bungle major deals. 

After initially reading the script for the dark comedy, the 41-year-old actor felt compelled to play the role of Kendall as they shared something in common. Strong explained his thought process during an interview with Gold Derby:

“What you want to read as an actor is something that you feel in a sense that you don’t know if you can do this—that you don’t know if you have it in you to do this. And when I felt that, I thought that it aligned me well with Kendall because that’s the situation that he’s in. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. He’s been put into this position of assuming this role of leadership, and I think he doubts and questions in a pretty agonizing way whether he’s up to the task. And so I tried to just let that live in me—you know, sort of try to carry the mantle of an HBO show which obviously weighs heavily on me and is tremendously important to me to serve that in the same way that I think Kendall felt like he was up against the test of his life.”

The first season hit the ground running with an 87-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and praise for the series’ sharp writing and exceptional performances. And the second season jumped to a whopping 96-percent certified fresh rating. With this kind of momentum, Succession has been renewed for a third season.

Strong struggled through hard times as an aspiring actor. “I’m a scrappy outsider from Boston so didn’t have a privileged background at all like many in the business,” he said. And when trying to land a talent agent, the actor remembers the cold east-coast conditions, saying, “It was the middle of winter, Con Edison had shut off my power, and I didn’t have an agent. I made this VHS tape of some monologues, but I didn’t even have the money for a MetroCard. So I walked the tapes ‘round to the different agencies in town.”

But Strong would go on to graduate from Yale University where he starred in several plays and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. From there, he found extensive work off Broadway and appeared in A Man for All Seasons on Broadway.

“Most of my heroes had started out in the theater, so I was always doing plays, and I think initially it was just an escape and also a transcendent freedom that I discovered on the stage that I didn’t feel anywhere else in my life. The transition into film took longer than I wanted, but I am grateful for the years of hardship that I went through because they allowed me to connect with characters, in terms of adversity, in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise if things had happened more easily for me,” the actor said. 

Once he made the leap to the screen, there’s been no holding Strong back. He’s appeared in Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln (as John George Nicolay), Parkland (as Lee Harvey Oswald), Selma (as James Reeb), The Big Short, and Molly’s Game