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INTERVIEW: Jason Isaacs Talks Harry Potter, The OA, and the Importance of Public Service

Jason Isaacs

Spend five minutes with Jason Isaacs, and you’ll realize he couldn’t be further from the deplorable rogues he brings to life on screen. He’s a genuine family man who desperately wants his teenage daughters to stop watching “Grey’s Anatomy” for the hundredth time so he can introduce them to TCM and the Criterion Channel. He’s obsessed with the latest gadgets and technology, and if quarantine has done anything, it’s provided him the perfect opportunity to up his Zoom call game. Ever so sharp, cheeky, and full of wit,  Isaacs has enough charisma to impress even some of the liveliest stand-up comics. However, with over a hundred acting credits across multiple platforms, and hands in some of the most popular franchises on the planet, Isaacs has remained humble and grounded. He still views himself as someone fortunate enough to dress up and act like a seven-year-old for a living, or as the actor himself puts it, ” I’m just the idiot who forgot to take the garbage out.” While my conversation with Isaacs spanned over two hours, it became instantly clear that the Liverpool native is less concerned with success or “celebrity.” But rather, he’s moved by what the iconic projects he’s been a part of mean to others and how he can amplify those who are actually out there working to make a difference.

“[When I started going to conventions], it became clear to me that it wasn’t about the stories I could trot out or the showbiz anecdotes. Really, people want to talk,” said Isaacs. “They want to tell you their story. It felt like a mission. Sure, it’s nice you get to travel to a place, get some money, but that wasn’t really why I went or why I hope to continue to go. There’s something magical about interacting with people who are so desperate to tell you what “Peter Pan” meant to them, or how much “Event Horizon” meant to them, or “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and what point in their life it meant something and why. There’s also a lot of people for whom this is their passion, and without it, who knows what their lives would be. This is the thing they’ve focused on, and they get to focus on you being there.”

He continued, “I really feel like a conduit like I’m there to help people live out some of their fantasies. I feel like it’s my job, particularly when people get to the table, and you’re the one with the line, and it makes you look important, to remind them that I’m just not important. I chose to do this odd job like a child showing off, and because that, I happened to get lucky. I want every person to walk away from the table thinking, ‘Well, I had a chat with that guy. He’s nice. That was funny,’ or ‘that was sweet,’ and ‘he’s just some dude. He’s not a starship captain, he’s not a wizard, and he’s not more important or clever or sexy or cooler or anything than I am. He’s just another bloke I was talking to.’ I’m kind of exhausted by the end of the day because I’m very, very keen to make sure everyone goes away feeling right size.”

lucius malfoy

Jason Isaacs is best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the “Harry Potter” series, Colonel William Tavington in “The Patriot,” and Captian Hook in “Peter Pan.” However, he’s also had countless other notable roles in films such as “Black Hawk Down,” “The Death of Stalin,” “A Cure for Wellness” and shows such as “The OA,” “Brotherhood,” “Star Trek Discovery” to name a few.   2020 has already proven a fruitful year for Isaacs as he lent his voice to Superman in the DC animated film “Superman Red Son” and, most recently, Dick Dastardly in “Scoob!” What many people probably don’t know about the 58-year-old, is that he’s a rather accomplished voice actor in his own right with vocal performances spanning back to the 00s.

Isaacs has always loved doing voices. Growing up, he was self-conscious about the way he spoke and being from Britain where everyone judges and knows everything about you just by how you talk, Isaacs became “very adept at mirroring people’s voices in a desire to fit in.” So when it came to acting, a voice became his entry point into discovering a character.

“Some people start with shoes, some people always talk the same, some people find a walk, I think the way people speak says an awful lot about them,” said Isaacs. “If you’re really attuned, you can hear where their parents grew up, you can hear what the influences on them have been.”

Given his versatility, diverse body of work, and transformative performances, many would consider Isaacs a “character actor.” However, Isaacs doesn’t believe in such a thing.

“I don’t know what that means,” he remarked. “All characters are characters. I was a producer on a lot of the TV series’ I was a part of in America and during the audition process, I would read with every actor. It seemed to me that there were two types of actors/actresses that came in. There are the people who just have something and then there are the others who come from my tradition, the European, east coast tradition which is, ‘who is this person and how do I play them? How do I create this character?’ Maybe it’s cheap therapy, maybe it’s filling some deep psychological need, but I want to know what it’s like to be other people. I don’t like to put myself in any box. Obviously, I’ve played lots of antagonists, but that’s only because it’s the next best part after the hero. I am as good as the material and you can’t be typecast, you can be typeoffered.”

Over the course of our conversation, we discussed the effect COVID-19 has and will have on the film and television industry, his shenanigans on Tik-Tok for charity, “The Patriot’s” 20th Anniversary, the future of “The OA,” what he’s been streaming at home, and the current state of the world, specifically, the Black Lives Matter protests happening around the world and why change is needed this November.

Links to support the organizations mentioned during the podcast can be found here and here and in the description of this episode.

What is your favorite Jason Isaacs performance? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. I remember that streak of Death of Stalin/Cure for Wellness/Hotel Mumbai where it started to become really apparent that Isaacs was always going to be the best part of whatever he was in. Its good to know that he seems like an incredibly nice guy and very easy to talk to.

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