By Emily Feimster
British-born Jason Isaacs has quickly become one of the world's most well respected actors with such memorable parts as Col. William Tavington in "The Patriot" and Lucius Malfoy in "Harry Potter," but making it this far in his acting career was never anything the former academic could have anticipated.
"I never dreamt for a second that I could be a professional actor. It was something I enjoyed doing as a hobby. Having indulged myself by going off and studying in drama school, I thought, 'Well, if I get one job then I'll at least have that to tell my children about,'" says Isaacs, who studied law at Bristol University before moving on to London's Central School of Speech and Drama.
Luckily for Isaacs, this would also be the place where he would meet his wife Emma Hewitt with whom he now has two daughters.
Once in London, Isaacs began landing professional work almost immediately, appearing on the stage and television. A few years later, he began to find more work onscreen, receiving his first nod of Hollywood recognition with a small role in the blockbuster "Armageddon." It wasn't until he played the convincingly ruthless villain in Mel Gibson's "The Patriot," though, that Isaacs became an international superstar. Not to mention, the most feared.
"Basically since 'The Patriot,' I've been offered lots of bad guys in movies and I've not done any of them. Most of the time they're written to do things that nobody would ever do and they just make the audience annoyed," explains Isaacs, who couldn't be nicer in real life.
In fact, he even went on to show his comedic abilities as a drag queen in "Sweet November." "I like to keep people guessing," he quips.
However, more dark days were ahead for him on screen. Thanks to "Harry Potter," he's now one of the most beloved bad guys in biz. "Lucius Malfoy came along at the same time as Captain Hook in 'Peter Pan' so I thought I'd try it. It's such an iconic part and all the films are so huge and Lucius Malfoy and Voldemort are so well known, that now career wise, I've moved out of the bad guy category and can be entertained for more interesting, complex work. It's given me the license to do a lot of indies."
One of his latest projects has brought him back to television as a gangster on Showtime's "Brotherhood." "It's a great joy for me, having done so many movies over the years, being able to tell a complex story over the course of many hours and not needing to use such broad strokes that all questions are answered within an hour and a half," says Isaacs.
"In movies, the characters need to only play one note and be consistent. I'm not consistent in my own life. Nobody I know can be summed up in a sentence. People change their behavior constantly because they evolve. Not only can you do that over a long period of time with TV, but because it's premium cable, there's no censorship so you can talk like real people talk and deal with real issues."
Isaacs is also getting back to his British roots with the BBC drama "The State Within." "I play the British ambassador to Washington, who's trying to avert an invasion. It's a big change from 'Brotherhood' in that I'm trying to come up with all of these solutions diplomatically and not with a chainsaw," he says with a laugh.
Although his career is shooting through the roof with five movies on the horizon, Isaacs claims that his life and family will continue to take priority. "I want to try and embody what I witnessed in Australia for a year -- where life is more important than work. Work is something you can do so you can enjoy your life. I try and have a laugh when I'm filming because you never know if anybody's going to watch it. I had friends who put their life and soul into a film that came out September 10, 2001. Nobody went to see it," he notes.
"I make a living doing this, which puts me in a very privileged brand of actors, and it's absolutely not because I deserve it or am more talented than my friends who don't work. I just try and enjoy what's happening to me while it's happening. Who knows how long it will continue? I can't believe I've had this long a run so far." Well, we certainly can.
As for what he hopes to accomplish next? "The only professional ambitions I have left are to get more charity golf and tennis events in because it's the only time I can justify abandoning my family," he says, smiling. "As long as I'm doing something good for somebody then I can justify it in my mind."