When we last saw Logan Roy — the head of media conglomerate Waystar Royco and the titular character of the mega hit show on Star World, Succession, played by Brian Cox — he was livid. He had after all been stabbed in the back by his own son, Kendall. But when you have a multi-billion dollar industry at stake, one can expect everything. The wait for season three seems interminable. What happens next, we wonder. “Your guess is as good as mine. I have an idea, maybe where it should go. But it will be fun to deal with Kendall’s betrayal. I think we will fully realise that Logan is a much more formidable force than he has let on. Added to this is the Marcia situation (Logan’s wife, who doesn’t get along with the rest of the family). It will be a packed season let me guarantee that,” shares Brian Cox over the phone from London.
The show has garnered a fixated fan-following globally and the news is that they can’t get enough of the Roy family, as the reigning patriarch holds on to the empire and the children squabble and conspire over their piece of the pie. Corporate greed and human pettiness are recurring themes of the show, and season two just aired towards the end of last year. “Succession is ostensibly a morality tale. It’s Chaucerian in its ambition. It looks at the mores of a class of people who rule, not very effectively. It is done in a satirical and comic way,” says Cox, 73, who won the Golden Globe this year for best actor for his rendition of Roy.
The similarities between Roy and Cox are not lost on the followers of Succession. Both hail from Dundee, a small town in Scotland and have worked their way up to being the best in their respective lines of work. But that was not always so. “Till the first nine episodes I was playing an American, who was born in Quebec. I had suggested to Jesse Armstrong (show creator) that Roy could be Scottish, but he insisted that he should be American. I was informed by Peter — the guy whom I keep firing and rehiring in the show, that they have changed your birthplace, it was a surprise. I am happy, as I am quite popular back home in Dundee. We even shot an episode there,” says Cox, who was born and brought up in Dundee and completed his primary and secondary education there. He was also part of the Dundee Repertory Theatre for some years.
Brian Cox formally trained in acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art for two years. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 90s and has been part of projects on both sides of the pond. But he still feels that the US has a long way to go in terms of serving the talent pool they have. “Finance, scale, everything is bigger in the US. But American actors are not treated very well in the casting process. It’s very brutal. It’s more respectable back home in the UK. The movie industry in the US is run by guys in suits. It’s a business. British actors work very well in the US, as our craft is already honed. I just did a Broadway play, and the sheer amount of talent on display was overwhelming. But their craft has not been managed well. They are not served right by their industry,” says Cox, who is a name to reckon with, especially where Shakespearean theatre is concerned. He has spent many seasons with both Royal Shakespeare Company and The National Theatre.
But while Cox might be disappointed with American cinema, he is quite happy with the way small screen narratives have emerged. “TV has never been better, what with Netfix, HBO, Amazon and Apple. The encouragement it gives to the writers is incredible. TV is essentially a writers’ medium. Writers moved to TV in the 50s because writing was laissez-faire in cinema,” shares the actor.
Brian Cox, while being a full-time actor, is very active in the UK politics. He had campaigned for the Labour Party in their 2007 elections, but quit a few years later. He has been a very vocal supporter of Scottish independence and Brexit is something he cannot wrap his head around. “Where do I start. It’s a huge error, we need to be part of a united Europe, particularly at this time when there is such right wing extremism in the US and Britain. I am hence even more keen on Scottish independence. The smaller nations like Denmark, Norway and Ireland are thriving. We need to come together and show our defences — not the physical ones, but the cultural ones. This Little England mentality is detrimental — the country is becoming racist, and look at the new immigration policy. The Ugandan shop owners transformed Britain, we are polarising our people and making them scapegoats,” asserts Cox.
Cox has a propensity to play historical characters, his filmography is full of them — Greek hero Agamemnon and Churchill among others. But the one character that has eluded him, and is on his list, is that of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist. “He is someone I’m very keen to play. He was destroyed by capitalism. He was the richest man in the world, till he sold his business to JP Morgan,” concludes Cox.
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