Why Brian Cox's "Succession" Emmys nomination is receiving backlash

Clearly Logan Roy had an impact on his poor kids, but this season in particular does Cox qualify as a lead actor?

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published July 12, 2023 5:47PM (EDT)

Brian Cox in "Succession" (Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO)
Brian Cox in "Succession" (Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO)

"Succession" has swept the Emmy nominations — gasp shocker, I know. Everybody's favorite despicably dark HBO satire has topped Emmy nominations with 27 nods including a history making three-way lead actor nomination for Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin. But some have qualms about Cox's nod because — spoiler alert — the fictional media demagogue, Logan Roy, was killed off in the third episode this past season.

Cox has been nominated for the role of the Roy patriarch three times now, losing to Strong in 2020 in the category. In previous seasons, Logan was in every episode; his domineering physical presence was an integral part of the show. But then in the fourth and final season, the untouchable media-maker that the audience and the Roy siblings never thought would die — did exactly that. He went to the big network in the sky (well, he was on a plane), which is when the show's trajectory permanently shifted. The vacuum that Roy left in his death was a vacuum that Cox left as well. The actors that play Roy's children were given the space to spread their metaphorical acting wings without Cox's heavy presence.

So does Cox deserve to be nominated in a lead actor category when he's only technically been a part of three episodes and made a cameo later in the season? It's not uncommon for actors to win big for a limited amount of screen time. In 1999, Judi Dench won an Oscar for best supporting actress for her whopping eight minutes of screen time in "Shakespeare in Love." In 2006, Ellen Burstyn garnered a supporting actress Emmy nod for only 14 seconds of screen time in "Mrs. Harris."

While Cox has been in the final season longer than 14 seconds, it raises the question: Does screen time really matter when an actor's character is so larger than life that it transcends how much dialogue or scenes they have?

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And if we answer the question with a no — Logan's impact is far more substantial than the amount of time Cox was in the final season — does that mean he's deserving of a lead actor nomination especially in a year that had stunning performances by his fictional children, portrayed by Strong and Culkin? Moreso, Cox's nomination is an accumulation of many different culture moments. It is a result of his stellar work playing Logan for four years, an award for Logan's death in the final season, and an award for the popularity and impact that "Succession" has had in the zeitgeist as it ends. There's an element of farewell and thank you to this nod.

But if nominations were solely dependent on the general public's feelings about a specific actor or character, Cox's likelihood to snag a nomination in a lead actor category would probably decrease. That said, Academy members do vote more emotionally than logically. Regardless, the fictional media titan's death rippled through the HBO family drama like a bullet straight through flesh and while people may have qualms about the nomination, the impact of Logan Roy's legacy continues to be felt – even without a hologram version of himself.


By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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