Succession: One of 2021 Best TV Series–Brian Cox Discusses Season 3

Succession: Brian Cox Talks Season 3

The actor, who plays the corporate reigning patriarch, discusses leadership changeup in the season premiere and why the showrunner has “chosen to ignore the pandemic.”

At the start of Succession season 3, Logan Roy is both at one of his lowest points and at the top of his game.

The show picks up as the Rupert Murdoch-like media mogul  played by Brian Cox is crisis-managing after his son Kendall’s (Jeremy Strong) major betrayal at the end of season two. Thi has opened him up to potentially calamitous scrutiny: Logan’s staying in an airport-adjacent hotel in Sarajevo while concerned about extradition, stepping aside as CEO — at least temporarily, for optics purposes — and trying to court a top lawyer who is more seriously considering representing his son.

On the other hand, the king of Waystar Royco is back to throwing his weight around by playing mind games with his generally cowering children and top executives, while delivering meme-able moments like growling a reference to “Jack and the Beanstalk” and shouting that he’s going to go “full fucking beast” on Kendall.


Sarah Snook, Arian Moayed, Brian Cox, Jesse Armstrong, Kieran Culkin, J. Smith-Cameron and Alan Ruck attend the HBO's "Succession" Season 3 Premiere at American Museum of Natural History on October 12, 2021 in New York City.

According to Cox, Kendall’s betrayal initially came as a surprise to his character, before the Roy family patriarch realized it was “inevitable.” In the season 2 finale, Logan told Kendall he wouldn’t be able to succeed him as the head of Waystar Royco because he wasn’t a “killer.”

“Of course, what he has to do is prove to me he’s a killer,” Cox says. “And he does it in the next scene.”

In an interview about season 3, Cox discusses his favorite scenes, COVID scare during production and why he ultimately chose general counsel Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) to be the public face of his family business: “She is Miss Ethics.”

Season 2 finale 

It was a surprise. But then, when he did see it, it was because it was inevitable. Because the final scene that we, Jeremy Strong and I have together, I tell him he’s not a “killer.” And of course, what he has to do is prove to me he’s a killer.

So he does it in the next scene, he comes on television and I go, “Oh for God’s sake, this is so childish.” I said “You’re not a killer,” “Oh, I have to kill so I’m now going to kill my dad.” And that’s what he does. You go, what a ludicrous boy you are, but how sweet and how touching you are and what a disappointment you are. I think that smile in the final moments of season 2 said it all.

In season 3, Logan makes offer to Kendall to retract his press conference statements and strike deal

It’s a kind of desperate offer; it’s to try and alleviate the situation and curtail it. But it doesn’t work because of Kendall’s vanity. Kendall’s all cock-a-hoop but he’s so like a child in a nursery, he’s ridiculous. That’s the way it is: [Kendall] just says “Oh, I’m going to do it now and it’s great, I’m in this position.” And [Logan] goes, “you’re still a kid.” He doesn’t get it.

Logan ultimately chose Gerri to be the temporary CEO of Waystar Royco 

They’re endlessly disappointing him. Roman’s still weighted to his masturbatory adolescence and doesn’t want to grow up and take the responsibility. And Shiv just can’t keep her fucking mouth shut, she just talks herself out of things, as she’s done throughout her young life. So yeah, he just feels that none of these kids are worth it. And he needs to provide an ethical face for Waystar and the most ethical person he has is Gerri — she is it. She is Miss Ethics. And as a result, she’s a natural. I mean, Shiv isn’t a natural because Shiv isn’t ethical, in any way, shape or form.

Did that change or inform your performance?

No, not at all. You take each episode as it comes. You can’t anticipate, you just have to deal with the material as it’s presented to you. There are a set of circumstances that you have to negotiate in character and have to let that spur you on or deter you. If there’s an obstacle to overcome, you have to have that obstacle and overcome it. Because I have such faith in the writers’ rigor, and they are tremendously rigorous, I know that in the end, the integrity of the show is always going to be in place.

Did the pandemic change the shooting of Succession?

Yeah, it did affect us. We had one scare — one of our actors tested positive. I believe it was a false positive, and [I was] out of action for about ten days while the actor in question was fine. They couldn’t believe they were in that state, so they were kind of bemused by the whole situation, but they had tested positive so we had to accept the test. But there’s a lot of false positives you get. As for the rest of us, those who had been in contact, we took our ten days and we came back. They always shot something because they could shoot exteriors during that period.

Did the pandemic change the script?

No, not at all. Jesse has chosen to ignore the pandemic as if it never happened. And I think that was the right choice — at first, I wasn’t sure about it because I thought it would be interesting to [incorporate it], but ultimately it would have confused the issue. We’re in another world, so the exigencies of the pandemic were just not entertained.

Logan’s arc?

He’s got an arc, but it’s just dealing with stuff that needs to be dealt with, so the arc is created by the circumstances. It’s the conditions that inform the actions and inform how the actor reacts and how the actor plays, so all of that is falling into place as you’re doing it. When I was younger, I used to think of the arc and of the character, but in a show where it’s all middle act… if you think about it, you do a ten-episode season, you just say that’s what the flow is, it’s ten episodes. And you have to deal with it over ten episodes and inhabit it over ten episodes, and that’s the fun and the joy of it, but you can’t be trapped by that. 

Favorite scene to perform?

There’s a scene with Jeremy which is a wonderful scene — I think it’s either episode eight or episode seven, I can’t remember, and it’s a wonderful scene. And then the denouement scene is also wonderful. I love the stuff with Alexander Skarsgard, that stuff pays off wonderfully for me.

Improvisation by actors?

I’m sure there was. I tend not to do the improvisation, I’m one for the script. The improvisation usually is like the bread in a sandwich. I prefer the script, I adhere to the script and I like the line of it to be clear and untrammeled. Whereas improvisation, it’s great, it’s wonderful, it tests the actor’s imagination, but then sometimes with an improvisation, you can get carried away and it’s not about the piece that you’re working on, it’s about something you’ve invented in your improvisation and that can be dangerous. I would much prefer doing the script than improvising.

Marcia and Logan’ falling out at end of season 2

It’s very difficult to say. One of the difficulties is the storylines of certain characters: Sometimes certain characters are put on a backburner like Connor has been, and is coming off the backburner, like Justine Lupe’s Willa’s character has been, too.

Marcia’s character has been a bit of a victim of that because she’s had to take a backward seat and also because she wasn’t there, she didn’t turn up to the boat. Logan was waiting for her to come, and she didn’t because of her own issues. So that hovered over the script. I don’t know what’s happening in this episode in season 3, that is still very unclear.