Hey, Georgia, hi, David. I know how much you love drinking things with my face on ice. Disgusting. Well, Lo, we got married.
Oh, David Letterman does a podcast with has got marriage. And that is a sentence I never thought I'd say. Yeah.
Would you like a reusable bamboo fiber travel mug. Yes, please. And a metal water bottle.
And that a rather stylish cuts. Don't know those plastic bottles and paper cups doesn't it. Very good.
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Oh Georgia match march. Can you hear me? I'm not sure if you can, can you you can hear me? Yes. Hello, David. There we go. We've got there. Yes. Said I'm doing it without a net.
Yes. Yes. Well, it's very I mean, the fact that we could talk to each other on either side of the world is remarkable at all, to be honest. But that's the it's not it's always got to have a few teething problems in it, you know?
Well, it was kind of nerve wracking because, I mean, so many mikes and so many things for so many different. So if you looked around this room, I could start a good start, a sound studio, which I can tell from when Lewine lockdown is over.
You can flog it for a small fortune or something. Yeah. Yeah. And well, Brian, thank you very much. It's lovely to have you here. I guess we'll just start and shall we. Yeah.
David Tennant does a podcast with. Brian Cox. So, Brian, thank you for being here. Thank you for doing this. Now, I was reading your book about playing King Lear and you talk about the opening night and you say you weren't nervous. You see, I don't get nervous very much nowadays, which feels to me as someone who does like a bit of a superpower for an actor.
Is that still true?
Yeah, I don't really. I mean, maybe the flutter, but I really don't get nervous. I don't. I once worked with Edward Petherbridge and the man has no nerves whatsoever. Right. There was a it was a lesson. You know, he would be you know, he'd be standing and he'd be in the dressing room and his cue to go on would still be the actor would have started the speech to go on. And lo and behold, Edward would still be there.
And then he'd walk on in time for his speech and he had no nerves whatsoever. I'm not bothered with nerves very much. I don't know why.
Where you ever or is there something you know?
I don't think I really was you know, it was kind of there was something about the inevitability of that you're going to do it. So there's no point getting upset about it. Right. You know, it's going to happen whether you like it or not. And it's inevitable. And once you faced up to the inevitability of performing, never seem to fly away. Right.
So we're talking today. You're in upstate New York currently. Is this where you. Is this where you live now? Is that your home?
Well, yes, it is now because of my unfortunate situation. Yeah, it's gorgeous here.
Can I show you quickly? You can see out the window. I don't know if you can see out the window.
Oh, beautiful. Yeah, it's a forest. You know, we're in the middle of a forest. It's a it's a beautiful part of the world. And it's been a privilege, actually, that because of this enforced thing, I've been able to watch the seasons because at the beginning of May, we had it snow. Right? It was so and it's gone from hail, snow. And then just watching the and the trees were bare and now the foliage and the birds, the birdsong is incredible.
So it's amazing. Yeah.
It's a long way from Dundee, obviously. It's a hell of a long way from. Yeah.
Do you feel more Scottish the further away you are from it. Very much so, yeah. I think the great thing about us, we cats is that Robert Louis Stevenson's great crew was I travel not to go anywhere but to go. The greatest fear is to move. And I think that is something that is, you know, where we've done that.
Our history is because we've been so kicked off places and lost our place and all that and being moved around and even right back to our Celtic beginnings. You know, when we finally find these sort of calls, either in Ireland or the north coast of France and Britain and and then finally in Scotland, you know, so it's it's kind of weird. So, you know that you're an inveterate traveler. You know, you've been part of that kind of shifting diaspora that's been going on for centuries, really money.
So Scotland. But Scotland, you know, I just I love it. I just love it. I love the country. I love going home and I love it more. As I got older, you know, when I was young, I used to look at the and think I kind of wait to get across it. But it's now it grew to be the opposite. And I'm very proud. I'm particularly proud of our first minister in Scotland.
But I think she is alongside with, you know, who is really considerable.
Yeah. Do you see yourself heading back there eventually? Yeah, I mean, you know, I think about it, you know, it's one of my fantasies, right? My dream, my my sister's in a care home and I have a family and my my niece has got a wee place on the on the tay there. And it's absolutely gorgeous. I'll tell you a funny story about my sister. So my sister, it's her 90th birthday, right?
Yeah. She's like she was like my mom when I was nine and it's my birthday. And so the care home lay on a paper for her and the paper comes in, plays the pipes. And of course, I personally I don't know about you, but I love the place. Sure, my sister can extend the pipes and she hates the pipes. Right. And the hard to escape when they start. Yeah.
