Jason Isaacs Talks Playing Bad Guys, the Future of TV and His New Show ‘Dig’

The wait is finally over, and Dig premieres tomorrow, March 5, on USA Network!

FanBolt was able to visit the set in Albuquerque last December and check out filming and chat with the cast. During a break from filming, we sat down with series star Jason Issacs to chat about his previous roles, the future of TV and of course, Dig.

Issacs is recognizable to so many fans as the bad guy you loved to hate, whether it was Malfoy in Harry Potter or Tavington in The Patriot, however, in Dig, he’s the hero. We asked him how this role compared to those other roles that fans know him best from.

“I’ve only played three or four bad guys. I’ve played dozens of more traditional men. They stick in the mind mostly I think because I was lucky enough to get great parts but also because I was lucky enough to play complex characters you believe in. There are bad guys who stroke their invisible mustache at the audience all the time and you just don’t believe them.” Issacs explained. “History is written by the victims. For instance if the British had won the War of Independence, Tavington would be a hero. We have statues to people in Britain who decided to carpet bomb areas of Germany because that’s what was needed at that time in the war. Well, if we’d lost, there wouldn’t be statues in Whitehall.”

In Dig, Issacs character, Peter Connelly, is a FBI guy. He’s focused on fighting groups, movements and agendas that Issacs feels none of us would agree with.

“What was extraordinary for me when I went to meet Tim and Gideon is that I thought they’d made all this stuff up because there was this outrageous and fantastical plot lines, and it turns out they got it all from the real world.” Issacs explained. “There are groups at play in the world today, very well resourced groups, people in this country here sitting in authority and in office, who absolutely think they’re doing the right thing by bringing the world to an end because there’ll be a better world. Imagine, there are all kinds of people who have agendas that they think that the ends will justify the means, and the means are things that to us are morally repulsive or genocide. That’s what Pete is up against. It starts off as a murder mystery, and as he is investigating it, nothing seems like what it is. It’s very hard for him to a) find out what the hell is going on and why his instincts are going off, the alarms are going off so loudly inside him and to get anyone else to believe him.”

Traditionally, with detective stories, the audience will learn things as the detective, but that won’t be the case with Dig, which Issacs points out is very rare.

“That’s one of the joys of this style of storytelling which is very rare on television. Traditionally, detective stories, for instance, we the audience find things out with the detective, and here, Tim and Gideon have created that exquisite tension between you all know stuff. You’re all seeing stuff going on in Arizona and other places around the world and I don’t know it, and I’m trying to find it out. You know who I should trust and who I shouldn’t trust, and you’re seeing me thinking I’m doing the right thing and doing it badly or doing it wrong.” Issacs revealed. “The tension between what you know and what you don’t know, and what I know and what I don’t know, is part of the great torturous pleasure of watching this show hopefully.”

Dig‘s style of storytelling is very rare on television, and the series itself is very different and unique for USA Network. While we chatted about this, the topic of the evolving landscape of television came up. Viewers want things in a shorter amount of time, and what will that ultimately mean for TV as we know it today? Less episodes? More epic series? More on-demand programming?

“It’s true the landscape has changed, obviously, and a few things are true. It’s changing really fast. No one’s quite sure where it’s going to settle. It’s an amazing time to be creative because there are 50 offices in Los Angeles you can walk into where people have a checkbook and might let you tell your story – something around 50 – but there aren’t enough pairs of eyes in America to make all those 50 places continue to be able to do this, so how it’s going to settle, we don’t know. I think they’re right in that it’s changing. They’re wrong that they don’t know where it’s going to settle, but they hold the keys to the kingdom in that we’re always going to need great storytellers. Now whether people will watch streamed, they’ll watch it online, they’ll wait it on live broadcast, they’ll wait and binge it and how you make money out of those things and keep the systems going, nobody yet knows. I don’t some great online stuff with WIGS. I’ve done network television. I’ve done cable television. I’ve done indie movies that nobody sees in the cinema, but everybody watches on Netflix and stuff. Nobody really knows where the stories will eventually meet the audience’s eyes. I just hope that it’s a way that continues to allow us to tell great stories because you’ve just got the lowest common denominator to win.” Issacs answered. “That’s tough for television that is supported by paid ads because there’s a lot of people that just don’t watch paid ads anymore, and we love and need those people to keep giving us the money so we can tell the stories. Yet, how many people in this room actually watch ads?”

We certainly don’t, and we don’t know too many people that do. However, the future of television could, and should be, a whole other article on its own.

What we really like about Dig is that it’s a series that takes chances, it isn’t the type of programming that we’re used to, especially from USA Network. It really does feel more like a movie than it does a television series, and we hope that the future of television and cable will really encourage more programming like this. Dig has an incredible cast and creative team behind it, we loved the pilot, and we can’t wait to see what you guys think after the premiere tomorrow night!

Be sure to catch the premiere of Dig on USA Network on March 5 at 10pm ET/PT! And keep checking back this week for more of our Dig interviews!

Dig Trailer

Photo Credit: USA Network