Brian Cox, the star of 'Succession', discusses Season 3 and the Aftermath of Bombshell Betrayal: It Was Inevitable

Brian Cox, the star of 'Succession', discusses Season 3 and the Aftermath of Bombshell Betrayal: It  ...

[This article contains spoilers for Succession season three, which premiered last month.]

Logan Roy is both at one of his lowest points in the series and at the top of the game at this point in Succession season three.

Logan (Jeremy Strong) is staying in an airport-adjacent hotel in Sarajevo while worried about his son Kendalls (Mark Strong), stepping down as CEO at least temporarily, for optics purposes and trying to secure a top lawyer who is more seriously considering representing his child. 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 coterie of top executives while delivering meme-worthy moments like growling a reference to Jack and the Beanstalk and shouting that hes going to go full fucking beast on Kendall.

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Kendalls betrayal, according to Cox, came as a surprise to his character before the Roy family patriarch realized it was inevitable. Logan told Kendall he wouldnt be able to succeed him as the head of Waystar Royco because a killer in the season two finale. And of course what he has to do is prove to me if a killer is his goal, Cox says. So he does it in the next scene.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the season three premiere, Cox discusses his favorite scenes to film this season, a COVID scare during production, and why he chose general counsel Gerri (J. Smith-Cameron) to be the public face of his family business: She is Miss Ethics.

Why do you think Logan didnt see Kendalls betrayal coming, even though history was repeating itself?

It was a surprise. He saw it, however, because it was inevitable. Because of the final scene that we [Jeremy Strong and I] have together, I tell him hes not a killer. And of course, what he has to do is prove to me that if a murderer is his specialty. So he does it in the next scene, a voiceover appears on the television and I go, Oh, Gods sake, this is so childish. I said Youre not a killer, and I replied Oh, I have to kill so Im going to murder my dad. And thats exactly what he does. You go, what a ludicrous boy you are, but how sweet you're as well, how touching you and what an affliction you feel. I think that smile [in the final moments of season two] said it all.

Logan actually offers Kendall in the season three premiere to retract his press conference statements and possibly reach a deal. Do you feel that offer was genuine?

In a way, its essentially merely aimed at easing and reducing the situation. Kendalls vanity makes it impossible to succeed. Kendalls all cock-a-hoop, but hell tell you if a child in A&R is anything but. [Kendall] just says, Oh, Im going to do it now and its great, ive arrived in this position. [Logan] then says, youre still a kid. He doesnt get it.

Why did Logan choose Gerri to serve as the interim CEO of Waystar Royco while he steps down for optics purposes? Was it because Shiv and Roman just recently disappointed him?

Theyre constantly disappointed in him. [Roman]s still attached to his masturbatory adolescence and doesnt want to grow up and take the responsibility. Shiv cant stop herself from fucking her mouth shut, she just talks herself out of things, as she has done throughout her young life. So yeah, he just feels that none of these kids are worth it. And he needs to provide Waystar with an ethical face, and the most ethical person if a man has is Gerri she is it. She is Miss Ethics. Shes a natural. Shiv isnt natural, because Shiva is in no way, shape, or form ethical.

You mentioned on The Jess Cagle Show last year that you learned early on from showrunner Jesse Armstrong, before production, what would happen in season three. Did that change or influence your season's performance in any way?

No, not at all. Because each episode is given its own personality. You cant anticipate, you have to simply deal with the material as its presented to you. You come and there are a set of circumstances that you must deal with in character and must not let that spur you on or discourage you. If theres an obstacle to overcome, youve got to have that obstacle and overcome it. Because I have such faith in the writers' rigor, and they are tremendously skilled, I know that in reality, the integrity of the show is always intact.

Did the epidemic alter the experience of filming Succession this season for you?

Yeah, it affected us. One of our actors tested positive for HIV. 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 couldnt believe they were in that state, so they werenst so enthused by the whole thing, but they had tested positive so we had to accept the test. But I think there are a lot of false positives. As for the rest of us [who had been in contact], we took our ten days and we returned. They always shot something because they could shoot exteriors, so they did some exterior work during that time.

Did the epidemic change the scripts at all this season?

No, not at all. Jesse has chosen to ignore the epidemic as if it had never happened. I think that was the right choice at first, I wasnt sure about it because I thought it would be interesting to [incorporate it], but it inevitably would have confused the issue. Were in another world, and the demands of the epidemic were simply not met.

What can you tell us about Logans arc this season?

Of course, hes got an arc, but it purely dealing with stuff that needs to be dealt with, and the climax is determined by the circumstances and conditions. Its the conditions that determine the actions, how the actor reacts, and how he plays, so all of that is being taken into account as youre doing it. When I was younger, I used to think of the arc and of my character, but in a show where its all middle act, if you think about it, you do ten episodes, and you just say that s what the flow is, it's. And you have to deal with it over ten episodes and inhabit it for a period of epochs, and thats the fun and the thrill of it, but you cant be trapped by that.

Did you have a favorite scene to perform this season?

Yes, theres a scene with Jeremy, which is incredibly touching I think itll be episode eight or episode seven, but I cant remember, and it's an amazing scene. The denouement scene is also excellent. And I'm in love with Alexander Skarsgard's work, so it works out wonderfully for me.

In the final show, Succession actors seem to occasionally improvise certain scenes. Was there anything improvisational in the premiere episode?

Im sure there was, but I dont like improvisation, I like the script. The improvisation is usually like the bread in a sandwich. I prefer the script, I follow it and I like the line of it to be clear and uncluttered. While improvisation is wonderful, its wonderful and it tests the actor s imagination, I think that sometimes when youre working on an improvised piece, you can get carried away and forget that it's not about the piece you're creating, but rather about something you invented in your reworking. I would much rather write than improvise.

Marcia and Logan seemed to have a falling out at the end of the second season, but shes resurfaced in this season. What can you tell us about their relationship and where its headed? Is reconciliation on the table?

I dont know, its a difficult question to answer. I think one of the difficulties is the storylines of certain characters: sometimes certain individuals are put on a backburner like Connor has been, and are coming off the back burner like Justine Lupes [Willa's] character has also been. Marcias character has been a bit of hiccup because sheve had to take reversal and also because of her absence, she didn't show up to the boat. [Logan] was waiting for her to come, but she didnt because of her own issues. That hovered over the script. I dont know whats going on in this episode in season three, but it is still unclear what that position is in that episode.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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