And I'm watching it and I'm watching, but I got it on and I, I think I wonder because you can't see it because the social distancing and all that she's done at the end of the garden and I'm on FaceTime right now book by my niece. And I kept saying, what's her expression, what's her expression? So I kind of expected I would die with laughter. And finally afterwards, we get to the to her window, the window of a room where we can look into a room.
We can't go in, but we look into a room.
And I said, Betty, I said, how are the pipes? She said, Well, I tell your brain that's the best part about than I've ever done.
It's it's interesting that in that in succession, which, of course, is this huge success you've been part of recently, that Logan Roy comes from Dundee, I presume that was written.
And after you got the part was written after we started playing. I see. Right. OK, I did nine episodes born in Quebec. Oh, really? Yes, nine episodes. I did. Born in Quebec, Canada. So I'm sort of a Canadian American accent, which I'm doing. Yeah. And then finally on the that the ninth or Peter Freedman, who plays Frank, the person who was firing, would be hiring and firing. And he said, I've just done an eight hour session is as it really said, yes.
They've changed your birthplace. They've changed my birthplace. You said, yeah, you're you're you're not born in Quebec anymore. I said, what? We had this big celebration when he says Quebec, Canada in the very first episode, which they needless to say and I said, So where am I? And he said, Oh, I can't remember. And then he looked up is the he said, Oh, yeah, here we are. So I Dundee Scotland.
And I said, that's where I'm from. I went to Jesse Helms. I said, Jesse, what is this? And he said, Well, I thought it'd be a bit of a surprise. I said, that's a hell of a surprise. And that's where you come from. Yeah. So he's now known as my evil twin Logansport. Yeah.
But then in the second season, even they have you going back to Dundee. I think you filmed in Dundee. Right.
That was incredibly moving actually. You know, in Dundee was a bit of a. All you know is it was not the butcher, the butcher at the time, but subsequently they've really just gone through this extraordinary transformation. Yeah, and with the with the new DNA. And so we were able to film in the BNA. So it was it was quite funny going back there because there was these two realities. That was my reality. Well, yeah.
Hogan's reality as well.
Is there anything of because when Logan goes back, of course he's he's welcomed as this, you know, boy, he's going around the world and conquered it and met with huge adulation. How much of that do you get when you go back to Dundee?
Yes, I'm very popular, particularly down at the police station, not very popular.
People are very Dundonald and they're great people that are really great people. I mean, they've been they've had everything thrown at them, you know, Timex and the failure of the ends of the business.
And, you know, it's a sort of predominantly really kind of highland, you know, people from the Highlands, people from Ireland. All my lot came from Northern Ireland to work in the jungle. So but it's it's an amazing place. Yeah.
This is a fondness you've developed, as you say, sort of later in life. When you were when you were young, you were yearning to escape, were you?
Yeah, well, you know, I was and I was you know, I wanted to be I mean, for me, it was as much about, you know, because I started at Dundee Rep when I was 15 and I still had this accent was gunned down in action, which you could cut with a knife. Right. And I wanted to learn to speak, you know, and I thought, I really need to go to an English drama school.
So, yeah, I there was a lot of actors who I'd seen, you know, because I while I was there, I could observe people come and go and the company and and there were some you know, these wonderful actors are not necessarily the best actors, but they seem to have some kind of they seem to have some approach to what they were doing. And that was the that was the people from LAMDA. So I decided on Lamda right to work.
But what initially to get to Dundee rep? I mean, what was there?
Well, I mean, I you know, I mean, I clearly I always wanted to act from conscious memory, but what was that about?
Because presumably you did did you know actors? There were actors hanging about Dundee.
You never knew anybody. I mean, I just and I didn't even go to the theatre until literally six months before I worked there. Right. We start there's a thing called the club, which a guy called Bill Jewitt had started at my school, and he said, you should come to the club. So I went and I saw live actors for the first time on stage and I saw actually impressively Nicole Williamson and that Nicole Williamson was when I went for my interview, Nicole Williams never had a fight on the stair.
The closer I was having to fight and I couldn't get past, which was that was my first date on the right. And there was another actor on the on the landing called Gordon Granger. Oh, yeah, yeah. You know God. I know God. And God said to me, Are you all right, darling? And I hate it. There's that fight downstairs and somebody just called me darling. That's obviously the place I'm supposed to be.
