Isaacs at the premiere of Fury at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., October 2014
6 June 1963|
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Emma Hewitt (m. 2001)
Jason Isaacs (born 6 June 1963) is an English actor and producer, best-known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series, Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot, and criminal Michael Caffee in the Showtime series Brotherhood. In December 2016, he played "Hap" Percy in the Netflix supernatural series The OA. He currently plays Captain Gabriel Lorca, the commanding officer of the USS Discovery in Star Trek: Discovery and provides the voice of The Inquisitor, Sentinel, in Star Wars Rebels, the animated television series.
Outside of film and television, his stage roles include Louis Ironson in Declan Donnellan's 1992 and 1993 Royal National Theatre London premières of Parts One (Millennium Approaches) and Two (Perestroika) of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, and as Ben, one of two hitmen, playing opposite Lee Evans as Gus, in Harry Burton's 50th-anniversary revival of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter's 1957 two-hander The Dumb Waiter at Trafalgar Studios in the West End. He starred in the NBC drama Awake as Detective Michael Britten from March to May 2012.
Early life and education
Jason Isaacs was born in Liverpool, England, to Jewish parents. His father was a jeweller. Isaacs spent his earliest childhood years in an "insular" and "closely knit" Jewish community of Liverpudlians, of which his Eastern-European-Jewish great-grandparents were founder-members in the leafy Liverpool suburb, Childwall. The third of four sons, Isaacs attended a Jewish school, known then as King David High school and a cheder twice a week as a young adult. Isaacs has stated that Judaism played a big role in his childhood, as he attended youth club in the local synagogue and studied Hebrew twice a week. When Isaacs was 11, he moved with his family to north west London, attending The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, in Elstree, Hertsmere, in Hertfordshire, where he was in the same year as film reviewer Mark Kermode. He describes the bullying and intolerance he observed during his childhood as "preparation" for portraying the "unattractive", villainous characters whom he has most often played.
As a Jewish teenager in London, Isaacs endured marked antisemitism by members and supporters of the far right extremist organisation, the National Front. In an interview Isaacs stated that "There were constantly people beating us up or smashing windows. If you were ever, say, on a Jewish holiday, identifiably Jewish, there was lots of violence around. But particularly when I was 16, in 1979, the National Front were really taking hold, there were leaflets at school, and Sieg Heiling and people goose-stepping down the road and coming after us". Following in the footsteps of his conventional careerist brothers, one who became a doctor, one a lawyer, and one an accountant, Isaacs entered law at Bristol University (1982–85), but he became more actively involved in the drama society, eventually performing in over thirty plays and performing each summer at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, first with Bristol University and then, twice, with the National Student Theatre Company. After graduating from Bristol he went immediately to train at London's Central School of Speech and Drama (1985–88).
After completing his training as an actor, Isaacs almost immediately began appearing on the stage and on television; his film debut was in a minor role as a doctor in Mel Smith's The Tall Guy (1989). He was initially known as a television actor in the United Kingdom, with starring roles in the ITV drama Capital City (1989) and the BBC drama Civvies (1992) and guest roles in series such as Taggart, Inspector Morse, and Highlander: The Series (1993). He also played Michael Ryan in ITV's adaptation of Martina Cole's novel Dangerous Lady, directed by Jack Woods and produced by Lavinia Warner in 1995.
On stage, he portrayed the "emotionally waffling" gay Jewish office temp Louis Ironson in Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-Prize-winning Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, at the Royal National Theatre, in its London première, performing the role in both parts, Part One: Millennium Approaches, in 1992, and Part Two: Perestroika, in 1993. When auditioning for that role, he told the producers, "Look, I play all these tough guys and thugs and strong, complex characters. In real life, I am a cringing, neurotic Jewish mess. Can't I for once play that on stage?"
His first major Hollywood feature-film role was alongside Laurence Fishburne in the horror film Event Horizon (1997). Subsequently, he appeared in the Bruce Willis blockbuster Armageddon (1998), which kick-started his career. Initially called upon to take a fairly substantial role, Isaacs was eventually cast in a much smaller capacity as a planet-saving scientist so that he could accommodate his commitment to Divorcing Jack (1998), a comedy-thriller he was making with David Thewlis.
