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Brian Cox Once Again Publicly Tells His 'Succession' Son Jeremy Strong To Fuck Off With All That Method Acting Nonsense

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[Town & Country Magazine]

"[Brian] Cox has been having an intellectual argument on set—and in the press—with Jeremy Strong, the actor who plays Kendall, his rebellious son. As described in a 2021 New Yorker profile, Strong, a Yale graduate, is a method actor who prefers to inhabit nearly every aspect of his character, even when the camera has stopped rolling. Cox, a classically trained actor, said then, and repeats now, that he finds Strong’s devotion to method baffling. 'He’s a very good actor,' Cox says. 'And the rest of the ensemble is all okay with this. But knowing a character and what the character does is only part of the skill set.'

Is it annoying being around someone who is always in character? 'Oh, it’s fucking annoying,' Cox says. 'Don’t get me going on it.' But Cox says his complaint isn’t about inconvenience. He brings up a 2009 video (which is now on YouTube) of him teaching a toddler Hamlet’s 'To be or not to be' soliloquy. After some coaxing by Cox—and occasional pauses and distractions—the child learns the famous speech. 'here is something in the little boy that is able to convey the character,' he says. “It’s just there and is accessible. It’s not a big fucking religious experience.'

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You gotta love Brian Cox for keeping it real more than perhaps any other actor in the public eye, but at the same time, I also feel for Jeremy Strong being put on blast like this. On the other hand, for someone who goes through personal anguish to keep the illusion of his character's reality intact, perhaps this is the best thing Cox could do to Strong for their father-son relationship on the HBO hit show Succession.

The fourth season begins airing and streaming on March 26, so Cox is making the rounds on the promotional circuit. He's clearly baffled by Strong's creative process and, at the same time, believes his costar meets his extremely high standard of what great acting looks like. More from the Town & Country feature here (SPOILER ALERT FOR SUCCESSION. KEEP SCROLLING IF YOU WANT TO BINGE THE SHOW BEFORE THE NEW SEASON PREMIERES PLEASE):

"In last season's final episode, Kendall tells Shiv and Roman that he accidentally killed a man after leaving Shiv's wedding in a frantic search for drugs. He crashed a car into a pond and survived, but the caterer from the wedding, who had joined him, did not. In the confessional scene, played out on a dusty Italian cul-de-sac, Kendall is a mess. Cox says he thinks Strong played the moment extremely well, but he was, again, surprised that he wouldn't break out of character once it wrapped. 'He's still that guy, because he feels if he went somewhere else he'd lose it. But he won't! Strong is talented. He’s fucking gifted. When you’ve got the gift, celebrate the gift. Go back to your trailer and have a hit of marijuana, you know?'"

Since Cox is from the UK, he's emphatically not down with some of the acting techniques we're taught on this side of the Atlantic. I did my best to go into detail here in this TikTok video about why I believe Cox feels strongly about all this:

Basically, Cox comes from a background steeped in classical work, which very much originated from the likes of William Shakespeare. In the UK, you're launched into training with those challenging, dense and impossibly layered texts to build your foundation as an actor, whereas in America, you might be forced to painstakingly read Shakespeare in your high school English class. So I think the consumption of Shakespeare and other classical texts is so different across the pond, and as a result, UK actors launch off at such a different starting point than most of us plebs in the states.

The UK really works hard on dialects, stage combat and other specialized acting skills that most American programs scratch the surface of via short-term workshops or what have you. Combine that with the foundation and unique history UK actors have with classical texts, and that's why you see more of them in higher-profile projects playing Americans, not the other way around.

I'm not saying American actors can't act. It's just a different vibe. It's very much an "inside-out" approach to acting here where you're drawing on personal feelings or your emotions to bring characters to life. The Brits are more like, "Fuck it. Let's just get on with it." Much more of a text-based, "outside-in" approach to acting.

There are exceptions, of course. Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale are much more in line with what Strong does, and what the media labels as "Method acting", which is a bit of a misnomer in and of itself. What people mean when they say that is that an actor doesn't break character even when cameras aren't rolling. That isn't something taught in any drama school anywhere. That's just something actors have tried and had success with, and others have emulated them.

"The Method" is a different thing. Renowned acting teacher Lee Strasberg developed that as an offshoot of Konstantin Stanislavki's system of acting, the first true disciplinary/academic study of acting ever. Strasberg sparked a rivalry with Stella Adler, who advocated for "inside-out" acting but wanted actors to empathize with the character via historical/cultural context instead of using personal experiences that could be psychologically unsafe. Then you had Sanford Meisner, a member of the Group Theatre/original Actors Studio alongside Strasberg and Adler, who was more of an external activation/outside-in type of teacher who I think Cox would've fallen most in line with.

What I'm trying to say is, us American folk tend to overthink this shit and get all stuck in our feelings. Brian Cox is over here telling Jeremy Strong and the rest of us to fuck off and stop being so self-important.

At Yale, I assume Strong was exposed to some or all of the Strasberg/Adler/Meisner schools of thought in addition to deep-dive studying the classics. This thing of staying in character the whole time he's shooting something is more inspired by the likes of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and others before him who took that approach, and because they were studying "the Method" at various points when they were coming up, that was twisted into being "Method acting" when it's not really the Strasberg "Method". 

Anyway, there is no Frederick Taylor One Best Way to act. Whatever you have to do to get there and produce great work, just do it. Jeremy Strong is fucking incredible as Kendall Roy and as long as he's not disrupting somebody else's acting process, let him do what he wants to deliver the goods on Succession. But again, part of me thinks Cox is playing 4D chess to mess with Strong and keep their estranged on-screen relationship as, uh, "real" as possible.

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Twitter @MattFitz_gerald/TikTok