Succession star Brian Cox sits down with The Tab

‘I won an Emmy which was obviously quite good’

Settling down in the Kennedy room of the Cambridge Union building, Brian Cox, spoke to The Tab about his hometown Dundee, the importance of higher education and some of his most challenging roles.

After telling the rest of the people in the room to “keep it down to a whisper, no resounding chest notes” the room fell silent for all of two seconds as he began to share with The Tab his love-hate relationship with his hometown Dundee, Scotland.

He said that he misses the city as it was a “lovely little medieval city” but harks back to the 60s when it was run by “a corrupt socialist town council.” He added that although he is very much “a socialist” he remembers how the city was fairly isolated, leading to a “sort of feudalist system” that he “didn’t like.”

He remembers a specific example of a dinner for the footballer, Gordon Strachan, saying that “everybody sort of had their place and I really didn’t like it and I especially didn’t like the way my brother was treated, from people who should have known better.”

This all being said Brian still had a fondness for the city, which was convenient considering his character in the hit HBO show Succession, the patriarch Logan Roy, is from Dundee. Although Brian explained how this was not always the plan for his character. He said that “when he was originally asked to do Succession, I suggested he could be scots,” but the writer Jesse Armstrong was not so keen on the idea.

He said he only found out in the ninth episode of the series when “Peter Friedman, who I keep firing and rehiring in the series, he said I’ve just done an ADR and they’ve changed your birthplace.”

(Fun film fact for you: ADR stands for ‘Automated Diologue Replacement,’ where the actors have to recreate their performance on set which is then perfectly matched to film.)

Peter Friedman apparently got out his “device” and said that Brian’s character would no longer be from Quebec, Canada but from “somewhere called Dundee, Scotland” and Brian said well “that’s where I was born” and the two co-stars agreed that it was “a hell of a coincidence.”

Brian said that he approached Jesse about this, who said “I thought it could be a bit of a surprise.” So, it was strange for Brian to return to his hometown in Season Two, Episode Eight titled ‘Dundee.’

Brain explained that in the show Succession, the character he plays left Scotland at a young age and in this episode returns. Brian explains how the show filmed in the grounds of Dundee University, where Brian was the rector. In the show the university became “the Logan Roy School of Journalism” which was funny to him as he “knew it as the Life Science department” which was in fact his particular “forte.” He said it was “really bizarre going to this place where I’d known for years, where amazing stuff was done.”

This got us on to Brian’s passion for free higher education. He shared that “my education was a complete disaster, and I was lucky because I knew what I wanted to do” (tell loads of people to ‘f**k off’ and get paid for it?)

He said that during the 60s was a “great time for social mobility, so you could go anywhere or be anything.” He explained that his education at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, was funded by “a full grant from the school” as well as “a living allowance grant and an expenses grant” despite him only being 17 and having no educational qualifications. He reminisced that he “was doing phenomenally well at the age of 17 and the Scottish government gave that to me, and it was happening to a lot of young people who wanted to go into the arts.”

But he admitted that “that stuff doesn’t happen anymore and the roots towards culture has become very polluted and only a certain bunch of people who get there and can get there.” He spoke about how nowadays it would be very hard for someone of a similar background to him to “get that link to the arts” that he had.

His career in the arts has been long and broad, from his voice work on the BBC Radio 4 show McLevy, his role as King Lear (a lifesaver for my English A-level) and his most challenging role, he told me, as Hermann Göring in the miniseries, Nuremberg. He explained that this was his most difficult role as he believes “as an actor you should never judge your characters, you should always be open to them” but playing characters that “are extremely judgeable as Göring was, is tricky.” For one he suggests that he “was a considerable man” but “he was number two to Hitler and was a Nazi.”

Despite the difficulty to grapple with the characters morality, Brian suggested that it was ultimately a “very interesting and very rewarding role” and added that “I won an Emmy which was obviously quite good.” (humble king!)

Although Brian was not as humble when it came to asking about not taking a role in Game of Thrones, which apparently, he didn’t turn down, he “would have done Game of Thrones if they’d paid me more money”- got to give it to him for knowing his own worth, that, and understandably not wanting to “get killed off after three episodes.”

All images including the feature image credits: Tobia Nava

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