After portraying a priest opposite Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes in Neil Jordan's acclaimed adaptation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair (1999), Isaacs played the charismatic honourable priest opposite Kirstie Alley in the miniseries The Last Don. He then shone as "memorable" villain, Colonel William Tavington, in Roland Emmerich's American Revolutionary War fictional film epic The Patriot (2000). Starring opposite Mel Gibson as the film's hero, and Heath Ledger as Gibson's screen son, Isaacs portrays a sadistic British Army officer who kills Ledger's character, among many other soldiers. Although his work in the film earned him comparisons to Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of Nazi Amon Göth in Schindler's List (1993) and mention of a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, reaching beyond being typecast as an historical villain, Isaacs chose to play a drag queen in his next project, Sweet November (2001), a romantic comedy-drama.
Isaacs has appeared in many other films, most notably as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series of films (2002–2011). Regarding the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, Isaacs has said: "I went off and read the books after the audition and I read the first four books in one sitting – you know – didn't wash, didn't eat, drove around with them on the steering wheel like a lunatic. I suddenly understood why my friends, who I'd thought were slightly backward, had been so addicted to these children's books. They're like crack." In "The Naked and the Dead", an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle, on 26 November 2006, Neva Chonin names the character Lucius Malfoy one of the 12 "Sexiest Men Who Were Never Alive" and Isaacs one of the 13 "Sexiest Men Who Are Real and Alive".
Prior to the making of the film, when asked whether or not he would be in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Isaacs replied, "I hope so – you'll have to ask David (producer David Heyman). I can't bear the idea that somebody else would get to wear my Paris Hilton wig, but you never know." Isaacs also talked to J.K. Rowling on the inclusion of Lucius Malfoy in the then unpublished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so that he would have a part in the seventh and final film: "The character does not appear in the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; but ... [Isaacs joked], 'I fell to my knees and begged ... It didn't do any good. I'm sure she doesn't need plot ideas from me. But I made my point. We'll see. Like everybody else, I'm holding my breath to July to see what's in there. I just want to bust out of prison, that's all. I don't want to stay in Azkaban most of my life.' " Ultimately Isaacs did reprise the role of Malfoy as a cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), where he is seen in a moving portrait. Afterwards, Isaacs reprised the role again in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011).
Isaacs appeared in Dragonheart (1996), Event Horizon (1997), Black Hawk Down (2001), Jackie Chan's The Tuxedo (2002) and as George Darling and Captain Hook in P. J. Hogan's adaptation of Peter Pan (2003) and as the voice of Admiral Zhao in the animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005). He played the leading role of Sir Mark Brydon, the British Ambassador to the United States in the BBC Four miniseries The State Within (2006), for which he was nominated for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for the 65th Golden Globe Awards. On British television, he also portrayed actor Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe, part of "a season of new one-off dramas for BBC Four revealing the stories behind some of Britain's best loved television entertainers, and their achievements," first broadcast in March 2008. On American television, Isaacs appeared in three episodes of The West Wing in 2004, prior to developing his most notable TV serial role, as Michael Caffee in Brotherhood (2006–08).
Between 2 February and 24 March 2007, Isaacs played Ben, opposite Lee Evans (Gus), in the critically acclaimed 50th-anniversary production of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter, at Trafalgar Studios, in London, his first theatre performance since appearing in The Force of Change (2000).
Isaacs played Major Briggs, an American military officer, opposite Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, in Paul Greengrass's thriller Green Zone (2010), a fictionalised drama set in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein based on the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad's Green Zone (2006), by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, for which production began in Morocco, in January 2008.
