Englishman Jason Isaacs has moved his family to sunny California, where he's working on the new NBC series "Awake," premiering March 1. "Like all British people we live within a spit of the ocean and never go in it," quips Isaacs, who drives a Prius and walks and bicycles whenever possible, but doesn't have to teach his kids about environmentalism — on L.A.'s eco-conscious west side, he explains, it's practically replaced math and English in the classroom.
Probably best known for his role as the nefarious Lucius Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" movies, Isaacs was interested in doing a series so he could stay put for a while and have time for his family, and in fact was pitching a show of his own around town when "Awake" came his way. He was intrigued by the story of Michael Britten, an LAPD detective who, after a car accident with his family, wakes up each day to one of two realities: in the first, his wife survived and his son did not, and in the other, the opposite. Meanwhile, he's endeavoring to solve criminal cases in the procedural portion of the show.
"We try and hopefully succeed in delivering something closed-ended every week, but the ongoing emotional drama never goes away. It's all about 'what if.' All great stories start with 'what if' and this is a really unusual one," observes Isaacs. "Some of them are wild and from left field, some of them are more procedural, and some of them very emotional and personal. We give you something dramatic, something puzzling, something funny, something kinetic and intellectual."
Compared to making films like the "Potter" series, where there was a lot of downtime, the fast pace of TV invigorates Isaacs, who also serves as a producer on "Awake." "You shoot non-stop. I get there at 5:30 in the morning and I'm the last one to leave because I stay to discuss the scripts. I love the fact that we're pumping out an hour's worth of drama every week or two as opposed to two hours worth of drama every year and a half."
He's also enjoying the opportunity to "tell stories that are human, accessible and reach an audience. If we get this right and people enjoy it I'll be in the same place for a long time and get to take my kids to school some days and see them both days of the weekend, and in the end being a dad is more important to me than anything to do with my business," declares Isaacs. The series he was pitching is still in development and viable, but if "Awake" succeeds, "somebody else will get to play the great part I was creating for myself. But that will be a great problem to have," he says. "I'll be fine with that."