Succession actor , 76, on his ‘fairly demanding’ schedule, playing one of the richest men in the world and how his opinion has changed on .
You’ve had a busy month! How’s your sanity holding up?
Well, I went to Cannes to publicise my new documentary series How The Other Half Live but I’m also doing a little show called now [series four], which is fairly demanding.
Within the same week, I flew to Los Angeles, filmed on Wednesday, and on the Wednesday night I flew back to the UK because I had to do a talk for my alma mater in to an academy of young actors. Then I had to go to the dentist and then I did a voiceover.
To cap it all, at the end of the week, I did a literary festival. So it’s been crazy. I woke up this morning and I didn’t know where the f*** I was.
How The Other Half Live is about what money does to us all. You say money is the personal demon you have always avoided confronting. What made you face it?
Well, when you are playing one of the richest men in the world on a daily basis [as media magnate Logan Roy in Succession] it makes you think.
Here I am in the cocoon of wealth. I have very little respect for money – wrongly, I have to say – because of what it did to my family [they were left destitute after Brian’s father died]. I’ve blocked it out. It’s like a trauma to me. I describe it as a sword of Damocles.
So I thought at my late age and considering I could see what was happening so clearly to the UK and in America, it was time to confront that.
We do discover that your Achilles heel is a walk-in wardrobe. Have you always coveted one?
I have. My problem is I come from a semi-dysfunctional family. The one thing we never had was a closet. We never had anywhere to put clothes. And as I’ve got older I’m a terrible hoarder with all my clothes. So when I walk into a closet I’m like, ‘Oh, this is bliss!’
Is there any possession of Logan Roy’s that you covet?
No, nothing. I hate helicopters. I won’t go up in them. Billionaire John Caudwell, who is in the documentary, wanted to fly me from Stoke-on-Trent to London and I said there is no way I am getting in a helicopter with somebody I don’t know.
But I see Logan as a real tragic figure. He’s a product of things that just went horribly wrong in his life and he seeks vengeance for certain things. His vengeance is to get as rich and uncaring as possible, except his Achilles heel is the love he has for his children. That’s his biggest problem.
If he didn’t love his children so much he would have no difficulty saying, ‘Let’s find someone new.’ And that’s what he’s being driven to as the show goes on to find this new person who can inherit it all.
You get upset in the documentary when you visit the Lochee Community Larder in your hometown of Dundee. What happened?
I was talking to these people at the community larder and this man comes in. He’s a very, very emaciated gentleman with a stick.
I ask him, ‘So this is for your family?’ [collecting free and low-cost groceries]. He says, ‘These are for about 15 people who cannot get here, people in high rises or in difficult family commitments, such as they have a child with cerebral palsy. I do it for them.’
I said, ‘It’s a very honourable and extraordinary thing you are doing.’ He had a sign on his arm and I asked him what it was. He said, ‘I’m blind.’ What you see is my reaction.
Did you imagine things could have got so bad so quickly when you started this project?
It’s been chronic for a long time. I was on Question Time recently and I just got so angry when people were saying, ‘Give her time’ [about shortest-serving prime minister ever Liz Truss]. There is no time.
What I’ve witnessed over the last two or three months of filming is the worst ever. Now they are saying that they are going to have to ration the food banks. We pride ourselves on the welfare state but it is no longer a welfare state and certainly not under this present administration.
The person who I think did the most damage is Boris Johnson. Liz Truss just inherited a nightmare.
I was doing the literary festival in Cliveden recently and I met Michael Gove, who confessed to being a big fan of my show, so I had to be gracious with him, but I was really biting my back teeth, I can tell you.
On Question Time, did you ever expect to find yourself on the same side of an argument as Piers Morgan?
Actually I think that Piers is a conundrum. I’ve been on his show and I was full of trepidation. My wife said, ‘Oh, he’s a misogynist.’ All this kind of stuff but I don’t know the man. He’s a little bombastic but clearly in that Question Time he was very much on the side of the angels.
He was also on the side of fairness, so I have sort of reviewed my notion of Piers. He is who he is but actually there is basically a very good heart there, I think.
Brian Cox: How The Other Half Live will launch on November 17 at 9pm on Channel 5