Succession’s Own It Girl
If anyone you know has been contemplating getting the “billionaire chic” mullet Naomi Pierce debuted in the season 4 premiere of Succession, the actor behind the haircut has a message. “I’ll pray for them,” Annabelle Dexter-Jones tells Harper’s Bazaar. While the shaggy, heavily textured cut has drawn comparisons to both Natasha Richardson in The Parent Trap and Princess Diana, Dexter-Jones acknowledges that the mullet repels as much as it attracts. “[My hairdresser] Ashley Javier said to me the other day, ‘Do you think all your friends blame me for the reason you’re still single?’”
Dexter-Jones surprised the cast and crew when she showed up on set with the look, but it makes perfect sense for her character. Naomi Pierce might be the black sheep of the Pierce media family, but her fashion judgment is unerring; she’s a woman who knows how to take a hair risk and still look like the walking embodiment of TikTok’s old-money aesthetic. And Dexter-Jones knows exactly how to play her. No stranger to the New York social scene, the actor feels a deep kinship with the character, which allows her to make such surefire choices.
She embodies Naomi so fully, and so seemingly effortlessly, that her fairly infrequent guest appearances throughout the last three seasons have been meaningful enough to inspire tweets (“If Proenza doesn't get Annabelle Dexter-Jones (Naomi Pierce) to walk their next show....missed op”), as well as fans from all walks of life. “[We’ll be] walking down the street on a Monday and seeing people rubbernecking. Or sitting in a booth and having Phoebe Waller-Bridge say, ‘I know who you are—you’re great!’” Dexter-Jones’s half brother, musician Mark Ronson, says.
In the past, when asked about her command of Naomi, the actor has conceded that she “didn’t need to do a lot of research for the character.” Dexter-Jones, too, grew up with immense privilege. As the daughter of jewelry designer Ann Dexter-Jones and Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, she was raised in Manhattan with her older siblings. (In addition to Mark, she also counts DJ Samantha Ronson and fashion designer Charlotte Ronson as half sisters.) Dexter-Jones attended an all-girls private school and spent her adolescence interning at Bazaar, as well as serving as a contributing editor at Teen Vogue alongside socialites like Selby Drummond and Lena Dunham. (“It was like LARPing as a Vogue girl,” she says.) On the night of this year’s Met Gala, she wrote on Instagram, “I interned for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel when I was 17. He hated me...”
In prior interviews she’s also also nodded to the fact that “the world of [Naomi’s] recovery isn’t a foreign thing to me.” In fact, Dexter-Jones has a very intimate understanding of her character’s struggles with sobriety.
“I definitely had experience with addiction myself. It was rampant in the world around me; the world of art and entertainment has a lot of drug and alcohol abuse in it—that’s part of the glamour [and it’s] normalized. So it felt like a natural tool,” she says, while cozying up makeup-free on a green velvet couch in her art-filled West Village apartment. An oil painting of white rabbits rests above her head; an oversize Noguchi light hangs from the ceiling.
“I got sober young, in my 20s, but I also had experiences with recovery from the age of 17. [Addiction] is always a part of me, and getting to engage with it was alchemical,” she says. “Getting to turn it into something else for the show was just very exciting.”
Despite being the youngest of the brood, Dexter-Jones didn’t have any issue keeping up with her siblings. Mark Ronson remembers that she never had to compete for attention in their loud household full of large personalities, as she was so “graceful, angelic, and beautiful” that it was naturally bestowed upon her. “Her and [our] brother Alexander had such an advanced sense of humor that [when she was] 11, they told me that I should see this movie Waiting for Guffman. I watched it with them and Annabelle was cracking up in all the right, most dry places,” he says.
Around the same time, Ronson took them to see Fargo at a movie theater on the Upper West Side, much to their fellow theatergoers’ dismay. “There was one scene where William H. Macy shoots at his father-in-law and the bullet grazes his face really slowly. I can still remember this older Jewish lady exclaiming, ‘Somebody get those children out of this theater!’ Then I remember looking at them and being like, ‘You guys okay?’ They looked at me like, ‘Yeah, we’re totally fine.’”
As Dexter-Jones grew up—and her siblings entered the limelight, with Mark starting to produce music for Amy Winehouse and Samantha embarking on a tabloid-frenzied relationship with Lindsay Lohan—she became something of an “It girl” (a title New York recently formally bestowed upon her, including her in the magazine’s issue dedicated to the subject). And Dexter-Jones began participating in traditionally It girl behaviors such as going out, having fun, and partying hard. “By the time I was 16, the paparazzi culture had totally taken hold. Up until the ’90s, the way that the public felt about famous people was very positive. But with the advent of reality television, court television, and social media, it allowed us to feel like we could judge [celebrities],” she says of the cultural climate she cut her teeth in.