You didn't come from a family that were inclined towards acting or particular. I mean, not really. I mean, I came from a family of performers. I mean, you know, they would all perform in some shape or form, you know, and there were all my my late brother is, you know, my my late brother used to say, you always forgot, really, you know, the actor in the family and you know that.
You know, and he lived the kind of he lived my brother. He was very funny. I just played this character go observant, observant, extremely like my brother. And a lot of people thought it was based on my brother because he had to be shot and he was very eccentric and but he lived this fantasy life always on the run from the VAT man. You know, it's great. You talk about it in the middle button trail. It was all Western analogy.
The is out to get me, Brian. I got to be careful. So that's an actor. Remember, there was one. Yeah. So so this performance was all in the house you at all. Yeah.
Yeah. To a certain extent. One when I was very young I kind of got, you know, after my father died and my mother had a series of nervous breakdowns that sort of disappeared. But right now it was it was a sort of Hogmanay.
You know, Hogmanay was great. You got up for the bells and you were right, pajamas. And you came in and you hid under the table. And my mother used to make steak pies at four o'clock in the morning and. Right. And then my dad would and my sister made. They would. They would. We had a bunker, a bunker with a recession when the recession was a coal bunker in there. And that was my first stage.
And I used to go on there. My dad put me on there and I would do Jolson impersonation. Yeah.
Yes. And your daddy, you were very young when your dad passed away with that. Were you aware of what was happening?
I mean, when you have to it was a very odd situation. It was very odd time. You know, my mother had clearly she she actually ran away from home one point, which was the beginning of what was what some, you know, stuff my dad made.
He was a businessman. He was a shopkeeper and but very, very loved, you know, very respected. And he did a lot of you lot of charity. In fact, my mother used to say, just remember, Brian, charity begins at home. Right? My father was a little bit of a charitable, but he was that was he was you know, I still get letters from people now who said your dad helped me with I mean, these are people in their 80s, really my dad being the caring person he was.
But unfortunately, he ended up in a very, very bad fiscal situation, you know, so and then he developed very quickly. He developed pancreatic cancer by the age of 51. He was gone. Right. My mum couldn't cope with any of it because the businesses and all that which finally collapsed and she had, um, she had a series of nervous breakdowns. Right.
And as an eight year old, how are you processing that? I mean, what's.
Well, I think it goes back to the original question about nerves, you know? Yeah. You actually you actually learn to. You learn that you either sink or swim in that situation because there's nobody, nobody, you know, right? I mean, my sisters are there, but they were married. They had kids. My my eldest and my youngest, my youngest and my eldest sisters was about she went to Canada and she you know, and she had a life of my my older sisters made sure that she lived a life.
So she went to Canada. So I was kind of between various pillars to various posts.
And I just learned this survival mechanism really hard to survive. Yeah. And it's student in very good stead. It's sort of made me a little bit to. You know, I think it's kind of mocked me a wee bit, you know, sure. And well, I must inevitably. Yeah, just a wee bit. But I mean, Scott in the 1950s were not not known for their demonstrative emotional life.
And this is a thing you know, I'm writing book. I'm writing a biography now, you know, and I know the world. And was that kind of you know, because my family I know your family were a Presbyterian, but my family was Catholic. There was this sense of you never talked about anything. You know, my mother's greatest praise was if I did something, she would say, oh, that's quite nice.
And you go, is that. Yeah, yeah. Know that's it.
And you're going, well, that's it. Because they they didn't know. And that's a kind of in the book and I'm writing, I describe it as conditioned ignorance is ignorance where people are really kept in the conditions of ignorance and the Catholic Church certainly doesn't help. I'm not so sure about what the Presbyterian ethic is, but that was not a help. And therefore, people lived in the sort of where they didn't express themselves. I mean, even my birth, I mean, there's a sort of debate about who knew whether I was being born or not, because even if my mother was pregnant, you know that.
Right. But my sister said, Bernice, you did know my mother was pregnant, but she was the youngest. And I don't know how she knew. But she did. She she actually said I think she said this to me the other day. I got this message from she said I wanted to add something to it. She said, but you write in this book, she said, you know, my used to the pictures all the time at the time when you were when she was pregnant.
And I think that's what got into you tonight.
So it's kind of weird. It's weird in many ways, but it's something that people don't realise was very difficult. I mean, that's why the Sixties were such a wonderful, wonderful time, because it was a time of great social and cultural mobility and that, you know, that was not present when I was a child.
Yeah. I mean, do you remember did you cry? Were you allowed to cry? Encouraged to cry? I cried.
