• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2022: Brian Cox, “Succession”

Brian Cox, the 75-year-old Scottish actor, was nominated for his portrayal of the overbearing, foul-mouthed, dominant patriarch Logan Roy of the Roy family, the owners of the fifth largest media conglomerate in the world, Waystar Royco, in the hit mini-series Succession.
Cox, who was previously nominated in 2001 for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or Television or Film for Nuremberg and won in 2020 for Best Actor – Television Series Drama for Succession, again earned this year’s Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by An Actor in a Television Series – Drama for Succession.
Born June 1, 1946, in Dundee, Scotland, the actor worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company where he gained recognition for his portrayal of King Lear. He was also the first actor to portray Hannibal Lecter on film in 1986s Manhunter.
He is known for appearing in such movies as The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, X2, Braveheart, Rushmore, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Troy.
The youngest of five children, Cox came from a working-class Roman Catholic family of Irish and Scottish descent. His mother was a spinner who worked in the jute mills and his father was a butcher and later, a shopkeeper. He died when Cox was eight years old, and he was brought up by his four elder sisters.
Cox joined the Dundee Repertory Theatre at the age of 14 then went to drama school from the age of 17 to 19 at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
Succession, which follows the Roy family and all their ploys for power within the clan, also stars Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy, Alan Ruck (Connor Roy), Sarah Snook (Siobhan “Shiv” Roy), Jeremy Strong (Kendall Roy), Matthew Macfadyen (Tom Wambsgans), Hiam Abbass (Marcia Roy) and Natalie Gold (Rava Roy).
Having played psychopaths, does Cox think Logan has a psychopathic trait in him, he was asked in our Zoom one-on-one interview with him in October this year.
“Well, I think we all have, to a lesser or greater degree,” Cox replied. “I think there’s an element of that, and it could be that big. So yeah, there is, but it’s also having to do with nature and nurture.
“So much of what we saw – I think it was in episode four – when he went for a swim, these kinds of cuts on his back, that he had clearly been beaten. They don’t pursue that, rightly, because that was sort of, ‘Oh, he was an abused child.’
“So, there is that element. It’s very hard to know where his root is, where he comes from in that way. It’s a guessing game, really. And it’s also something that one is discovering as one goes through the show. As an actor, I’m discovering, I’m getting more and more revelations about who he is, but it’s still not a whole picture.”
Watching the show’s premiere episode again was a revelation for Cox. He said, “I just saw the first episode last night, and I thought I had a very small part in it, but I discovered I was on much more than I remembered. Because when we shoot, we do a little bit here, a little bit there. So, it’s very hard to know when you see a full episode, but I think it’s very good. I just think we stepped up, but it’s the writing. Really it is the writers. They are fantastic, and they’re so rigorous.
“It’s a kind of classical background, really in a way. It’s something that the Brits do because we’re taught, especially as an actor, to respect the writer. When you’ve got Shakespeare, what else do you expect? So, the writer is first and foremost.”
Cox admits that he is still constantly surprised by his character.
“I never know what my character’s going to do next, either. So, I think that’s true if it’s a great piece of art, piece of work, great piece of writing that stands, that you don’t know. You have no idea where it’s going to go next. And you don’t want to know where it’s going to next.
“Because from an actor’s point of view, from the creative motive, as it were, you don’t want to know. You want to allow it to happen, allow it to fall out and shape. So, it’s great. It’s really good. Not knowing is what’s important rather than knowing.”
Cox described his character as “a very reserved man. I think he’s a very private man. I think what you get is a facade. And he has to deal with these quite difficult children, who behave in an extraordinarily treacherous manner. He is no fool. He knows what’s going on, but he would have another stroke if he allowed it and it would affect him.
“But what his stroke has taught him is to not connect. I mean, he’ll use his temper and he’ll flare up and do all that but it’s a device in a way. It’s to wake people up. He does it. That’s why he does it in that way. So, he’s a much cannier person. And sometimes the audience understands. He’s much cannier.”
He added, “When you think about it, all he’s trying to do is find the child to take over the firm. That’s all he is trying to do. And for him, it is a generous act but then everybody says, ‘Oh, what a monster. He is horrible. Because he says ‘fuck off’ all the time.’ And you go, ‘Well, if you want to think that, you want to think that.’ But it’s not my view at all.”