It was the early 2000s, and mug shots were being treated as clickbait on the newly launched TMZ. Perez Hilton was referring to party-girl celebrities like Lohan, who was in Dexter Jones’s orbit, with monikers like “Lezlo” and “Linsanity.” “That was kind of terrifying. I think I just dissociated and, you know, drank,” Dexter-Jones says. But she still absorbed the tabloid culture’s obsession with rebellious women, particularly the publications’ propensity to judge and malign them. “I internalized that [attitude] and was seeing myself through these very judgmental eyes.”
Though it’s now been many years since Dexter-Jones made the decision to pursue recovery, her desire to work on herself has never waned. “The self-imposed austerity and the standard that she holds herself to for bettering herself [is something I] I have so much respect for,” Mark Ronson says. “The things that she’s done for the purpose of introspection, even preventatively, to make sure she doesn’t go down the path that’s [in] this family’s genetic code is really one of the things that I not even admire, but look up to.”
And it’s this continued self-introspection that fuels her work on Succession. “Once we take away drugs and alcohol, that doesn’t solve our problems. We have to find new, creative ways [to act out],” Dexter-Jones says. A pack of cigarettes lies on her coffee table next to the sparkling water she’s poured us. She’s not a true smoker, she says, but it’s a vice she’ll still occasionally indulge in. “[On the show] I wanted to see what addiction looks like without drugs and alcohol. Is it relationships? Being pulled in different directions?”
Jeremy Strong, who plays her on-again, off-again boyfriend Kendall Roy, echoes this. He was extremely hands-on with the casting for Naomi, and recalls being blown away by the authenticity and lack of vanity Dexter-Jones brought to the role. “There’s an element of love addiction there, something very highly combustible [about the relationship between Kendall and Naomi],” he says. “Annabelle had a visceral understanding of [the dynamic], and she brought her whole self to it, which is what I think you have to do to embody these characters.”
It’s also likely why she’s lasted on the show much longer than initially intended. When Dexter-Jones first booked the role, Naomi wasn’t supposed to appear for much more than the episode set at the Pierce family’s Tern Haven home. But the writers and cast instantly glimpsed what Strong describes as Dexter-Jones’s ability to “create this fully dimensional, indelible part of the tapestry of the show.”
Part of this comes from Dexter-Jones’s exemplar understanding of what Naomi both would and wouldn’t wear. Ralph Lauren is “too on the nose.” The Row would feel “too obvious.” And Saint Laurent would run the risk of being too visibly “Oh, that’s Saint Laurent.” So despite her own admiration for these brands, Dexter-Jones sought out stealthier wealth-leaning alternatives. “I landed on Proenza [Schouler] because I wanted it to be an American designer but I didn’t want it to be super obvious, since that WASP thing is really important to [Naomi],” she says. Sometimes she’ll supplement Naomi’s looks with up-and-coming designs from her own closet, like a pair of Sophie Buhai earrings or Feel jeans. But by and large, Dexter-Jones favors irreverent takes on Upper East Side–friendly wares for Naomi. “I had Tina Barney’s family portraits on my mind a lot when thinking about her style.”
Dexter-Jones attributes her comfort with weighing in on her character’s wardrobe to Strong’s encouragement. When he saw her scrutinizing the Ralph Lauren garments that had initially been selected for Naomi, he urged her to speak up. “Jeremy was like, ‘You know you can ask [wardrobe] for things that you want?’ Because he’s so specific [with Kendall], seeing him do that inspired me,” she says, while also crediting the show’s costume designer, Michelle Matland, with being incredibly collaborative. “[Jeremy’s] like, ‘Take up as much space as you want. Just don’t take space away from other people.’ He’s a very generous [actor].”
In turn, Strong counts Dexter-Jones as one of his favorite scene partners of the show’s run, up there with Brian Cox. “There’s almost an entire arc of Kendall and Naomi’s relationship that didn’t make it into the final cuts. There’s stuff we shot in Scotland where we were in a bed together and I asked her to sing me a song in the scene. She sang this song “Jerusalem”—just unhesitatingly fearless as an actor,” Strong says. “Kendall didn’t have a lot of personal relationships; most of his interactions were corporate. So the only time where we really go into the personal life of this character is with Naomi, and I cherished that relationship because it felt like [it contained] these rungs on the ladder towards a kind of redemption, which is what love can offer.” He adds, “I really feel there’s a Supporting Actress Emmy award worth of scenes that didn’t make it into the show that we did together.”
With Naomi’s pared-down arc, much of the enthusiasm for the character derives from her impeccable wardrobe. Not that Dexter-Jones minds the emphasis. “The fashion part of it [being] so important is really appropriate for a character who’s very accustomed to chaos,” says the actor, who will soon star in the next season of American Horror Story, alongside Kim Kardashian, Emma Roberts, and Cara Delevingne. “The choices she makes about her appearance are the few things she has control over.”
But off-screen, Dexter-Jones doesn’t need any such armor. “I’ve had catharsis. Not like I’m cured—I have a whole other set of issues—but I have distance [from it].”
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