In 2007, he was cast in Jan de Bont's then-still-upcoming film Stopping Power, to play its star John Cusack's "nemesis", but, on 31 August 2007, Variety reported that the film, also planned for release in 2009, had been cancelled after a financial backer pulled out. Isaacs appeared in one episode of the TV show Entourage in the autumn of 2008 as Fredrick Line. In 2009, he was nominated at the British Academy Television Awards for Best Actor for his role as Harry H. Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe.
On the evening of 2 May 2009, Isaacs performed the role of Ben again, opposite his Brotherhood co-star (and Tony Award winner) Brian F. O'Byrne (as Gus), in a "rehearsed reading" of The Dumb Waiter. Their reading capped off the Harold Pinter Memorial Celebration being curated by Harry Burton (who had directed him and Evans at Trafalgar Studios). This tribute to Harold Pinter co-sponsored by the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC), of The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY), was part of the Fifth Annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, held in New York City, from 27 April to 3 May 2009. He provided the voice of Ra's al Ghul in the DC animated film, Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010) and also the voice of Sinestro in the DC animated film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011). In 2011, he starred as Jackson Brodie in a BBC adaptation of Kate Atkinson's Case Histories. For his portrayal of the detective, Isaacs won a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television.
Isaacs starred as Detective Michael Britten in the NBC series Awake, which premiered on 1 March 2012, and ended in May 2012. After Britten gets into a terrible car wreck with his family, his dreams begin to take on two alternate realities, one in which his wife died in the crash and one in which his son died. Says Isaacs about the ambitious premise: "There’s no question it's challenging. We’ve got a bunch of very experienced writers who have written things from HBO shows to The X-Files, to 24 and everything in between. And they are challenged. All of them have said that it's the hardest job that they've ever had. But sometimes that's a good thing. … If it comes easily, that they could write in their sleep, I personally wouldn't want to act – and I think the audience wouldn't want to watch."
In 2015, Isaacs took the lead role in the USA Network action adventure drama series Dig. Isaacs plays an FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem who uncovers a 2,000-year-old conspiracy while investigating an archaeologist's murder. The ten-episode series premiered 5 March 2015. In February 2016, he starred in Medusa's Ankles, a film directed by Harry Potter co-star Bonnie Wright. In December 2016, he appeared in the Netflix series The OA as Dr. Hunter Aloysius "Hap" Percy.
It was announced in March 2017 that Isaacs would play the role of Captain Gabriel Lorca in the new CBS All Access' series, Star Trek: Discovery. The series premiered on 24 September 2017. Isaacs made his first appearance as Lorca on 1 October 2017 in the third episode, "Context Is for Kings". In September 2017, Isaacs played Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov in The Death of Stalin, a political satire film directed by Armando Ianucci.
Despite Isaacs' screen celebrity as Lucius Malfoy, he describes himself as maintaining a "calm, sedate and suburban" life and has spoken of travelling to film premières unrecognised on the London Underground, saying "They just think, who's that t*** in black tie? As soon as I get on the red carpet they start screaming and screaming."
