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Sixty Seconds with Jason Isaacs

The actor, 56, on embarrassing his children, The Potter set and the message that makes his new play so important

You’re starring in the play Everything I Ever Wanted To Tell My Daughter About Men…

Yes, a wonderful actress and writer called Lorien Haynes wrote it as a message to her teenage daughter. Lorien has a history of sexual assault, addiction, teen pregnancy and difficult relationships. She has a daughter the same age as one of mine and it came from wanting to help her avoid the same pitfalls. The big question is always, can we ever help our children avoid making the same mistakes? It’s just on for one night and the proceeds go to survivors of sexual violence, so although it’s a black comedy and very entertaining, it also has a much more serious undertone to it. After the show, the audience can bid for stage props.

What’s your part in it?

I play one of the awful men Lorien was involved with. Or is he awful? Maybe he’s a victim of his own past and the baggage he brings.

It’s very important and timely…

As soon as anything becomes labelled ‘important’, it’s the death knell to entertainment. So it’s not important. It’s entertaining and about life and people we recognise — and hopefully somewhere in there is a cautionary tale as well.

Playwright: Lorien Haynes PICTURE: GETTY

Are you protective of your two daughters?

They’re 17 and 14 so they’re in the teen werewolf phase — they wish they’d been born immaculately without any parents of any kind. I’m not sure I’m protective but am I terrified for them? Yes! I think anybody who has kids is terrified for what kind of future they face. People with girls feel especially vulnerable but I have friends with sons who are frightened of them being stabbed. My eldest is going to be leaving home soon. Hopefully we’ve prepared her. I used to think you moulded your children but we have nothing to do with it. We’re just the people who run the hotel and they’ll be who they’re going to be anyway. The most we can hope is that by leading by example some of it has sunk in.

What else have you learnt through having daughters?

I’ve learnt a lot about women. I remember when my eldest was four and I was wheeling her through the streets of New York and she was crying her eyes out. I asked her what was the matter and she said, ‘Nothing.’ I said there must be something and she said, ‘Daddy, sometimes you just feel like crying, don’t you?’ That taught me more about women than anyone had in the previous 20 years.

Do either of them want to follow in your footsteps?

They have no interest at all but then I didn’t before I went to university. I felt so out of sorts there socially but I got a part in a play and then felt completely at home. Hopefully my children aren’t as confused about the world as I was. They have a healthy disdain for what I do and haven’t watched anything I’m in. I’m just the guy who picks them up, drops them off, does their washing and gets their lunch ready.

Harry appeal: Daniel Radcliffe

Even when you played Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter?

They were very young and their friends made a fuss about it so it was probably excruciating for them. Then, when they did come to the set, the things they liked most were the free chocolate and the fact you flushed the toilet in my trailer with your foot. The producer, David Heyman, was unendingly generous about visitors. Initially, my family and relatives would come, and then strangers as I’d auction it for charity. They’d be led around the set and Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Tom Felton would all say hello and sign autographs. It sometimes ruined the magic for the superfans among them. Seeing a goblin having a fag by the lunch trailer, or the cafeteria full of witches and wizards, or Voldemort with a nose was not the best thing because they completely believed the world existed.

What attracts you to a part? Are you fussy?

I’m very, very fussy. I had that conversation with my wife recently when something I passed on was accepted by a fantastic actor who’s much better known than me. She said, ‘You see, he thinks it’s great.’

Are you careful with how much you’re away from your family?

Yes. In a few years I’m sure I’ll be jumping on a long-running TV series if one comes my way but right now I’m trying to do things that, ironically, allow me to spend time with people who have no interest in spending time with me. But the less they want to be near you, the more they probably need you.

Everything I Ever Wanted To Tell My Daughter About Men is at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe tomorrow. For tickets see shakespearesglobe.com. To donate see tellmydaughter.com/donate