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‘Succession’: Brian Cox Delves into Logan Roy’s Endless Disappointment in His Children

"Even when it's a matter of life or death, it's still a game."

Brian Cox Succession

Brian Cox in “Succession”

Macall Polay

When asked about whether or not he had an idea of how long his series would run in a recent interview with Variety, creator Jesse Armstrong said, “All I know is there’s a promise in the ‘Succession’ title, and it can’t go on forever.” Armstrong isn’t wrong. And after the events in the most recent two episodes of the series, it seems like it’s more imperative than ever to determine who will replace Logan Roy (Brian Cox) as the CEO of Waystar Royco when the time comes.

For two consecutive weeks, audiences have witnessed Logan at less than his best, a series of health scares laying him low, while the patriarch seems further away than ever from choosing one of his children to take over in his stead. So much of the series’ brilliance comes in seeing the same story beats playing out time and again with a different Roy child at the center of it: the hope of garnering approval from their father, an opportunity to prove themselves, a demoralizing failure, and the derision of the implacable man they so desperately wish to please.

It’s engaging because despite their posh lives and indulgent upbringing, there is a dogged, human need for approval that drives each of the Roy children. It’s relatable to want the recognition of a parent, no matter your age, and if that parent happens to be an abusive, withholding man who could potentially hand you the keys to a global media empire, it might be even harder to walk away.

But has anyone stopped to wonder how Logan feels about this whole mess? Sure, it might sound backward, but in a recent interview with IndieWire, Cox revealed how deeply misunderstood he thinks Logan is, particularly when it comes to the disappointment he feels in his children, none of whom seem anywhere near ready to takeover the top spot.

Tell me a little bit about what Logan’s head space is heading into this season and as it unfolds?

Brian Cox: Because there had been so much promise last season, with the Mona Lisa ending, you were just left thinking about where [the story] could go and I suppose I’ve just been taking everything in stride. You can’t anticipate anything because you just don’t know. The great strength of the show is its unpredictable nature.

Succession PGA

Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox in “Succession”

Graeme Hunter / HBO

In a way, you have to adhere to the unpredictable nature. Therefore, you have to be unpredictable, and you have to allow unpredictable things to happen to you. In that sense, it’s quite a journey, it’s quite a ride. We’ve seen Shiv screw up, we’ve seen Kendall endlessly screw up, and now he’s — on his father’s advice — gone out and tried to kill his father, which I always think is funny.

[Logan] just says in the scene before, “Oh, you’re not a killer,” and the next thing is his father’s killing. His father was very amused by that, but not only amused, he’s rather proud and he loves him and he also thinks its foolish, so the smile means so many things.

In a way, it’s very unpredictable what [Logan] is thinking, and it has to be. It’s like somebody giving you a set of skis and saying, “Go down this slalom here and there’s a nice hotel at the bottom.” But do you know how to ski?” That’s what you have to take on board.

And you hope for the best.

You hope for the best. Of course, it’s skill and craft and all of that, that goes into it, and how you prepare, and what have you. But it’s a ride. The show is a ride.

What do you think Logan ultimately wants from his children? You mentioned, at the end of last season, Logan tells Kendall, “You’re not a killer,” but it’s clear he wants him to be a killer. So Kendall comes out and tries to kill his father and now he’s public enemy No. 1. Is Logan proud? Is this what he wanted?

It’s all paradoxical and conflicted. It does feel good. The boy is finally standing up for himself, but he’s also feeling, well, he’s only standing up for himself because two hours before I told him he had to be a killer. And what does he do? He goes out and kills me. You go, well, that’s funny. And then you go, it’s a bit obvious as well.

At same time, there’s the endless disappointment that he has, that he tries to counteract because he tries to maintain his love — and it’s not difficult for him because he does love his kids — the endless disappointment is painful to the character of Logan. The fact that the boys and the girls, they can’t see the game. It’s a game, but like all games, even when it’s a matter of life and death, it’s still a game. And they can’t see it.

They take it all far too seriously. And their egos get so bound up that they can’t shake it off. Now in that way they are their father’s children, so that’s only to be expected, but it’s a double nightmare for Logan. He doesn’t see it as a nightmare, he just deals with it, he doesn’t attach himself to it. But at the same time, deep, deep, down there is the sense he’s sick of this endless betrayal and the endless treachery that he’s living around.

Succession Season 3 Episode 1 Logan Roy Brian Cox Tom Matthew Macfadyen


Macall Polay / HBO

It’s interesting because the paradox of Logan’s life is that he’s very loyal.

If you think of Gerri and you think of Karl and you think of Frank, these are people that he’s worked with for 30 years, and he’s fired and rehired and fired and rehired, and that’s the process that he does. That’s what he does. And yet, they’re still there. He comes back. And even Frank, who tried the first time with Kendall, to usurp him. He got him back. He brought him back into the fold. That’s what’s so remarkable about Logan: that he doesn’t forget, but he does forgive.

