'The nakedness of Succession is what catches people': Brian Cox
Ahead of the hit show’s season three premiere, the legendary lead talks about being Logan Roy
Anyone who is anyone (not just the 0.1 per cent) is waiting for Succession season three with bated breath. After the previous series' numerous triumphs, the latest finally drops in the UAE on OSN Streaming on October 18. Who better to let us in on the action than patriarch Logan Roy or, as he’s known in the real world, the incomparable Brian Cox.
How was it filming the final episode of season two, in which Logan Roy makes it clear that a blood sacrifice is required by the family?
It was great. It was a great scene and it set up a wonderful thing about what was going to happen. And of course, all my expectations of what was going to happen – it’s not that they haven’t been met, but it was more surprising than I imagined. [The story] has gone on a route that only Jesse Armstrong could take it, a really interesting route.
So this new series has been really quite surprising in its development. Jesse isn’t linear – he seems to be, but he’s not. He does the tangent but at the same time never losing the central focus. So that’s very exciting about it. And of course there’s lots of stuff happening – none of which I can reveal! But it is an amazing series.
In the final shot on your face at the end of series two, Logan has this almost smile playing on the corners of his mouth as he hears Kendall going public with his accusations about his father. Is that Logan saying: that’s my boy?
To a certain extent, yeah. Because we’d had the discussion [earlier] about how [Kendall] has to be a killer – he has to learn that. But he has to be a killer not at his own cost. He has to be a killer that kills and doesn’t get too involved. So I think that’s the difference.
And therefore Logan is kind of proud in a way that Kendall has made the effort – good on him! But also, with his own character, it’s going to be difficult. Because fundamentally, he isn’t a killer – he’s assuming killing and he’s at it like anything. But at the end of the day, he’s Kendall Roy, he’s not Logan Roy.
Jesse Armstrong runs a writing room full of writers who are constantly finessing the script, even as you’re shooting. And he also lets the actors try the lines in a variety of ways. As someone who’s done a lot of stage work and collaborated with theatrical companies, does that way of working appeal to you?
Oh, I love the way Jesse works. He’s unique and just simply astonishing, just in terms of his grasp of the show. He worries if it’s too perfect! He doesn’t like perfection, he wants to mess it up! We did this scene the other day and he said, ‘Oh, it’s a bit too [perfect].’ And I said: ‘Well, it’s your fault, because you’re too good a writer! You’ve got to learn to accept the fact that you’re a wonderful writer, and you panic when you’ve got something that’s so [perfect].’ This scene was just so stunningly written by him.
But again, because he’s Jesse and he has the most incredible humility about his work, he kind of panicked! And I said: ‘Well, you’ve got to live with it, kid! I can talk like that because I’m 75 and you’re 50, and you’ve got to live with the fact that you’ve got talent. That’s your curse and your gift, so there you go!’
No, he’s just fantastic. And everything is always surprising. And it’s so human – he really does understand, and he doesn’t judge the characters. It’s so easy to take this show and judge everything, and formulate it in certain ways. But he never does that. It’s always surprising. It’s always going in the route that you never expect. Just constant, constant surprise.
Where do we find Logan at the start of series three?
There’s a new challenge. There’s this usurping son who’s trying to prove himself and Logan knows the boy is in for a bruising, just because he’s such a complicated lad, young Kendall. And he’s such a lonely boy. There’s nothing Logan can do about that. But he loves him.
The thing I asked Jesse right from the word go is: ‘Does he love his children?’ And he said: ‘He absolutely loves his children.’ So once you’ve established that, how much his children mean to him, and how disappointing it all becomes, that’s fodder for the whole show: at root, we never see it, he doesn’t express it, but he does love them. That’s where he’s coming from.
So in this season there’s real challenges to the whole thing about loving his kids. There’s a little tragic element to it in that way. It’s classical – it’s very Shakespearian in that way.
You wouldn’t say any of these people are hugely likeable. So why do we love a show peopled with so many thistly, thorny characters?
Because I think it reminds us of who we are at rock bottom. It rings so many bells – and dark bells – for a lot of us. But that’s Jesse’s skill, that’s what Jesse does: he’s lured people into this show in an incredibly brilliant way. And people are caught, like a fish – they’re on the hook. They’re on the Succession hook, and they can’t get off it.
I understand that, because it’s that kind of show. And it’s packed with really great people, all the way down the line – not just the actors, but the wardrobe department, make-up department, camera crew – they’re all second to none. So our community is pretty bloody good, really. That’s the show.
Similarly, it’s a show about the 1 per centers – or even the 0.1 per cent. And yet its relatable. How does it manage that?
I think that’s because we all have ambition. Sometimes it’s thwarted. Sometimes we bury it. Sometimes we go for it. Sometimes we are ashamed of it. I think the nakedness of Succession is what catches people. Because it’s quite naked in that way – the language, the abuse… Even I sometimes go: ‘Do I really have to say that?’
Succession Season 3 will premiere exclusively on OSN Streaming on October 18.
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