What dynamics can you play with when you put the whole family in the same room together?
Armstrong: When I pitched this show, I felt like if we do this family show, every episode in a way should feel like a special episode that could be its own movie, so that we could get this quite disparate but interconnected family group together. In a plot and writing sense, that's really useful. We had a fantastic cast. They're all brilliant, and also they're all natural stand-up improvisers. But they all really know how to follow a scene in an interesting direction. Having them all around a dinner table, and having a couple cameras running, and saying, 'Do the script but then do some bits around it' -- I love that way of shooting. It's a little bit more of a comedic, loose way of shooting, but I think it works really well for a drama like this, as well.
Do you remember a specific line that somebody improvised that you loved?
Armstrong: Does Kieran [Culkin] say, "These hands aren't going to fuck themselves," as he walks off? I forget now whether we left it in the cut. I think we did. When he's having an exchange with the senator and he just walks off saying that, we didn't know what the hell he was going to say. Often tops and tails of scenes can be good opportunities to do extra bits. Kieran was certainly brilliant at coming up with those. I think that was one of them.
Why do you think viewers have responded to Tom so much?
Armstrong: I think one thing about him is it's very easy when you're conceiving of a character, and often people seem this way in life, don't they? To have one overriding mode of being, and you tend to write towards that. But Tom is quite split. He's a kind of a jerk and a bully at work, and aggressive, and he's got the sort of masculine bullshitty way of dealing with his coworkers. That comes out especially towards Greg, with the way we particularly see it. But he also has this insinuating slightly masochistic relationship with power, in particular to the power of the family and to Shiv, where he feels like he's this kind of pathetic worm. Also, there's another level to him, I think, which is he -- most in the last couple of episodes -- is really just a bloke. [He's] a guy who does genuinely love Shiv. Although all the people in the show, as you've mentioned, are pretty tough and ambitious and have grown up with a set of values that doesn't always make them most immediately attractive, Shiv also does have a kind of attractive quality about her. I feel like their relationship is real. I guess maybe he approaches being like people we know in our lives who are like, they're a total jerk, but actually they also really love their wife and they're quite nice when you see them in such and such situation. Then, in another situation, you see them and they seem like the most reprehensible person you can imagine. He has a bunch of conflictions, certainly. Matthew [Macfadyen] is so good because he doesn't make you feel like it's a different person in those scenes. You're like, "Oh, yeah. People are a bit like that, aren't they?"