As both an actor and producer on ‘Awake,’ Jason Isaacs divulges that he already knows which world is real, but it does not affect his performance as Detective Michael Britten. In an interview with Collider.com’s Christina Radish, Isaacs discusses what drew him to this project, what challenges he faces as an actor in such a complex role, and what he hopes audiences will take away from such creative and carefully thought out story telling.
Here is an excerpt:
Audiences will want to know which world is real, but is that something that Britten wants?
ISAACS: Not initially. One of the challenging and fun things about this – and you can ask the writers how much fun they have, but I think the answer would be, “None” – is that nothing is the same. No episode is the same, as things progress. Although these are completely weekly, close-ended, procedural stories, it’s also true that his world changes, all the time. When we first find him, in the pilot, he absolutely wants things to stay the same. With these two worlds, he doesn’t know which one’s real and he’s fine with that. He’s not stupid. He knows one of them must be a dream, and he must have either lost his son or his wife, and he doesn’t want to engage with that loss. But, that will take its toll on him, and there will be consequences. There’s a price to pay, for that kind of denial, partly in his relationships with his wife and his son. So, he will change his attitude to it. Of course, he will.
Why did you want to know?
ISAACS: I’m part of the story. I’m a producer on it, and I’m part of the storytelling. Actors are all storytellers. We’re all part of the whole thing. I get to be part of the writing process as well. There’s no formula for what we’re writing. There’s a lot of veterans on this show, who have worked on many, many other television shows, many of which essentially write themselves, once you get the formula for it. Most television, including all of the television I like watching, is exactly the same, week after week. You just change the colors of the suits, or make a slight change in the plot. They are essentially re-inventing the wheel here, every week. They’re writing little movies, every week, around the same premise. All these pieces of this jigsaw are meant to go together, to make a bigger jigsaw, and it’s a real challenge for them. I didn’t want to be surprised by that. I enjoy being a part of creating that.
Given that you do know which reality is real, do you find yourself ever playing scenes and having to remind yourself to ground it in reality because the character thinks it’s real?
ISAACS: No, I’m playing Britten. I’m not playing Jason. As Jason, I know all kinds of things. But, as Britten, he doesn’t know which is real and that’s the central dilemma. That’s the hook of it. It’s not the only drama that keeps you watching, week to week, ‘cause if it was, it would get boring, quickly. There’s many other things that happen. There’s human drama, and then there’s procedural drama. Britten is struggling often and, as Jason, I’m struggling to be Britten, struggling often. Nothing good ever comes easy. Certainly, when we finish a scene, it feels like there’s all kinds of layers to enjoy.
Visit Collider.com for the full interview and see how penguins enter the conversation in the dreamality of ‘Awake.’
Are you surprised that one of the worlds is real? Did you already assume there would be a twist and that neither world would be real? Does this knowledge want to make you watch the show more closely for clues?
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‘Awake’ premieres Thursday, March 1st at 10 P.M. on NBC.
Watch the full pilot online or Comcast OnDemand.
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