Brian Cox chose the ultimate zeitgeist accouterment for the lavish "Succession" Season 3 New York premiere on Oct. 12 – a face mask featuring the two-word expletive his fearsome patriarch CEO Logan Roy frequently hurls.
“The mask had an 'F' and then an asterisk, and then ‘Off,’ So it’s coded,” the Scottish actor, 75, recalls with a laugh the next day.
It's a classic power move. The HBO drama series kkicked off its third season to breathless anticipation Sunday (9 EDT/PDT)precisely because devotees desperately miss the nastiest super-rich family on TV. With "Succession" earning critical raves, Cox should start finding a low-effort way to dish out the Logan abuse that many fans actually seek in person.
"It's just the weirdest thing, they beg me," says Cox, falling into laughter describing one cowering couple who asked to be insulted and filmed themselves on the receiving end of it. "It's nice because they can record it. And the interesting thing is, you can mean it."
Brian Cox: 'Succession' season three is 'extraordinary'
That's just how "Succession" fans want it from the scheming head of the Waystar Royco conglomerate with a right-wing media division bearing a passing resemblance to the Murdoch family-run Fox News. They love the squalor of the supremely dysfunctional family centered around Logan's main players – sons Connor (Alan Ruck), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) and daughter Siobhan, known as "Shiv" (Sarah Snook).
Adding to the excitement is the two-year wait for the new dose of discord. The shocking Season 2 finale aired in October 2019, when Kendall, the son whom Logan appointed the fall guy for the company’s cruise crimes scandal, turned the tables on his father.
With seeming spontaneity, Kendall plunged the knife into Daddy on TV during a press conference, calling him "malignant" and pronouncing, "This is the day his reign ends."
Cut to a real global pandemic shutdown and an excruciating delay to see what happens next.
"We've been denied for so long to know what was going to happen in the next season after it ended on such a cliffhanger," says Australian actress Snook, 33. "We were all twiddling our thumbs in lockdown. Even we were dying to know, waiting to start shooting. So I can well understand the audience."
The answer is full-out "Corporate Avengers: Civil War." The action picks up in the immediate chaotic aftermath of that press conference, as Kendall and blindsided Logan scramble for power and allies. Strong's fans make their presence known for the lovably loathsome underdog.
"I get a lot of Team Kendall's yelled at me on the street," says Strong, 42, who bested his nominated screen dad Cox to win the 2020 best actor Emmy, one of four big "Succession" wins including best drama, for the second season.
Emboldened Kendall hustles for Waystar shareholder support as the lightning-paced season takes off, including billionaire activist investor Josh Aaronson (Adrien Brody, who joins Alexander Skarsgård as Season 3 guest stars).
"But in my mind, it's not a civil war," says Strong. "In my mind, I'm already victorious. This is like post-Waterloo. I've defeated (Logan) with a single death blow."
The rest of Kendall’s family never got that memo, as they all have their knives drawn. Or whatever weapon they can muster. During one gloriously venomous Season 3 moment, a spiteful Shiv discreetly spits in her brother's book.
Snook enjoyed making that juicy moment as much as the audience is likely to swallow it up.
"I love seeing the Roys, in all their wealth and privilege, doing these base things," says Snook. "It's so animal and childish. But what does she have to get back at her brother? Nothing else, at that moment."
Cox says the cast's relationships are nothing like the backstabbers' on screen. "We are actually quite giggly as a group," he says. "We laugh at the audaciousness of all these characters, especially Logan."
The veteran Royal Shakespeare Co. actor says playing "King Lear" onstage at London's National Theatre and the first role as serial killer Hannibal Lecter, in 1986's "Manhunter," proved vital preparation for Logan.
And he enjoys his unexpected turn as McDonald's voiceover pitchman, bringing the jarring sound of Logan Roy, not bellowing curses,but obscenely happy with a burger, to TVs across the country.
"I love the anomaly of a McDonald's commercial juxtaposed with Logan Roy," says Cox. "As my old pal would say, I'm following my calling and drawing my wages."
The patriarch's fortunes go in the opposite direction. He spends the season furiously trying to maintain control of the besieged corporation and avoid legal woes. His son-in-law, Shiv's husband's Tom (Matthew Macfadyen), prepares to go to prison.
Cox believes it's the look into his screen family's super-elite and equally terrible behavior that enthralls the schadenfreude-seeking audience.
“‘Succession’ is quite reassuring to people because they do see how hideous these people can be," says Cox. He cautions that the dysfunctionality is more relatable than many would care to admit. "We all don't want to realize when watching the show that there but by the grace of God, well, that could be anybody."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Succession' Season 3 brings new lows to Roy family; Brian Cox talks