Brian Cox was awarded the prestigious Praeses Elit award from the Law Society on Friday, February 2nd. The Succession star and prolific Shakespearean thespian was presented the honour both due to his immense professional accomplishments as well as his impact and contributions to philanthropic causes.
The GMB was full and excitement was high in anticipation of the actor. One student told me that they were “very excited and interested to see what he has to say” and that they were “hoping to hear about his philanthropic work and his time on Succession”. Secretary of the Law Society, Louise Cullen introduced Cox and the Praeses Elit award, recognising Cox’s immense contributions to film and TV and his “unflinching dedication” to causes including Scottish independence, the rights of women in Iran, and his support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Cox then sat down for a Q&A with Eoin Ryan, Auditor of the Law Society. Cox spoke of his heritage and his childhood growing up in Dundee, Scotland, revealing he recently took a DNA test which revealed he was 88 per cent Irish and 12 per cent Scottish. Affable and engaging, Cox actually got up from the Q&A to physically move the podium that he noticed was blocking a few audience members’ views. This moment of sensitivity to his audience was explained when Cox spoke at length of the importance of audience community he learned from his extensive theatre career. Cox also spoke of his classical training and beginning of the year, saying he was a child of the 60s, which “was a great period of social mobility” explaining that when he moved to London to work he was welcomed. Of his theatre training, he earnestly stated that he believed in drama training and that this training is to be relied on. He also urged the audience to “follow the one thing that lights you up”.
Ryan asked Cox about his plethora of characters and if Cox felt any of them were especially underrated. Cox replied he felt Titus Andronicus, the titular character of the Shakespeare play, had that element. He explained that the play Titus Andronicus had themes of every idea that Shakespeare would subsequently follow. Titus Andronicus, a notably gruesome play, led Ryan to his next question, about the morality of Cox’s characters and if he felt drawn to playing ‘bad guys’. Cox replied that he felt it was important not to judge his characters and that we all “become conditioned” as we adopt belief systems which create the individual. He insisted that there were all kinds of roots for why people behave and this allows one to realise things are complex but also deeply simply saying of his perceived ‘bad’ characters, “you follow the light and it’s the wrong one”.
The conversation then moved onto Succession and Cox was asked what drew him to the script. Cox revealed there was no script, simply a pitch and a cross conversation between himself, producer Adam McKay, and writer Jesse Armstrong. He also stated that he had a hand in the heritage of his character Logan Roy saying he had suggested Roy be Scottish like Cox. Armstrong had said no and that Roy had to be American. He then surprised Cox by changing Roy’s birthplace in the ninth episode of the first season, to be Cox’s native Dundee, calling it a ‘coincidence’. Cox said he replied “that’s a hell of a fucking coincidence”. Of his abrasive and generally disliked character, he said Roy simply wanted to find a successor for his business, calling the media conglomerate “very misunderstood”, saying he may not be nice but he’s not nasty. When speaking of Roy’s children, Shiv, Kendall, Roman, and Connor, Cox called them “the stupidest children to walk on Earth”. Cox also revealed that he had correctly predicted the end of the series, writing his predicated successor in a sealed letter given to Jesse Armstrong to be opened after the finale. Ryan also asked the question that had been on all of our minds. Had Kendall’s name been crossed out or underlined by his father Logan Roy? Cox diplomatically replied “he had a very shaky hand”.
Of awards, Cox said that they were a nice aftertouch but that he doesn’t work for awards. What he is happy about during awards season, he said, was the recognition that the ensemble has been given, calling it a ‘great’ one. He then added some fuel to the rumoured feud between him and co-star Jeremy Strong by saying that “there was only one person who had a problem with that and I won’t say who”, a sentiment he would later echo when calling the cast of succession a family. When asked about the end of Succession and moving forward, Cox stated “it’s a job” and it’s though it’s a wonderful one, it’s “just another piece of work”. His plans for the next chapter include continuing to head back into theatre following a run as Johann Sebastian Bach in Oliver Cotton’s 2023 play The Score.
Cox also spoke at length of his involvement in politics and causes close to his heart. This included the SAG-AFTRA strike, calling the amount of choices of streaming services, “astounding but people who run the show want to pay less and less” and explaining that these issues disproportionately affect those in America where there is no National Health Service. He also shared his passion for Scottish independence saying that Scots have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot, revising that statement to say it was more like they hold up their feet and shoot each toe individually. Cox explained “as I get older, I get more and more angry” at the treatment of Scots as “second class citizens”, saying liberation is needed.
Cox graciously stayed after the Q&A to take photos and shake the hands of admiring fans and answered all of Ryan’s and the audience’s questions with humour, intellect, and wisdom. A stark comparison from his less than kind character Logan Roy, Brian Cox did not disappoint as one of the most highly anticipated speakers of the LawSoc’s series.