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And the award for most cringe performance goes to… Kieran Culkin

From public proposals to upstaging your other half at their graduation – when it comes to a sense of timing (and appropriate conversation), even celebrities are getting it woefully wrong...

Emma Clarke
Tuesday 16 January 2024 15:25 GMT
Kieran Culkin tells wife he wants another baby as he accepts Emmy award

Star-studded shows, red carpet interviews and emotional acceptance speeches can be awkward at the best of times, but what Kieran Culkin did at the Emmys should win its own award – for services to cringe.

The Succession star, who was named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance as the dastardly rogue Roman Roy, for some mind-boggling reason decided he’d use the occasion... to tell his wife that he wants more children.

After collecting the gong, Culkin, 41, began by thanking his team, co-stars and the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong – before “switching to the personal really fast”. During a moving scene, he choked up as he thanked his mother Patricia for giving him life and providing him with a “great” childhood. He then spoke of his manager Emily Gerson Saines, thanking her for “keeping my name in the conversation when nobody was talking about me”. So far, so good.

But shortly after that poignant moment, he proceeded to put his spouse Jazz Charton, 35, on the spot: “Thank you for sharing your life with me and for giving me two amazing kids,” he said, before adding, “And Jazz… I want more. You said maybe, if I win!”

Charton‘s response said it all: she buried her face in her hands as the camera focused on her. Embarrassed, much? (I’d die...)

Seemingly realising the error of his judgement, Culkin later told reporters the backstory and also confessed: “Instead of just talking to her in private like a human, I just blasted her on stage, which was very rude.”

Now, while it is great that he acknowledged his wrongdoing, what he did – in my opinion – is grimly fascinating. And it’s become part of what I see as a very worrying and unsavoury trend, favoured by celebrities and “regular” people alike. Simply put: why don’t people keep private things private anymore?

In Culkin’s case, it was almost like a scene from the show itself – it reminded me of the time Shiv revealed that she had been named her father’s successor before his mind had been made up, or Kendall did the bait-and-switch on Logan regarding the cruise line scandal. The whole thing felt extremely Roman. It’s something his character would do: act chaotically, or try to strongarm someone he loves into giving him what he wants – and in a very public way. Culkin’s apology, in my opinion, is moot. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that he decided to share an exruciatingly personal element of their lives with millions around the world.

I’m not saying that he’s some machiavellian villain or that he doesn’t dote on her or respect her – they have a family together, after all. It’s just that what he potentially thought would be a cute addition to his speech ended up coming across as... well, incredibly insensitive.

And it’s not the first time a celebrity has used the public stage to air their personal desires. I can’t help but think of the time that Drake professed his love for Rihanna during the 2016 VMAs: even though she was being honoured with the prestigious Vanguard award, with all eyes deservedly on her, the rapper couldn’t help but seize the moment to tell her (and the rest of the world) that he had been in love with her since he was 22. He then tried to give her a kiss, disregarding the fact that she was clearly uncomfortable.

Then, of course, there are the myriad examples of times that “normal” people choose to make the personal very, very public indeed: from gender reveal parties to public proposals; from the guy who got down on one knee during his girlfriend’s graduation (stealing the limelight, much?) and flash mob date invitations, to the bizarre habit some people have of announcing an engagement during other people’s weddings (WTF?)

Of course Culkin is an extremely talented actor; his portrayal of Roman is nothing short of sublime. He managed to draw empathy, anger, laughter and tears from the audience – and his comedic delivery was second to none. He deserves every ounce of success and accreditation after that performance.

But life doesn’t always have to imitate art (or vice versa). Roman – I mean, Kieran – would do well to remember that...

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