Succession's Brian Cox says anti-hero Logan Roy 'just wants love'

Speaking at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, the Scottish actor insists TV's ruthless media mogul is a family man at heart

Brian Cox shares stories from his memoir at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Leslie Pableo / The National
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At the age of 72, Brian Cox suddenly found himself a pop culture hero.

While the Scottish actor was already a formidable force, with an expansive career on stage and on screen spanning several decades, it was the role of anti-hero Logan Roy in HBO’s drama series, Succession, that thrust him into mainstream consciousness in 2018.

Quite an adjustment, for a man in his eighth decade.

“Well, it's … it's OK. It actually is fundamentally OK,” Cox tells a full amphitheatre at the 15th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which runs until Monday.

“There's a part of one that does enjoy it, it would be stupid and wrong and hypocritical of me to say I didn't enjoy the fame. But the problem is, having been relatively anonymous for so long, I do miss that thing of people not knowing who I was. I do miss it.”

Cox may have felt relatively anonymous, but his acting credentials speak for themselves. His work with the UK's Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, including portrayals of King Lear and Titus Andronicus, earned him several accolades including two Olivier Awards. He also won an Emmy for his portrayal of Hermann Goring in the docu-drama Nuremberg, and a Golden Globe for his performance in Succession.

He also has his fair share of blockbusters under his belt, with supporting roles in Braveheart, Adaptation and The Bourne Identity series, as well as taking on the role of Hannibal Lecter in 1986's Manhunter, to critical acclaim.

His 2021 memoir, Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, explores his journey from a young working-class boy growing up in Dundee to life on stage and screen, via several personal and emotional revelations.

Cox's curiosity for the arts was piqued aged three, when he first performed for guests at a traditional Hogmany party his father was throwing to celebrate New Year.

“The thing I remember more than anything else was the effect on the community, the people in the room,” he says. “I thought at that young age, what is that? What’s this thing that happens to people, they change in a way. First, they are all boisterous and suddenly there’s this quiet and there’s this real focus. And I thought, 'I want a piece of that, I want that in my life. How do I get it?'”

Cox certainly found a way. He enjoyed escaping to the cinema as a teenager to watch Hollywood blockbusters, and became entranced with American culture — something that not only felt so far away from his immediate life in Scotland, but had an “egalitarian feel” that the UK lacked, he says.

“The first 50 years of the 20th century were so uncertain and so crazy, and then when the war was over, we went back to this class system,” he says. “Everybody was in their place and it was so futile. That was the thing that really got me. That was why I went to the cinema. And when I went to the cinema, I could see American movies and there was no class there.”

Given Cox's own thoughts on the make-up of society, it should come as no surprise that he ended up on a show like Succession, a satirical black comedy-drama that tells the story of one of the US's most powerful families as they plot against each other to wrestle for control of the fictitious Waystar RoyCo media empire.

"It's what Shakespeare calls it — holding the mirror up to nature,” he says. “What we do is reflect back what's actually happening. That's what we do, we present who we are, we present who we are as people in every aspect.”

As the unrelenting and tenacious patriarch of the Roy family, Logan certainly has his faults, but Cox has an interesting take on the motivations behind his character.

“Logan Roy has absolutely sat through injury, through his own pain because he has a lot of pain, his frustrations have created this man,” he says. “Therefore, as a father, he has these three horrible children behaving in the way that they do, and trying to undermine him … a great line from me in episode three is when he says: 'Love? Jesus, you know, you're talking about the love?' And that's the thing he lacked all of his life, is love."

He also adds that despite what audiences think, Roy does love his children, in his own morphed way.

“He never knew how to get love from his children," he says. "But he thought if he gives them stuff and keeps giving them he'll get love back and it doesn’t work like that.”

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature runs until Monday at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City and the Mohammed bin Rashid Library. More information and tickets are available at

Updated: February 07, 2023, 12:36 PM