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Listen: Brian Cox on ‘Succession,’ Shakespeare, and the Crisis We’re In

The Great Society review
Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Brian Cox is having a pop-culture moment with “Succession,” the buzzy HBO series in which he stars. But he’s also an accomplished theater actor with plenty of experience doing Shakespeare — and it serves him well in both “Succession” and in his current Broadway show, “The Great Society.”

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

Cox plays Lyndon B. Johnson in “Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to his Tony winner “All the Way,” and the show reminds Cox of a Shakespearean history play.

“It’s epic,” he said on Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “And he’s the president, kind of like a Shakespearean king. And he has these flaws… There’s a sort of tragic momentum to the part, which makes the part very demanding, very challenging and also very rewarding.”

Although “Great Society” is set in the 1960s, he added, it speaks to today — which is true of the work that interests him these days. “I’m really interested in doing scripts of the now, of the crisis we’re in at the moment,” he explained.

“Even ‘Succession’ is clearly a morality tale,” he continued. “It’s clearly about the fact that God is dead, and what do we have in its place? And Logan [Roy, the character played by Cox] represents a sort of nihilist viewpoint … He’s somebody who’s been disappointed by humanity, and you realize that people like that are a danger to humanity. The people who tell lies. And there’s a lot of lying going on around us, as we witness everyday, particularly in this country and in the UK. So that is really important to me. Really doing stuff which has a real meaning for the now.”

Cox also recalled the friends and colleagues who are not longer with us, including Alan Rickman, and reminisced about the disappearing lineage of being an actor. He also had some thoughts about the U.S. theater industry: “The American theater has lost a lot of its impetus, tragically,” he said — and he explained why he feels that way on the latest episode of Stagecraft.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on Apple PodcastsStitcher or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.