His loyalty was never so clear as it was in Episode 5, when he’s ill. Kendall comes in yelling and Logan, in his disoriented state, asks “Why is Frank so angry?” and, when told by Tom that some people were nasty to Frank, he responds, indignant, “Who was nasty to Frank? Only I can be nasty to Frank.” And it was so lovely.

Only he can be mean because, he’d never admit it, but he actually really loves his people. He really loves his staff. He’ll never admit it in a million years, but he’s fiercely loyal to them at the end of the day, they can do all kinds of wrong, and he does say, “Only I can be mean to Frank” That’s our relationship now. There’s a history. We’ve ebbed and flowed with one another throughout the 30 years we’ve known one another.

So in your opinion, it would be possible for one of the children to play the game correctly and Logan would be happy for them to replace him?

Absolutely. I mean he’s dying for that, but they don’t. Shiv can’t keep her big mouth shut. Kendall is highly neurotic and guilt-ridden. He’s a basket case. And Roman is grossly immature, with moments of genius, but grossly immature. So therefore it’s difficult to find the successor.

He’s tried for three seasons to find a successor, he has tried.

Succession Season 3 cast

Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Alan Ruck, and Kieran Culkin in “Succession”

Macall Polay / HBO

Do you think Logan is aware of how he has affected his children and, perhaps, contributed to them being the way that they are right now?

He has to a certain extent. I once had a friend who said to me, after the age of 25, all bets are off.

I’ve heard something similar.

You can’t say, “My parents, they fucked me up.” My mum and dad, they don’t mean to, but it’s sad. They did, as the Philip Larkin poem says. And they do fuck you up, your mom and dad, and it is sad. They didn’t mean to, but they did. But that’s the way it is. And Logan is going, “Well, that’s life. That’s what happens. Get over it. Get with the program. Don’t let it obfuscate what you need to do.” And I think that he understands that he’s partly responsible, but he’s not wholly responsible. I mean, it’s a generational thing. Now we know about DNA. Now we know the kind of memories that we carry in our system, things, which we didn’t even know existed 50 years ago.

I came from people who were hard-pressed Irish people at the time of the Industrial Revolution, the famine, losing their land, coming to a different land — in my case, Scotland — but also being completely lost in that and suffering from it. Also, the dreaded alcohol that kind of consumed them. In a way, this is all part of who you are, if you go back and back and back and back and back.

Of course, with the [Roy] kids, that’s part of who they are, but they’re stuck in this entitlement zone. Logan’s not going to say anything about it because he just said, “Well, that’s the way it is now.”

Just like he has

He has to deal with it. He’s dealt with it.

I mean, he’s created the conditions because he’s created the whole thing. It’s his creation. And it’s come from this incredible drive that he has. There’s no denying that, but the kids are just always playing catch up because they’re not understanding the rules of the game. He goes, “I’ve told you what the rules are. They’re very simple rules, but you don’t seem to be disciplined enough to follow them.”

Succession Season 3 Episode 4 Kendall Logan Jeremy Strong Brian Cox

Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox in “Succession”

Macall Polay / HBO

In Episode 4, we see Kendall and Logan reunited to try and shore up the support, Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody) and during, we see Logan give a speech where he talks about Kendall, saying he’s a good boy and maybe it’ll be him in charge one day. That maybe he’s the best of them How much of that, if anything, do you think he means what he said?

Well, he also says, you’ll say anything to get fucked on a date, so that’s a giveaway.

But he’s in tune that way. Of course, he does see Kendall’s gifts more than Kendall sees. He does see Kendall’s potential even and he has this ambition for his son, but his son doesn’t get it. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make the thing drink and this is what he’s constantly doing. He’s constantly leading his children to the pool and then they will not consume. And that’s understandable because they’ve lost trust. They don’t know who this man is. The real bugbear is they really don’t know who their father is. They don’t understand their father. They think they do, but they don’t. And I think that’s kind of the mystery. And the story really is who Logan is.

It’s come up a little in the course of our conversation, but who in his life does Logan love?

Well, I don’t think Logan thinks about love in that way. I mean, he doesn’t, he’s not a mushy person,” Cox said when asked about who Logan loves. “No. I think intuitively he loves his children. He does love his children. And that’s something that’s visceral. You can’t analyze that. I have four kids and I love my children, but they drive me nuts. And they do, but I do love them. And I try to turn the face sometimes when it’s very hard, when you go, ‘I just want to beat the shit out of you, but I can’t.’ So I can understand the dilemma. His dilemma and my dilemma are very similar, but coming from different worlds.

He does love his children. And actually he has a lot of deep liking for his crew. He likes Frank. And he knows how far or even how not so far it goes. So I think there’s an element of Logan, which is a little more considerable than people give him the benefit for. Not that I’m going to play any of that because it will all end up in a great, big mush, but I do think he’s incredibly misunderstood.

Succession” debuts new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. 

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