How Brian Cox Felt About That Big Episode 3 Twist in ‘Succession’

It was a pivotal moment for this series, which orbits his character, Logan Roy, a conservative media mogul and political kingmaker. Major spoilers ahead.

“People are very nervous when they come to meet me for the first time because they think I’m Logan Roy,” Brian Cox said of character in “Succession,” “and I’m not.”Credit…Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

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By Austin Considine

This interview contains major spoilers for Episode 3 of the final season of “Succession.”

In the end, he died as he lived: abruptly and without ceremony, suspended between two worlds, a distant father to his belittled and bewildered children.

Logan Roy is dead, having keeled over in the toilet of a private jet in this week’s episode of the final season of HBO’s “Succession.”

It was an event that any “Succession” fan knew would probably happen sometime — Logan’s first brush with death, a stroke, came in the series pilot — just maybe not, paradoxically, so soon. (Sunday’s episode was only the third of 10 this season.) Compounding the surprise was the ignominy of Logan’s departure: One minute, he was a roaring media titan whose latest power move was to skip his eldest son’s marriage and fly to Europe on business; the next, he lay stripped to the waist and silent, surrounded by lackeys. No grand soliloquies. No deathbed tears. Just the thump of vain chest compressions to a body that was probably already dead.

Brian Cox, who for three-plus seasons played Logan with a mercurial, leonine ferocity, seemed as surprised as anyone to learn that his character was fated for such a swift demise. In a video call last week from his home in Brooklyn, he described getting the news from the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong.

“He called me, and he said, ‘Logan’s going to die,’” Cox said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, that’s fine.’ I thought he would die in about Episode 7 or 8, but Episode 3, I thought … ‘Well that’s a bit early.’

He laughed. “Not that I was bothered,” he added.

At 76, Cox is a titan himself, albeit of a different kind. A native Scotsman and a renowned Shakespearean stage actor, he has earned two Laurence Olivier Awards and was named a commander in the Order of the British Empire. For his screen works, he has won an Emmy, (“Nuremberg,” 2001), a Screen Actors Guild Award (“Adaptation,” 2002) and dozens of other nominations in North America and Britain.

And yet, at an age when many successful actors might be tempted to bask in the glow of their trophies, Cox dove headlong into what has become a career defining role, the kind for which strangers stop you on the street and beg you to do a bit. (In Cox’s case, their requests are often for him to repeat a catchphrase that is unprintable here.) When they aren’t terrified, that is.

“People are very nervous when they come to meet me for the first time because they think I’m Logan Roy, and I’m not,” he said, laughing. “I’m simply not that guy.”

In conversation, Cox was certainly warmer and more generous, if just as quick with a strong opinion and a four-letter flourish. He spoke at length about Logan’s death, about Logan’s complicated feelings toward his children and about what a lot of actors get wrong about their profession. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

That was an abrupt end to such a titanic character. What did you think of how Logan died?

Well, they had to end it somehow, and it was Jesse’s choice. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the problem with a lot of television, particularly American television, is it goes past its sell-by date. And the great thing about Jesse and the writers is they wouldn’t do that. It was difficult for them because it wasn’t easy to bring this to an end. And I think Jesse found it sad — at the premier, somebody shouted out, “Well, if it was so sad, why did you do it?” But I think there are lots of reasons for Jesse finishing it. And I applaud the fact that he did that. It was courageous because everybody loves the show. Always leave the party when it’s at its height, not when it’s going down.

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