You know, I cried a bit. You know, I was allowed to cry. I mean, my my dad's funeral, in retrospect, was it sort of had a profound effect on me. You know, you you just you know, the sixties were such an amazing time of of being welcomed. You know, that was the great thing about when I was a student. I was welcome to the country, took care of me, you know. I mean, I was given a very good grant with a very good living.
I mean, I had more money than I have. I had when I was working at the Wrap and when I worked for two years.
Right. So you went to LAMDA seventeen. Yeah. Yeah, right. And that must have felt like quite a culture shock, presumably in time.
You know, I was a stinking, pimply, pudgy youth. You know, I was like I my physical charms were somewhat limited.
So when you first head off to London, were you scared? Were yet excited? Both No, I was excited. I was working at the Palace Theatre varieties and Dundee and for a guy called Ronnie Koban, and he still chased me after 40 years. He chased me because he wrote me the money to go to London to go get a train. And I never paid him back. I've forgotten. I just forgot. Yeah, but no, I was very excited.
I mean, I just, you know, it was also because I had so many. And this is the thing, David, I've always believed in, and I think it's partly the part of the the curse of the actor, but it's also the sort of gift of the actor is this thing of having to reinvent yourself once on many occasions that you have to just reinvent. And I think there's a child that do that constantly. To go into London was another reinvention and an adventure.
And was it the swinging 60s London of legend?
Very much so. I mean, it was incredible. I mean, going down. I mean I mean, God on me walking down the king's road. I mean, it was it was unbelievable. Yeah. For you if you don't. Yeah. Quite so to be a student in those days, was it I mean you say you were a pimply youth, but did you get to enjoy a bit of sex and drugs and rock and roll. Did that happen?
No, I was still very still very I was a Catholic boy and I wasn't a Catholic boy, but I didn't I didn't go.
I tell you what, David, and this is this is the truth. Actually, I. I got married very young in my first marriage. You know, I got married when I was 21. Right. And and the reason I got married is because I could see I could see the way the land lay in terms of the sort of promiscuity of the time, not just the sexual promiscuity, but the kind of cultural promiscuity. And I I kind of thought I need I need I need structure because I never had structure.
I had no structure until I was 21. And I married this very sweet, lovely, very kind of upper middle class latte with whom we had a very, very posh Scottish mother. And there there's nobody more Pashtoons Posh Scots, right? Yeah. Take the biscuits as far as you're concerned. And she our name was Lillian Munro Carr, who was one of the best. And I follow actually her father was a doctor who did incredible work on Rickets and Glasgow and obviously special teams, a pediatrician and professor.
And so I met Caroline and we got married quite quickly within a year, actually, but it was to do with the fact I know I needed structure. And she was also she was very smart, my first wife, and still is.
I mean, she's a she's lovely I daughter, you know, but it just I just needed that discipline of having something and that I could be working for because I didn't have family. My mum was well she was, she was OK. But she used to do she worked as a chalet made for Butlin's and things like that.
You know, she was she had that money but but there was no I had no family anymore, you know, apart from my sisters. I mean, I my my older sister was always the one. I always say my older sister never she didn't directly look after me. But what she did, which was probably more important if she looked out for me, OK, it sure that things were OK. OK, so that's why, you know, the drugs rock and roll were you know, I mean, of course the music was fantastic.
I loved all that. But the drugs I was a wee bit wary of. I mean, I didn't start taking marijuana till I was 50. Right. That was the first time I took it. And I haven't stopped.
Right. So why did it take you so long? Because, you know, I, I, I thought it's like it was like it's like motorcycle riding. It's sort of wasted on the young. Like I.
You know, you know, people with motor bikes, you get more bikes and then they die, you know. But yeah, I came to motorcycle riding when I was quite old and the same with the same with drugs. I just I was very ambitious. I didn't want him to get in the way. And I was very suspicious. But it was when I got the 50 and I know and I thought, God, I need a rest, I need a break.
And why it turned me off at the end of the day.
And, of course, perfect. Yeah, right. And that's something I still indulging I see as part of. But I now have medical marijuana because I'm such a nature. I can do that here.
I know. Right. Good. The pimply youth I did drama skillset, the pimply youth from Dundee. Did you feel liberated by it or. I was liberated by rights because I had a library, you know, and I used the library to write, you know, I started reading and all kinds.
