TVGuide.com: Why are you
covered in blood?
Jason Isaacs: It's for a BBC miniseries called
State Within; I play the British ambassador who's
trying to save the world from terrorists, and the leader of
the rebels has been shot in my arms. Just another day at the
TVGuide.com: You had me
wondering for a second what sort of fresh mess Michael
Caffee was involved in.
Isaacs: Oh, no, no. I haven't done [Brotherhood]
since December. It's strange when it comes on the telly; I
watched the DVDs and thought, "God, I remember that...."
Michael is so miserable and tortured all the time a huge
weight lifted off my shoulders when it was all over!
TVGuide.com: The ads have
positioned the show as this "brother versus brother" thing,
but that's not all it's about.
Isaacs: In many ways, the show is about a
neighborhood and not a family. But there are things going on
between these two siblings that we've probably all
experienced. They grew up together, and from Michael's point
of view in some ways he raised Tommy. The father was gone
and he kept Tommy on the straight and narrow. Then when he
comes back he is no longer the head of the family; Tommy is
a big local figure with a lot of status and respect, which
Michael is very proud of and, on some deep level, envious
of. Similarly, Tommy was the little brother, and little
brothers, no matter what kind of status they achieve, always
have a chip on their shoulder and feel a need to prove
themselves. Michael and Tommy are both control freaks and
want the best and worst for each other. They both
want to be at the center of the family, to be the one who
works out the problems.
TVGuide.com: Obviously you've
been busy with theatrical work. How did you get recruited
for a Showtime series?
Isaacs: I hadn't done many pilots before, but that
year I had done a couple of episodes of
The West Wing because it was my favorite show
and it was a complex character in an interesting, grown-up
story. That made me realize that what I was doing for my own
entertainment was watching television. I was making
films, and I will continue to do so, but most of the
time the films were not for me, they weren't the kinds of
things that I watch. The stuff I like to watch
provocative, adult and complicated stuff I was always
guaranteed to find on pay cable. When my agent came to me
with this, he said, "Look, I know you don't read pilots, but
it's being directed by [The Patriot's] Phillip
Noyce." And that was it for me. It wasn't part
of some plan; I just stumbled into it.
TVGuide.com: What did you
admire most about the script?
Isaacs: One of the things that intrigued me was
that Michael's been away for seven years and when he comes
back he's obviously a different man, and he has made these
mysterious statements about what his plans are, about who he
[is] now. When I went to meet Phillip and [executive
producer] Blake [Masters],
I said, "What do you think this is all about? Where has he
been? What is his agenda?" They looked at each other, and
then looked at me, and Phillip said, "I don't know. What do
you think?" I thought, "Wow, this is not like the
movies at all." This is open-ended and we don't
have to answer all the questions within an hour. In the end,
that conversation is what made me sign up for it.
TVGuide.com: As I cued up the
pilot, I was curious if the British Jason Isaacs would be
giving us an Irish accent. Not quite.
Isaacs: [Laughs] What's amazing is that if
you go to Providence, the first thing that hits you and
the American actors found this to be true as well is,
"What the hell are these people saying?" This is a very,
very unusual accent. You can travel all over America and
people sound pretty much the same yes, the South sounds a
bit different and we're used to the East Coast accents from
the New York movies but this is a really weird,
idiosyncratic accent. Being British, I love doing
dialects and accents, so as soon as I got there I was in my
element. It's a really juicy sound to get your mouth around.
Some actors, they get the clothes right; for me, I like to
get a voice. Early on in the production I met a guy who I
thought sounded perfect for Michael, and I walked
around with [his recorded voice] on my iPod all the time.
All of us did.
Jason Clarke (Tommy) and I looked like
the iPod twins, walking around listening to Providence
TVGuide.com: Did you get
typecast as a baddie after The Patriot?
Isaacs: It's not so much typecasting as when you're
casting a movie you think, "Who have I seen do this before?"
whether it's a priest or a murderer or a balloonist.
Having just played a baddie, I was offered lots of baddies
and I said no to them. I went straight from The Patriot
to doing a drag queen in
Sweet November. I didn't do another bad guy, in
Harry Potter [and the Chamber of Secrets].
Peter Pan came along in the same week, and I
thought, "I've resisted doing bad guys for five years and
suddenly there are these two choice parts." I
agonized about which one to do, which one not to do, and I
was going to say no to Harry Potter because Captain
Hook obviously was a bigger part, when all of my godchildren
and my friends' kids went ballistic and threatened
me. So I ended up doing both!
TVGuide.com: Where do you
stand with the next Potter film, Order of the Phoenix?
[Isaacs plays Lucius Malfoy, the father of Harry's
Isaacs: I'm shooting [State Within in
Canada] all of next month, and then I go home, unpack, get
the mothballs off the wig, stick it on and start waving my
TVGuide.com: A Potterphile pal
of mine says fans are anxious to see how Order of the
Phoenix handles the Battle of the Ministry, a "beyond
huge" moment, I am told, in Potter lore.
Isaacs: I am, too. This is all as entertaining for
me as it is for many of the fans. I turn up and they go,
"OK, you materialize from here and you fly in over here, and
then you point at this and it's going to explode...." I
stand there with my jaw dropped. When I did [Chamber of
Secrets], they said, "OK, there's going to be a little
blue guy [Dobby the House Elf] walking next to you and then
he's going to jump up to here...." [Laughs] On the
first day of the first one I did, the first shot I had to do
was storming out of a room, leaving the lovely
Richard Harris (the original
Chris Columbus shouted, "OK, and then
shut the door on your way out." I said, "Do I have to shut
the door? I don't know what the rules are, but can I just
wave my hand and the door shuts by magic?" Chris paused for
a second and said, "Sure. If you like." That's when I knew I
was going to have a great ride.
TVGuide.com: Lucius must be
pretty fed up with always being bested by those pesky kids.
Isaacs: Well, I know that I go to prison for No. 6
[Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince], so I
suspect that I have time to build up another deep well of
bitterness that hopefully will burst out in No. 7.
TVGuide.com: Before we go,
back to Brotherhood for a second. What's going on
with Michael and Single-Earlobe Girl? Have we seen the last
of her after he stormed out of their first date?
Isaacs: Um, he's gone into very deep water. This is
a guy who's absolutely all about control, and he's hooked up
accidentally with this young girl who might find it kind of
sexy that he's a criminal, but is probably more unstable
than he is. I think he's bitten off more than he can chew.
He ought to know better.
Brotherhood does well, are you open to a Season 2?
Isaacs: Oh, I don't have a choice. If the show does
well they've got me until I'm on a walking frame. They might
not want me back, who knows? Over the years I've
been in things and your head gets turned and twisted by all
the people who talk about what it's going to do when it
comes out and how many people are going to watch it, and how
it's going to change the lives of the people who are in
it... crazy talk. When I was younger I listened to it, but
over the last few years I've tried to enjoy the filming
process and not really give a monkey's [butt] whether the
thing even comes out. We've had amazing reviews so far for
Brotherhood, and the people I've lent [the DVDs] to
like it, but my job was six months last year in Rhode
Island. What happens now is out of our hands. If I go back
and do it, I hope that Michael continues to be surprising
and interesting because the last thing the audience wants,
and the last thing I want, is to have him be predictable.