We’ve grown accustomed to seeing Brian Cox portray antagonists in films such as X-Men (as Matt Stryker), Troy (as Agamemnon) and the Bourne franchise (as Ward Abbott) but now he’s sunk his teeth into a new character on HBO’s Succession.
The new HBO Original drama series Succession tracks The Roy family – Logan Roy and his four children – controls one of the biggest media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. The series zeroes in on their lives as they contemplate what the future will hold for them once their aging father begins to step back from the company.
Set in New York, Succession (which was recently renewed by HBO) explores themes of power, politics, money, and family with Logan Roy (Brian Cox) at the centrepiece. Playing the tough, powerful, aging patriarch and head of Waystar Royco, the family-controlled international media conglomerate, seems second nature for Cox, especially considering his impressive body of work. But it’s a role he has truly embraced as we found out in this interview.
What attracted you specifically to the character of Logan Roy?
Well, Jesse Armstrong and Adam McKay pitched the show to me, and I just thought, this is a must. And then I realized, of course, it’s classical. It’s an absolutely classical sort of story. Man giving away his empire, you know, it’s King Lear. There are so many elements of that. Jesse is extraordinary, I mean, he truly is extraordinary. He’s a truly great writer. He’s so open, and he comes from a comedy background – Peep Show, and Mitchell and Web, and all that stuff. And he’s developed using that form, to come to this really astonishing piece of work.
Jesse just sold it to me. It’s a morality tale. It’s a modern morality tale. It’s not talking about the poor people. It’s talking about the rich people and, and where it’s all going horribly wrong. And we see it daily, we get examples of it daily –especially with this clown and this administration. But then, you see what’s happened in Israel with the embassy, and you go, these people have no experience. How are they in that situation?
From what we understand, Logan is self-made – he hasn’t come from money. Who did you liken him to when you were building him?
I didn’t liken him to anything or anyone, really. You don’t have to go any further than the script. You don’t have to research him, because it’s all there. And it’s also about a kind of parallel thinking, Jesse and I are both quite socialist, so we have very similar thinking, and quite egalitarian, so we’re just politically on the same team.
So that makes sense to me. And the idea of the autodidact, the idea of the self-made man, also exacerbates the nature of the dysfunction – there’s the question of how does anybody achieve success, and what happens to the children in the process of success? They become inured to some things because they have not suffered.
I also look to my own family. I look to the fact that in my first marriage, I had my kids and they saw the struggle that I had as an actor, and we had lodgers – my kids would meet different people every day and say, who’s that. And I’d say, well, he’s from China, he’s from Japan, and tonight he’s going to do tempura for us, isn’t that fun? And that was just our means of survival, because I wasn’t earning a great deal.
And then with my second family, of course, I’m now more successful. I’m living here in New York, I have a lovely home and beautiful wife and all that bollocks – the trappings of success and what have you. The parallel’s there because I have children now who don’t understand my journey, and why should they?
I think that’s exacerbated in this situation. Rupert Murdoch was already pretty well off to start with. He was from a fairly successful family. But that’s not happened here, that’s not what Logan is. Logan’s more like Citizen Kane. He starts from zero. It really is about that disparate element, and the kids are not ready – clearly not ready – and then you go back to the classical basis, as well.
Do you think it’s more difficult for people who live at this sort of high level of wealth and power to sustain a marriage? Having three wives is not unusual at this level. Why do you think that is?
Well, I don’t think it’s unusual at any level. I’ve had two wives. I’ve lived with several women for several years. I don’t think that’s a particular thing of success or power. I think it gets harder, in one sense – their lot is harder because of the obvious gold digging demand of that. And I certainly think it’s a kind of coincidence that Rupert has three.
With Logan, his first wife, I think, died. His second wife was English, kind of very upper class English. I think in a way, there’s more circumspection about Marcia (Logan’s second wife). In that relationship, there’s a real seeking on both parts – from Logan as well, of security. There’s a mutual sense of security, and a sense of being safe. You don’t feel that you’re so vulnerable in that relationship.
There’s all of that, and it makes you feel in very safe hands. Because you know that you’re in the right ballpark. There’s no nervousness, and I have never felt that security, I have to say, ever. Usually, there’s always an element of trying to save yourself, in any job.
Succession airs the same time as the U.S. every Monday at 10am with a same day encore at 11pm, exclusively on HBO (Astro Ch 411/ HD 431). The series will also be available on HBO On Demand (via Astro GO).