You not done that at school particularly? No, my school my school was a disaster. I mean I mean, I was it I was I was just a chance at school just getting by. But but I had these great men, these two teachers, George Hackett and Mildura, who again looked out for me. They really did. They could see me and they knew I didn't fit in, you know, but but I mean, I wasn't a dummy when I was reasonably smart.
My grades were all right. But I wasn't interested. It was just not there was nothing there that was interesting to me. I mean, I knew I wasn't going to go to a trade school. I mean, my only alternative was if I didn't get into the theatre and I was lucky that I did. That was fifteen and a half. And that no junior, this kid called Frank McGrath, he'd been working at the rep and he was leaving.
So his job was available. And I went along for this interview. And boom, I mean, a lot of the bullshit a bullshitter my way through it. And because the guy that did the said so are you interested in music? I didn't know anything about music then. Classical music. I and I just had a teacher, Brad, cattle music teacher, just played the trumpet march from Aida. So I just said, well, I like Verdi.
Right. You know, I said he said that, he said, yeah, but but really. Aida and trumpet. Let's just pretend they knew you were hustling them. Well, I mean, I think they do, but they sort of just thought the audacity of the boy. You know, we got to get a little latitude. Yeah, well, no, they were great and they were very kind to me. And and equally so when I was a drama student, I had some great teachers.
And did you excel at drama school? I mean, where are you? Were you a bit of a star and I did well, I mean, I did a couple of plays. I got an agent, wonderful agent called Larry Dalzell FDL, and we would go, Yeah, yeah. And he was my first agent and he was great. And and I did my first my first tele I did, which was a thing. And and I played a Glaswegian like I had to learn how to do Glasgow accent like I did a thing called Night and Tarnished Amah with Paul Young.
Oh yes. My first job was with Paul Young. Really? Yeah. And it was written by Alan Sharp. You know, he went on to write Rob Roy and he was married to Beryl Bainbridge and yeah, it was so that was the first time I worked.
And then then I then I got and then I met the wonderful, truly wonderful Tom Fleming, who was a great man.
Right? Yes. Yeah.
And then he took me to the Lyceum. Right. And did you did you have a clear sense of what type of actor you wanted to be or were you just looking for a job? Yes, I did. I mean, I did have a sense of what I you know, I never understood the differentiation between character and leading man. I just thought it was bullshit. Right. I was in the juvenile character section and I was perfectly happy with that because I just thought, well, everybody's a character, surely.
Yeah. Yeah. And what you did, what you play, it's a character. It's not, you know, what's the leading man? What does that mean? The kind of misnomer to me, the notion of leading man. So I never pursued the idea.
So did you have that kind of list of roles you wanted to take off? Did you have that kind of ambition?
What happened to me was so extraordinarily lucky. I met this guy who came up, did they did a production. Galileo and Tom Fleming played Galileo. And I was asked to I played under our safety. And the director was a man called Peter Juice, and he liked me and he liked my work. And he was going to run Birmingham rep. And he said, Would you like to come to Birmingham? And I said, Well, sounds good.
He said, What do you want to play? I said, What do you mean? He said, Well, what do you want to play? And I said, Well, I'm not right. And said I said, well. So I said, well, you know, maybe, maybe, maybe piggin is it.
I said and I said, maybe I'll go. I go. And and then I said, well, maybe Welsh. I'm going again. Yeah, that's good. For starters, you said fine. So I ended up didn't play Hamlet, but I did play Yogo and I did play again. And I also played Bolingbroke and I played Orlando Ibrihim. And this was all before my twenty second birthday. That's amazing.
That's amazing. Whenever I've seen you playing Shakespeare, you have a you have a knack for making it sound spontaneous and conversational, and I wonder if that is that something you particularly were aware of and striving to do? Or is that just how it comes to you? It developed you know, you start with all that. You start with all the kind of the unstopping and the and the structure and the verse and the verse, of course. I mean, I love Shakespeare.
I just adore Shakespeare, you know? I mean, you can't get around them as a writer. You just simply can't. But the thing about it was that, you know, the history of it. I mean, Gielgud, of course, I was very lucky. At what with Gielgud. Right. And Gielgud, you know, he could go into flights of fancy, but then he could speak incredibly simply Shakespeare. He could if you listen to ageism, what is it called?
The ageism man? I think it's called it's an old record. And he did years and years ago. And he's just when he's resting into the text, he's astonishing. But then he gets off these flights, sat down, down. I come like, disorientate on wanting the management really on down King Fornatale Street where like should saying, you know, you've got that. Yeah. But then you can say, well, I know what, that's why that's there.