|1988||This Is David Lander||French Doctor||1 episode|
|1989||A Quiet Conspiracy||Jean-Marc Sammarty||2 episodes|
|1989–90||Capital City||Chas Ewell||24 episodes|
|1989||Boon||Mike Puckett||1 episode|
|1990||TECX||Edward Latham|
|1991||Ashenden||Andrew Lehman||3 episodes|
|1991||Eye Contact||Michael|
|1992||Taggart||Eric and John Barr||Episode: "Double Exposure"|
|1992||Inspector Morse||Dr. Desmond Collier||Episode: "Cherubim and Seraphim"|
|1993||Highlander: The Series||Immortal Zachary Blaine||Episode: "The Lady and the Tiger"|
|1994||The Heroic Legend of Arslan||Lajendra||Voice, English dub (1 episode)|
|1995||A Relative Stranger||Peter Fairman|
|1995||Dangerous Lady||Michael Ryan|
|1995||Loved Up||Dez 2||TV film|
|1996||Guardians||Jim Reid||TV film|
|1996||Burn Your Phone||The Killer||TV film|
|1997||The Fix||Tony Kay||TV film|
|1998||The Last Don II||Father Luca Tonarini||2 episodes|
|2004||The West Wing||Colin Ayres||3 episodes|
|2005–06||Avatar: The Last Airbender||Admiral Zhao||Voice role|
|2006||The State Within||Sir Mark Brydon, British Ambassador to the USA||Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film|
|2006–08||Brotherhood||Michael Caffee||Main cast; nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Series, Drama|
|2008||The Curse of Steptoe||Harry H. Corbett||Nominated—British Academy Television Award for Best Actor|
|2008||Entourage||Fredrick Line||Episode: "No.5.7 Gotta Look Up to Get Down"|
|2011–2013||Case Histories||Jackson Brodie||Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television|
|2012||Awake||Michael Britten||Main cast; 13 episodes|
|2013||The Legend of Korra||Admiral Zhao||Episode: "Darkness Falls" (cameo)|
|2014||Rosemary's Baby||Roman Castavet||Two-part miniseries|
|2014–2015, 2018||Star Wars Rebels||The Grand Inquisitor||Voice, animated TV series (10 episodes)|
2014 BTVA Award — Best Male Vocal Performance in a Television Series in a Supporting Role - Action/Drama
|2015||Dig||Peter Connelly||Main cast; ten-part series for USA Network|
|2016||The OA||Hap||Netflix original series|
|2017–2018||Star Trek: Discovery||Captain Gabriel Lorca||Main cast; CBS All Access original series (11 episodes)|
Empire Award for Best TV Actor
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor on a Television Series
|2018||Robot Chicken||Alliser Thorne / Slenderman / Slinky||Voice role; episode: "Gimme That Chocolate Milk"|
|1994||Beneath a Steel Sky||Ken||Uncredited|
|2005||Spartan: Total Warrior||Lucius Aelius Sejanus|
|2009||Napoleon: Total War||Story Teller|
|2010||Castlevania: Lords of Shadow||Satan|
|2011||El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron||Lucifel|
|2014||Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2||Satan|
|2016||Hitman||General Reza Zaydan|
|1992||The Black and White Minstrels||Cyril||The King's Head Theatre, London|
|1992–93||Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes||Louis Ironson||Royal National Theatre, London|
|1996||1953||Benito Mussolini||Almeida Theatre, London|
|2000||The Force of Change||Royal Court Theatre, London|
|2007||The Dumb Waiter||Ben||Trafalgar Studios, London|
|2017||Dead Poets Live: Byron & Shelley||George Gordon Lord Byron||Print Room at The Coronet, London|
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We got married in the end, my wife and I, for insurance purposes.
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Strictly limited run: Lee Evans and Jason Isaacs to star in major revival of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter directed by Harry Burton ... To coincide with the play's 50th anniversary....
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Although he first became interested in acting in part because 'it was a great way to meet girls,' Isaacs soon found deeper meaning in the theatre (in one interview he was quoted as saying 'I could release myself into acting in a way that I was not released socially') and duly dropped out of Bristol to hone his skills at London's Central School of Speech and Drama.
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Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School ... [produced] quite a vintage crop in [Isaacs'] time: fellow pupils included Sacha Baron Cohen, David Baddiel and Matt Lucas. 'I've seen Baddiel a few times,' Isaacs says, and he sees the others occasionally at awards ceremonies.... Not all the Habs stars of the time were Jewish, though, and Isaacs has a lot of time for another alumnus, the BBC's film critic, Mark Kermode: 'He is always incredibly lovely and says hello on his Radio 5 podcasts, which I've listened to in Auschwitz and many other strange places. He's said I was too cool (at school), but he was at the epicentre of the in-crowd.'
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Order of the Phoenix open[ed] July 13, .
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Luckily, Isaacs gets to relax at home in North-West London with Emma Hewitt, his partner of 20 years (to whom he invariably refers as “my wife”), and his two young daughters, Lilly and Ruby.
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- [dead link]
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- "Once a 'wimp,' Actor Thrives on Portraying Villains". The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix. 14 July 2000. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
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