Actor Brian Cox and his empire

The British actor on Succession’s latest season and how he’s warming up to the exciting possibilities of web shows

One of the best things about HBO’s comedy drama, Succession, is veteran actor Brian Cox as the mysterious and mercurial patriarch, and media mogul Logan Roy, who holds the show together. With its second season out on June 17, we see Cox revealing new shades to his character. “The new season has moved on to other areas which I think the audience will find fascinating,” Cox says over a phone call from London.

He tells me how Logan is still trying to build his empire and is now dealing with his children in different ways as compared to the last episode of Season 1. “There’s a whole different tact. What one must remember about Logan is the contradiction — while he doesn’t treat his children particularly well, he actually loves them. That makes for quite a complicated relationship.” The shoot was more challenging this season, as the character’s back story is cracked open. And unlike the last season, where Cox was in bed for two episodes after his character suffered a stroke, “this time, I’m in all nine episodes, and not in bed! It was quite exhausting,” laughs the Emmy Award-winning actor.

Postcard from Scotland

In an unexpected off-screen twist, the shoot took Cox to his birthplace, Dundee in Scotland. When he was first asked to play the part of Logan, the actor suggested to creator Jesse Armstrong that he play a Scot, because he is Scottish. But Armstrong did not like the idea, and Logan was to be an American born in Quebec. However, by the end of the first season, his birthplace changed to Dundee. “I go up to Jesse and say, ‘What is this?’ He says, ‘Oh, it’s a little surprise.’ And I say, ‘It’s the ninth episode, it’s a heck of a surprise!’ So in this season, we shot an episode when he returns to Dundee. It was quite an experience, and I got to spend time with my oldest sister, who lives there,” shares Cox, 73.

Actor Brian Cox and his empire

It has been an eventful summer for the Braveheart actor, who lives in New York. In his latest film, Rory’s Way, Cox plays the title role of an ailing man out of his comfort zone, who forms a bond with his grandson. He also lends his voice as ‘Death’ in Good Omens, the recently released fantasy web show helmed by Neil Gaiman. Though Cox is well known as the baddie in blockbusters — as William Stryker in X-Men, Ward Abbott in The Bourne Identity and Bourne Supremacy, Agamemnon in Troy, and, notably, Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter — he has a rich legacy in theatre, where his acting career began in his teens as he gained recognition playing roles such as King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

From theatre to web

Cox, who has straddled both commercial and independent film worlds, says he enjoys working with young directors and writers such as Spike Jonze, with whom he did the 2002 film, Adaptation, and Rupert Wyatt, who cast him in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Escapist. He also finds himself addicted to binge watching shows on the web with his wife: Call My Agent, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and Ozark top his list.

Actor Brian Cox and his empire

Cox explains how the traditional film or television show is made up of three acts — first, middle and third. With web streaming, he says, the structure of the story has shrunk — we get a first, long act, while the climax is the second act. “It is similar to a two-act play without an intermission. I used to get annoyed when I first started doing Succession because I didn’t know what the future episodes were and I felt vulnerable not knowing where I was going.” But the actor soon warmed up to new ways of storytelling and says he finds it exciting the way arcs develop in shows where the character moves in mysterious ways. “It’s a whole new form of drama. It opens up all possibilities.”

Though theatre is consuming and harder to do as he grows older, he says it’s not curtains down. He is looking forward to going back to theatre in New York in the winter. The last time he was on stage, he performed in Waiting for Godot in 2015 in Edinburgh, which is where he had joined the Lyceum Company 50 years ago. “It has been a long and interesting journey and I don’t regret any of it,” wraps up Cox.

Season 2 of Succession is airing on Star World

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:50:05 PM |

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