But let's just think about it in a kind of way that people can understand.
Yes. Yes. And so I kind of was blessed with it and I was blessed with my instrument, you know, my voice, which has helped me a lot.
So there was you are consciously because obviously there's that British English probably British tradition of of presenting classical work in a rather theatrical demonstrative like like the way you described Gielgud. What were you consciously go, no, I don't want to do that.
I it wasn't you know, there was always there was. And of course, it was the period of liberation of John Barton and Peter Hall during the age of Kings with with people like Ian Home and David Warner. So that was that that was very prevalent at the time. But I was very, um, I wasn't an institutional person. I was not really for the company as such, and particularly in the sort of late 70s when the Alan Howard stuff happened at Stratford, I just I couldn't get with it.
And it was only I was 40, you know, when I was finally and I had to I was going through a divorce and I needed a regular job. So I went to the I went to the Barbican to do a couple of plays at the Barbican. And then I ended up going to Stratford. And it was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. Right.
I didn't expect the lobster outfit at all, but I loved I loved the I loved the closeness of it.
I love the fact it was you know, you wrote your out away from home. You were there and a very and I was divorced at the time, so it was on my own. So it was a very, very concentrated period for me.
Yeah. And that was when you went to Titus Andronicus up there, which you had a massive success with. What was it about that part that seated you so well, do you think?
Well, again, it goes back to two things happened. Actually, I did a Macbeth in India. I was in India tour of that. And I, I remember there's this lassie who was my dresser. She was a Khattak dancer. And she came to me one day and she said, you know, she was my dress up. And she said she asked if she could say something and and I said, yes, she was she said, you know, I think, Mr Cox, that you I really get the feeling that you want to bust out, you want to explode and you can't.
And I said. Mark, I can understand that, she said. Yeah, she said, and I think it's to do with your movement, she said you should move. You should move and I won't really. She said, oh, yes, she said you are very you you you present the text wonderfully, but you should move. You should allow your body to move. And I want. OK. So I was doing the two famous speeches, you know, the you know, the ones we had caught has two speeches and she used to stand in the wings.
And I watched me and I would try stuff. And then I come out and I said, What do you thought I should say? Further, go further. She was 16, right. OK. And eventually I was crawling all over the stage for the ravishing stage stuff. And it was so liberating. And the rest of the cast was what's going on? Because we didn't have any direct guarantee because there was nobody on do with us. And then the other thing, the other influence is all those Scottish actors is MacRay and Fulton, who had this exactitude about them.
But it's kind of precise physicality. I mean, you've got it to David. You do as well, and you do it excellently. And it's not the and it's part of our heritage. Right. I thought, oh, wow. Yes, yes. And I can do that. And Titus, you see, Titus is such a wonderful play because it's such it's described as a tragedy and but it's an early play of Shakespeare's. You wrote around the same time as Richard the Third.
And it's a play full of ideas. It's got Othello in that.
It's got Lear in there, it's got Hamlet, then they're feign madness has got all of it there. But what he does and he deals with tragedy is such an extreme that it becomes between tragedy. And it's a huge cosmic thing, which is ludicrous. Life is ludicrous. And when you you know, when you dedicate yourself to something like the state of Rome as a status has and it's got more and more corrupt and he can't see it because he's so locked into his, you know, his old sense, belief and then snaps and it suddenly goes into this kind of madness.
And that was the great thing about Titus, that just the sheer and I owe that to John McCrae. I owe that to Fulton Callum, not just those actors I worked with like 20 years before and just having having that extraordinary physicality about them.
But I'm interested as well that it's not every leading man who would listen to a 16 year old in his dressing room door says, can I can I give you a couple of notes? Is that is that something you would always deal with or something particularly about her, that that she had a kind of presence about?
And she was very, very modest. I mean, she she never she never said anything, really, until this time.
And why did you think she was right? Why did you think? Because I knew it. I knew.
And also I reached a point in my career, you know, where I'd I'd had relative success, but I hadn't achieved what I felt I should have achieved. I mean, I wasn't old. I mean, God, I was what was I?
It was probably about thirty four. Thirty five. Right. About them. But I, you know, I'd been working for some time, you know, and I just felt that I was ripe for some kind of Damascus and Damascus moment when something comes to me that kind of liberates me and lets me.
Lastly, did it write this must have been around the same time you became a parent as well? And do you think that it was a little later?
