Jason Isaacs joined the cast of Netflix’s hit dramedy “Sex Education” in part thanks to his teen daughters.
“I originally started watching it with my children,” Isaacs, 58, told the Post from his home in London, where he lives with his 16 and 19 year old daughters and his wife, filmmaker Emma Hewitt.
“That quickly took a sharp left turn, because nobody wants to watch this with their children,” he said, referring to the show’s frequently raunchy scenes. “But I’m a huge fan. [My daughters] were kind of thrilled [I joined the cast], but having a father who has any kind of profile at all is excruciating to them. They don’t want to be known as ‘Lucius Malfoy’s daughter’ or whatever. So, the notion that I’m in ‘Sex Education’ is mortifying, because it’s one of their favorite shows. When I told them I wasn’t getting my clothes off or having sex with anyone, they were so relieved. Like many people, I hadn’t worked for a long time, because I had been at home panicking about the world and our sanity and safety. It was such a blessed relief to be telling a story and making people laugh [filming the show]. It was just the therapy I needed at the right time.”
Set in Britain, “Sex Education” follows the students and staff of Moordale Secondary School through struggles in their personal and romantic lives. Among others, there’s troubled Maeve (Emma Mackey) and uncool Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who partner up to run a sex-advice clinic to help their classmates; there’s Otis’ renowned sex-therapist single mom, Jean (Gillian Anderson); Otis’s bold best friend, Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) and Eric’s former bully turned new boyfriend, Adam Groff (Connor Swindells). In Season 3 (premiering Friday), Adam’s estranged father Michael Groff (Alistair Petrie), the disgraced former headmaster of Moordale, is on his own journey as he tries to get his life together while staying with his smarmy rich brother, Peter (Jason Isaacs).
“He’s bullying his brother. I’ve got 3 brothers, we’ve all bullied each other. And I’ve been bullied lots of times in my life. It comes from insecurity,” said Isaacs. “You have to work out, ‘Is he noticing that this other person is cringing and having a terrible time? Is he oblivious, or doing it on purpose?’ And also, Mr. Groff has not been the loveliest character in the past, so it was time to shine the spotlight on him, a bit like how Lucius Malfoy’s job was to help you understand why Draco had turned out to be such a bully at school [in ‘Harry Potter’]. In a way, my function was about making you see the human side of Mr. Groff. Maybe at some point in the future, you’ll find out why [my character Peter] is such a dick!”
Isaacs’ long resume includes a host of colorful characters, many of whom are villainous — for instance, the elitist Lucius Malfoy (“Harry Potter,”) mad scientist Hap (“The OA”), the infamous Captain Hook (“Peter Pan”) and the manipulative Gabriel Lorca (“Star Trek: Discovery”).
“I’m attracted to writing that makes me look like a better actor. Nobody is morally black or white. Nobody looks in the mirror and thinks that they’re doing the wrong thing or thinks that they’re living a perfect life. So, if it’s a character who walks the same paths the rest of us do — which is struggling and pretending and improvising — then I think I can do it, because that’s what we all do. I need to check in with myself and see if I’ll be able to bring [a character] to life, because I recognize him as a human being.”
Up next, Isaacs will co-star opposite Sophia Bush in “Good Sam,” a medical series for CBS, and he’s starring in the drama film “Mass,” out Oct. 8, following parents of a school shooting victim and its perpetrator.
“I worry that people will think — because it’s serious — that it’s depressing,” he said about “Mass.”
“And it’s the opposite. It really, to my mind, inspires hope and makes you feel like movement is possible and hope is possible, even in the darkest places.”
The creators of “The OA” have also publicly stated that they’re looking for a way to continue the show, following Netflix’s cancellation in 2019. Isaacs would be onboard if it happens, he said.
“It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done. All actors are looking for something fresh and original and you don’t always expect that, you get a bit jaded after a while. Then ‘The OA’ came along and side-swiped me completely. In a heartbeat I would play Hap again. I trust [the creators] completely.”