‘Succession’ star Brian Cox lauds Ukraine, slams Russia censorship at SAG Awards

A group of actors accept an award onstage
Brian Cox, center, and the cast of HBO’s “Succession” accept the SAG Award for drama ensemble Sunday.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)
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“Succession” star Brian Cox delivered an impassioned speech about the “truly, truly awful” conflict in Ukraine during Sunday’s 2022 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Upon winning the award for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series, the lead actor spoke on behalf of his “Succession” co-stars and thanked the usual suspects involved in making the hit TV show.

Then, like many other winners Sunday night, Cox turned his attention to Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin ordered troops to invade the former Soviet territory last week and has put the world on high alert since.


“What’s going on in the Ukraine, it’s truly, truly awful. Really, really awful what’s happening. And it’s particularly awful in terms of the — what is affecting the other people, particularly in our profession,” the 75-year-old Scottish actor said onstage.

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“The president of Ukraine was a comic,” Cox said, referring to the besieged country’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, 44, who was a comedy sketch artist before being elected in 2019. “You know, he was a wonderful comic performer, and we should respect that for him. And to come to the presidency is amazing.”

The outspoken actor then slammed censorship in Russia, which has cracked down on antiwar protests.

“But the thing that’s really distressed me is what’s happening in Russia, to my fellow actors and actresses and performers and writers and critics,” he continued. “They are told, under pain of high treason, that they cannot say a word about Ukraine. And I think that is pretty awful. And I think we should all stand together — and also for those people, the people in Russia, who don’t like what’s going on, and particularly the artists. And I think we should really join in celebrating them and hoping that they can actually make a shift. Because I believe they can.”

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The “Medici” and “25th Hour” actor received a standing ovation and raucous applause for his speech. He was among several attendees and winners who addressed the conflict in televised remarks. “Hamilton” actor Leslie Odom Jr., SAG President Fran Drescher, “Hacks” actor Jean Smart and “Dopesick” actor Michael Keaton all commented on the crisis during the show, while others such as Michael Douglas discussed the invasion in a red-carpet interview.

On Saturday, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” also paid tribute to Ukraine. Instead of starting the show with a satirical cold open, it enlisted the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York to sing “Prayer for Ukraine” on a stage adorned with sunflowers, the national flower of the besieged country.