OK, it was probably I was a little there. I mean, I was a very young parent, you know, like very young, probably pretty stupid parent that I'm not being very good at parenting. And it's not it's not something I excel in because I didn't have any myself. So it's very hard.
Did you say that the experience you had, your difficult childhood, that her you are as a parent doing.
Yeah. Does it worry about you know, because you're I mean, my father was mythic. It's hard to be mythic as a father. Yeah. To do that to her to achieve that mythic status. Yeah.
Do you think how do you think having a difficult childhood makes you want to cosset your children, to protect them from something similar or to or to make sure they're not to protect so they understand that my my thing is not to protect them.
Right. I differ from my wife in that. I mean, I just think having lived through failure as a child, big time and scholastic failure, I really I get driven by the fact that I should be responsible and I should set down boundaries and all that stuff. And I'm hopeless, I'm hopeless, useless, all that.
But I've been and I also feel that children should be allowed to fail. Right. You know, you only really learn from failing. And of course, that's the story of my career. It was through my failures that I learnt write the things that I didn't quite. Achieve the island. How do I how do I get over the hump? How do I make. How do I negotiate the next bit of that, you know? Yeah.
Yeah. You've worked on both sides of the Atlantic for the last. Well, I mean, really, since was it right in the skull that first took you to America? And since then you've been pretty bicoastal with with your work and you've had a very international career. And then and it's been extraordinarily varied. But you've been Xman and you've been in the Bourne movies, and yet you're always coming back to the theatre.
You've been a voice of a monster on at least two different shows that I've been in different times.
And is there a method to how you elect what comes next?
Are you are you trying to carve a sort of make sense of a lot or are you just sort of difficult to say? No. There we are.
There I am talking about alignment, you know, and saying let's be aligned. But actually, the truth of the matter is the actors should be non-aligned, you know, because we have to be open to everything. Sure. We have to be open to the whole kit and caboodle. And and it's that openness which can drive you daft. But but at the same time, it's exciting, you know, following a plan that you call the droog. The good, the bad, the good.
Yeah. I get people said, can you say I wasn't even there? Now, the weird thing about that was I thought I went along to the studio. Yeah. You, I thought was a pitch for Doctor Who. I was I was doing an ad. Oh, I see. And I got these lines and they started give me these lines and I was reading them and what occupied. And I said, this is a funny ad director.
And he said, this is not an ad, this is the food. And I said, What is it you're playing? I said, Oh, I said, well, I don't think that's actually not an idea. You know, I'm a right. Very significant. That was to you heralded my demise. And is there a different is that a different Brian Cox who turns up?
On the set of the X-Men or the set servant or a show on Broadway, do you approach things differently or do you know?
I think I just maintain I mean, I always maintain an openness. You know, I. I try not to judge. I used to judge a lot when I was young, and I try not to do that anymore.
I try just to go into a situation with a kind of openness and just say, yeah, you know, and also I'm still up for the adventure of our job. Yeah. Yeah. We're so blessed in what we do, you know, where nobody has you know, I just and I love actors. I just think actors are the best people. I'm very biased. You know, it can be a pain in the ass, but it can be the opposite.
You know, that can be absolutely gorgeous and open and childlike. That's what I love about actors, is that their relationship to the child, they haven't got they haven't forgotten themselves. Beaton's, you know, and I love that. I love that thing. I always say that to when I met my acting students. I would say, listen, please, please, always try and carry a picture of yourself as a wee boy. Here we go.
And just just to remind you of that openness, that wonder, that kind of steady thing that you had when you read that you didn't know what the hell was going on. And I said, that's the thing that you've got to cherish because you still don't know what the hell is going on.
Yeah. Do you do that yourself? Do you carry a photo? Aren't you? I, I have to you know, I had to learn when I was a kid, you know, I remember I was put in a situation where I was made to fight this boy who was clearly what we would call nowadays severely autistic. And he was a sweet, lovely kid. And and, you know, there's nothing more cruel than the playground, the playground, the child's play.
The school playground is the most vicious place on God's earth, you know, when you're pushed into situations. So I was pushed into this situation where I was having a, you know, fight this kid and I didn't want to. And I hate violence.
So the only way I could go was to attack myself. So I started beating myself up and throw myself on the ground.
And then I was left alone. After that, I was compromising positions.
Right? Yeah. And so you've had this extraordinary career, you know, award winning barnstorming. And then in your seventies, you land this part of Logan Roy and succession, which is. Just goes crazy, I mean, it's a hugely rightly so, it's a huge, huge success globally and celebrated by critics and audiences alike.
