BRIAN Cox has said he was refused a hotel room in London when he was a student because he is Scottish.

Speaking to Nicola Sturgeon at the close of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the HBO Succession star spoke about his experience as a Scot in England.

The Dundee-born actor said he “decided I had to be English” when he was young to get ahead – but soon changed course after returning to Scotland and joining the Lyceum theatre in the capital.

Cox said he felt like a "second-class citizen" in England, saying it was when he was refused a room in a hotel due to his nationality that he knew there was a problem.

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Asked by Sturgeon if it was easier nowadays for young Scottish actors than it was for Cox’s generation, he said: “Well, it’s easier because they’ve got a country.

“You have to remember that after the war ... it was north Britain.

“Even the hotel was called the North British before it became the Balmoral.

“And it was north Britain, because we hadn’t quite formed because we’d had two wars, we had depression.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon interviewed Brian Cox on growing up in Scotland, his acting career and his views on politicsNicola Sturgeon interviewed Brian Cox on growing up in Scotland, his acting career and his views on politics

“So the 20th century was very battered in terms of identity."

Cox said it wasn't until the 1970s and 80s, and the rise of the SNP, that "it became something extraordinary that we became true to ourselves".

He continued: "We'd been so subdued in who we were, and I didn't realise that had happened to me, I didn't realise that I was slightly a second-class citizen.

“I mean, I remember going to London when I was a student, and I knew that the Irish had a problem getting accommodation.

"People would ring up and say, 'Where are you from?' And the Irish people would say, 'Well, I'm from Dublin'. 'Sorry. We don't have rooms' - that happened.

"Well, it happened to me. I rung up somebody and they said, 'Are you Irish?' And I said, 'No, I'm Scottish.' 'No, we don't have rooms for you'.

“I couldn't get a room. And so that was my first inclination that there was an issue but my ambition was so strong as a young person so I just pursued it."

Cox said as he got older, he learned more about Scotland, and "the particular nature of what a Celt is".

The National: Brian Cox said he was lucky to have great mentors when he made his way back to ScotlandBrian Cox said he was lucky to have great mentors when he made his way back to Scotland

The country continues to grow, he said, saying young actors don't have to make the journey he had to, pointing to Scotland's booming culture industry.

Speaking about his time at the Lyceum in Edinburgh, he said he was “very lucky to have a lot of great mentors”.

The actor said it was there he realised that he had "eschewed" part of his Scottish identity while in England.

He told Sturgeon: “Because I had lost my dad when I was so young I looked to father figures, and I was lucky.

“Fulton Mackay was very much my spiritual dad. He gave me the best advice ever. He said, ‘oh Brian, Brian, Brian, don’t worry about being a star - just be a good actor'.

READ MORE: Brian Cox says the 'future has never been brighter' for film industry in Scotland

“That was the best advice anyone ever gave me because it meant that I didn’t have to worry about all that other stuff, ambition, I just got on with the job.

“When I was at the Lyceum I was surrounded by people like Callum Mill, Duncan Macrae, these amazing performers and they performed in a particular way that was really very Scottish that I eschewed a little bit for so much of my career.

“I decided I had to be English, I would go into drama school and I felt that was the pressure of the time, RP – received pronunciation - when I went south to drama school.

“But when I came back up here and watched these guys, I knew there was something else, and there was a kind of expression that Scottish actors had, which was physical.”