Jason Isaacs Discusses Getting into Acting on “At Home with the Creative Coalition” Podcast
To a whole generation of viewers, Jason Isaacs will forever be the chillingly intimidating Lucius Malfoy of the Harry Potter films. Did you know he originally auditioned for Gilderoy Lockhart’s part? On a brand-new podcast, At Home with the Creative Coalition hosted by CEO Robin Bronk, the BAFTA- and Golden Globe-nominated actor discussed the arts and how a series of lucky coincidences got him where he is now.
The Power of the Arts
“There'[re] fights yet to come,” Isaacs said to reflect on the state of arts education, of which he has been a sound advocate on either side of the Atlantic. He joined forces with the Creative Coalition four years ago:
It was campaigning in America […] and I’ve seen depravity like I never imagined seeing in a first world country. And I know from experience […] that one of the ways out or one of the inspirations for people who live in areas where there is very little employment and that’s wrecked by lack of opportunity and drugs and crime and all that stuff, one of the things that lifts people out of that either momentarily or imaginatively is music, it’s drama, it’s poetry, it’s literature, it’s things that they need to have access to that the rest of us take for granted.
Proving his point, Isaacs discussed the story of a schoolgirl in South Los Angeles with a harrowed family history, who used filmmaking and books as stepping stones to move forward and deal with her situation. He also talked about ancient Greek theater as therapy for war veterans suffering from PTSD, concluding “I know what the arts can do. Temporarily, it can just lift your spirits, but I know what the power of drama and music and poetry is.”
“I find it an enormous release to be someone else,” Isaacs said about his art, though he wasn’t always as convinced, having started acting by accident. “I always felt a bit odd, like I was faking it. I always felt like other people seemed to have the secret; I’d missed a class at school where people knew how to behave,” he said about his early years that nudged him to pursue acting seriously at university. “I never thought that it was a thing that one could do for a living,” he confessed, but then he literally stumbled into an open audition followed by acting classes, changing his accent, finding joy in deconstructing human behavior, and he was quickly hooked. He has frequently shadowed people for roles, learning that “everybody’s pretending. Some people do it better, some people don’t think about it so much, but everybody’s faking it.”
Growing up, Isaacs didn’t know anybody working in the arts. However, through his peers, unsolicited pep talks, competitiveness, and breaking the unspoken rules of the industry, not to mention because Jude Law takes too long to answer the phone, he landed role after role, and recognition came through “a series of stumbling accidents” he fully admits to. Even Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets came as a surprise. After giving his best flamboyant Lockhart in the audition, director Chris Columbus asked him to try for Lucius on the spot. Having wrapped Peter Pan as Captain Hook shortly before this, Isaacs nearly turned his nose up at playing yet another children’s villain. “I was so seething with bitterness at being asked to do it, that’s probably why I got the part. I read Lucius Malfoy through gritted teeth,” he joked, but the decision to accept turned out to be one of the best ones throughout his brilliant career.
Taking the Reins
Isaacs’s advice to young creatives is to tell stories, to engage, and to take advantage of the tools at our disposal to learn by doing: “The greatest pleasure I see people getting in life and in work are [sic] when they take the reins,” he revealed. “If you don’t think you’re the kind of person who has stories to tell, you are exactly the kind of person who should be telling your stories.”
Listen to the Creative Coalition’s full episodes on Apple Podcasts to learn more about the arts and Jason Isaacs’s success story.