Has it brought you a new type of celebrity that you hadn't had up to now kind of gone the tube. Right. Right. Yeah, no, I mean, it has brought I mean, it has it's I'm so grateful for it. And, you know, it goes back to when I was a kid, I knew. I mean, I could see, you know what I mean? Next year I'll be in the business for 60 years. So I've seen actors come in and fall by the wayside and talented people not being able to get purchase, you know, and they have a moment of glory.
Then it's gone. And I, I always, always was determined that I would be in it for the long run. Right. I mean, it's happening to women now, but of course, it didn't happen to him for a long time. But the parts are just getting more and more interesting as you get older, because you have you have all the bias that you've gathered and you have all the opposite of that. You've got that as well.
And you have a you have a neighbor, an ability to go to some kind of still center where you kind of really observe the human dilemma in a really nonjudgmental way, which is what we supposed to do as players.
So I, I feel blessed that I've got this far. And I feel, you know, that when I got one, they asked me to do succession. And I had the conversation with Adam McKay and Jesse Armstrong. I just knew this was this was that this is the one this was perfect. Did you read a script? No, I was just the way that, you know, because, you know, your scripture scripts are very secret. And I see I see you don't see scripts too often.
Right. OK, except that. No, I mean, actually, this is the weirdest thing because Jesse, just as covid was closing in and lock down what's happening, I had a meeting with Jesse and he told me all about season three. And I said, You're not supposed to tell me I'm not. I'm I'm an actor. Please just let me know and I'm going, oh, yeah. OK, OK, I'll I'll give you a lot of that.
No, and it's very exciting and hopefully we'll get it made. But no, it's been really good. I mean, I can't complain.
One of the great triumphs of it I think is the exceptional casting across the board and yourself at the top of that pile. Did you know who Logan needed to be straight away?
Well, I did. You know, I mean, the thing about is I you know, I played Hannibal Lecter. I was a I think I was the first person to play. Yes.
And, you know, and then Tony came in and got the Oscar and all that. And I didn't mind getting the Oscar, just the money I was on. But the interesting thing was what I realized about Hannibal was he was mysterious. You didn't know where he was, really. You knew that he was vile. You knew he was, but you didn't. There was something kind of that made you want to watch him, want to follow him because you knew what you were done by his mystery.
And I think that's so important. You know, when you get a role where you can do that, that you can actually exercise that mystery, that the audience are allowed to do more of the work than you. You know, you don't need to give all you don't need to reveal.
And I feel not about. I felt about Logan because I just thought Logan was mysterious, because he's, you know, he comes from unlike the Moondog, so the Trumps, it's not inherited wealth. He's a self-made man. And therefore he's also and he's grown to be much more of a nihilist. And he's quite nihilistic in his thinking. And you'll never know because he will never reveal what the background was. And we had the scene in Dundee where he kind of avoids everything but Sister Normal.
So there's a story there, but we don't want to dwell on it too much. We just want to leave it as a beautiful part of the color and the palette, you know? So I think that's important. And that's what I you know, that's the thing that I love about the character, because you don't know always where he's coming from. I mean, ostensibly, you know, that he is avaricious. You know that he is he believes in money in all of that.
But it's. It's a means to a kind of end that we don't know about, right? Do you feel that you know about it? I know about it. OK, right.
But I'm not telling you know, you go on just me and our listeners here. So do you do you have any desire to slow down? No, no. I mean, slow down is the way to dusty death. I think you go to your drop, right. And I don't I don't want to slow down. I think we just go on as long as we are not kind of avaricious about it, you know, that we actually taken the world along the way.
You know that I go, but I don't see myself slowing down. I mean, I was slow down because the work will become less and less. My age may discriminate against me, but no, I don't. I feel. I feel. I feel good. Well, thank you very much for taking this time today. It's been brilliant. Oh, it's so nice to talk to you, David. Oh, I like to see you at a distance.
And I never got a chance to see how fantastic you've done. And all the fellas got a hell of a crowd.
Well, that's very kind. Well, I'm you know, you've all I've always been a big fan, so it's very nice to be able to do this. Okay. And thank you for being part of this.
David Tennant does a podcast with Is A Something Else and No Mystery production produced by Zooey Edwards, additional production from Harriet Wells, Sarah Kamelot, Steve Akerman and George Tenet. The sound engineer was Josh Gibson, the executive producer is Christina. Next time I had to go out to the pool and scream at finding my mom dead in the pool, and I felt like that just really sort of set the tone for the rest of my career.