He’s one of the most sought after actors in the world. So it’s no surprise that when Gideon Raff ( Homeland) and Tim Kring ( Heroes) wrote action-packed drama DIG they pictured Jason Isaacs in the lead role.
Did you know the creators had made this part just for you?
I met them at a party. That’s the sickening way things happen in Hollywood, sorry to anyone who’s an amazing actor and doesn’t live here. They came up to me at the cold cut table and said, “Oh, hello, we are writing a show we think you’d be great in.” It’s the kind of bollocks that happens to you about 12,000 times a day. When you’re buying a coffee at Starbucks, the guy will say, “I’ve got a perfect pilot for you.”
But in this case it’s amazing writers so that must make a difference?
I got a bit tongue tied and dropped the salami and then heard nothing back from them. As far as I knew they were saying it to everyone. Lo and behold, a year and a half later, my agent said, “There’s a script in and they want to meet you.” It’s maybe the first time in 30 years that anyone’s come through on a promise in Hollywood for me.
Apart from that, what attracted you to DIG?
I thought the script was brilliant and filled with stuff I thought was really imaginative. I said (to the creators), “Where do you come up with this?” And they said, “The newspapers, the Bible.” All of the stuff I thought was fantastical and out-there storytelling full of sinister international conspiracy groups and people trying to bring about the end of days they pointed out was actually real.
You shot a lot of the show in Jerusalem.
The mayor of Jerusalem basically gave us the keys to the city. So we were able to shoot in place that not only the cameras, but the public had never seen before. As an actor, my job is to pretend that things are real. It’s a hell of a lot easier when you’re actually in the real place.
Why did you shift locations halfway through filming?
Missiles started flying over and bombs started going off, which is not conducive to a steady filming day. We were lucky the Romans invaded half the known world and built similarlooking cities everywhere. So we went to Croatia. Plus quite a lot of the story happens in other countries so we went to New Mexico to shoot in the desert.
Did you do your own stunts?
I did every single one except for the pilot, where my character jumps into a pool in a cave because it wasn’t very deep and had rocks at the bottom. So when I got thousands of emails and tweets about my bum, that’s actually Russian stunt buttocks. Everything else is me, though.
You have two daughters, have they expressed an interest in acting?
If they did, I’d lock them in a basement for 20 years. That’s not going to happen on my watch, it’s not a business for young girls. It’s a very tough business generally and much tougher for women. If I can get them behind the camera, then I’ll have done the job right.
DIG, SBS ONE, WEDNESDAY, 9.30PM