Jason Isaacs stars in NBC’s newest drama, Awake, which premiered earlier this week on NBC.
Isaacs plays Detective Michael Britten, who after a horrible car accident goes back and forth between two different realities – one where his wife, Hannah, survived the crash and their son Rex has died and the other where his son, Rex, survived the crash and Hannah has died.
The pilot episode breaks down the premise of Awake for the viewing audience. They get to see Michael in both realities dealing with home life and working on different cases in each reality, alongside his partners Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris) and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama). The audience also get to see Michael interact with his therapists in each reality, who are trying to help him figure out possibly why he wakes up each morning in a different reality, where either his wife or his son exist.
In a press call earlier this week, Isaacs claimed that he had no intention of doing a network show, but the idea behind the show and the fact that he wanted to know what happened in episode two, made the show impossible to pass on.
“It felt like an insane thing to try on television, but it’s very rare to find good writing and interesting writing. And it’s very rare, also, to find someone like Howard Gordon, whose storytelling skills I respected a lot,” he explained.
He later said, “I trusted Bob [Greenblatt] from Showtime, who had done amazing work there, and I thought, ‘How often do circumstances come together to bring a talented group of people together with a great idea.’ You know, I’d be an idiot to walk away.”
One of Isaacs’ notable characters from the past few years was the role of Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter film franchise. When asked about having a preference of playing good guy, like Detective Britten, or a bad guy, like Malfoy, Isaacs said it comes down to good writing.
“It seems like my job is to try and tell stories in a believable way and find the humanity in anything,” he explained. “The hardest work I have ever done in my life is with crap scripts, you know, to take a really bad story or somebody saying something they would never say in a situation they would never find themselves in, and try not to look like you’ve got egg all over your face, and to try and stop people, you know, either switching off or throwing baseballs at the screen.”
He later added, “For me there is literally no difference between having an elf next to me or having an LAPD badge on my belt, if the story is well-written.”
In the pilot episode, Detective Britten identifies clues that help him in his investigations that are taking place in each of his realities. Isaacs believes that because of the trauma his character has been through with his wife and son in both realities, that he’s more in tune with his instincts.
“Maybe he’s more sensitive to what is going on around him? But the stuff that goes on in his world that he doesn’t really register, but his subconscious does; it gets explored in his dreams,” he said. “At some point we said to ourselves, ‘This isn’t magical,’ so if something happens in one world that leads him to something in the other world, it’s because he might have noticed that thing in his first world without realizing it.”
“Sometimes we do something even more controversial that hopefully will make people wonder if there is magic going on. But it’s in different ways. Sometimes it’s an instinct about human beings, sometimes it’s actually a clue, sometimes it’s what something looks like, sometimes it’s a name. You know, there are rules to this universe, but they are very flexible. And, you know, our brief to ourselves was should it cross over and help him solve crimes in the most entertaining way possible, and that’s what we try and do. “
With the influx of reality TV shows, Awake is a welcomed breath of fresh air that hopefully will grab the attention of TV viewers. When asked if he thought the show would be a success, Isaacs said that he doesn’t know what is successful and what isn’t, but he enjoys creating stories that really capture people.
“Obviously, I hope it does well,” he said. “This is a really nice, talented bunch of people that I think are doing good work, and I hope we get to stay together.”
Awake airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC.
Miss the premiere or want to watch the episode again? Watch the pilot episode of Awake below.