Even for the most diehard awards show fans, there’s not much to look forward to this Emmys. Thanks to COVID-19 congregating in a massive theater packed with celebrities is out of the question, meaning that we can say goodbye to those incredible red carpet looks and meme-able reaction shots. Even the list of nominations feels a bit cheap. During a year when half of television production was halted because of a world-altering virus, is it even fair to call what’s going to be awarded the best TV has to offer? But there’s one shining light in what will otherwise be a chaotic and potentially lackluster night of Hollywood shenanigans: the rivalry between Succession‘s Kieran Culkin and Nicholas Braun.
Culkin, Braun, and Matthew Macfadyen were all nominated for Emmys, which was a righteous and justified selection made by voters. Culkin’s Roman is a snarky privileged nightmare person who is almost single-handedly responsible for some of the most quotable lines in television’s most quotable shows. Braun’s Cousin Greg is equally excellent. The way Braun uses his height and physicality to make every move highlight that Cousin Greg is an awkward, unwanted outsider is a thing of comedic beauty. And Macfadyen’s scene about not making a Tomlette without cracking a few Gregs is the stuff HBO legend. The problem is that these three greats were nominated for the same category: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
Typically when multiple actors from the same project are nominated for the same award they react with grace and poise. They wish their competition the best of luck and go off on some overly nice rant about how it was a dream to work with so many talented actors and creators. Not Culkin.
When asked by EW how he’d respond if Braun or Macfadyen won the award over him, Culkin channeled his best Roman and went off. “I know that there’s two others in the show,” he said. “It’s me and Matthew and Nick in this category. Yeah. It’s kind of nuts. I’m going to have to kick Nick Braun in the balls if he beats me that’s all.”
Culkin then backtracked and added, “I should say punch. I don’t think I can get my foot that high. But I can punch.”
There’s so much about that reaction that’s lovely. There’s its unrelentingly pettiness and vulgarity. Who hasn’t not-so-secretly wanted their competitors to fail? But mostly what makes the insult great is the targeted cruelty of it. Culkin never said that he’d kick or punch Macfadyen in the balls. No, that honor solely belongs to Nicholas Braun. Even that specificity seems fitting in this warped world about hierarchy and wealth. In the Succession‘s universe, Roman getting beaten by Tom is infuriating but fine. But getting bested by Cousin freaking Greg? That’s entirely unacceptable.
To his credit Braun responded in a way that was perfectly fitting for his sheepish character. “Kieran and I are both in New York — I mean it’d be great to like watch this Emmys together and be in the same room together for it.” Braun told the Daily News. “I’m already planning on wearing a cup.”
He then added, “Unless he really stretched, I don’t think his foot could reach all the way up there. We have a height difference there.”
Agreeing to watch an awards show in the same room as your bully? That basically screams “I’m just happy to be invited.” Never was there a Cousin Greg move quite like that.
All of these threats and talk of balls are likely just jokes. Kieran Culkin probably isn’t going to kick anyone and Nicholas Braun probably won’t be sporting a cup as he live streams the Emmys. But does it matter? The fake fight between these two clowns is more interesting and wholesome than anything else the Emmys has going for it.