Brian Cox on Leading the Roy Family and Portraying a Uniquely American Role

By Bradford William Davis

The Scottish actor puts the tycoon he plays under the microscope.


Logan Roy, patriarch of the Roy family, is introduced as a mysterious and enigmatic force in Succession’s opening scene. Brian Cox explains the mindset he adopted to play this role and discusses how Logan reflects an American attitude towards business and power.

HBO: Why does Logan feel the need to control his company despite his declining health?

Brian Cox: Logan’s need for control is reminiscent of classical stories like King Lear and so many other parallels in classical literature. He's at a point where he wants to let go, but he can't. Now, there are reasons of his own vanity that he can't. But there are reasons that the children aren’t ready to run the show.

To me, there's nothing personal about Logan's ruthlessness, it's just how he pursues his end. The children don't get it. They see it all about themselves. He's kind of beyond that. He's looking at his empire and thinks it’s in danger of getting f---ed up, and he really needs to sort it out.

HBO: What’s interesting about portraying Logan?

Brian Cox: Logan is interesting because there’s a mysterious element about him. He's a gruff guy, yes, but that's his mojo — not necessarily who he is. Ostensibly he behaves one way, but even during his announcement, you see a surprising gentleness to his delivery. He shakes his children’s world, but to Logan, he does it because the world needs shaking.

HBO: What do you think Logan sees — or rather, doesn’t see — in his kids’ ability to lead?

Brian Cox: The big problem is that they're all entitled in their own way. Logan isn't entitled, he just is. His kids feel they should inherit the world because they've already inherited everything. It's tragic, really.

With Kendall, there’s a softness and lack of ruthlessness. Now, Logan needs to deal with how his behavior can be abusive towards Kendall, but that’s the root of his problem.

Shiv is probably the one person he has the most faith in because he knows that the world is moving in her direction. He's a dying breed of leader and I think he’s aware of it. So he looks to his daughter as a sort of way forward. The future lies with her. Of course, she doesn't want the job like the others do! Shiv has a strong will, which means he can't make her behave. Meanwhile, Kendall's willfulness is out of weakness and insecurity, not strength.

As for Roman, Logan doesn't understand his mercurialness. There's ability there, enough to offer the COO job, but it's obscured by his poor decision making. And Connor is so far removed, he's living in a fantasy-land. His idiocy keeps him from being a serious contender.

Really, with all his kids, he knows he can shelter them but he can't alter who they are.

HBO: You're not an American actor. Do you see anything uniquely American about Logan’s attitude towards business?

Brian Cox: First, Logan understands the egalitarian principles undergirding how Americans view their rights and status in the world, and he maneuvers it to his own end. In a way, Logan is where Logan is because he sees the idea of equality and manipulates it to serve his specific interests. He's very American in that way.

His journey is somewhat similar to my own. I'm unimpressed by feudalism, so I don't really care for, say, English royal wedding shit. I suppose my vision of America was slightly idealized when I first came here but is much less so today. But Americans are sentimental, and Logan, as cynical as he is, understands how to ride and exploit that sentimentality. He does that when he's manipulating his children, who are too sentimental themselves.