Jason Isaacs: For years I was embarrassed to be an actor because essentially it's so trivial
Jason Isaacs lends his voice to Dracula in the new animated comedy Monster Family. He talks to Laura Harding about taking his daughters on day trips, how he feels about his career and his experiences with Harry Potter superfans
Jason Isaacs is thinking about where to take his kids for a day out. It's the school holidays and he is mulling over which of the many London attractions he should take his two daughters to.
He's currently leaning towards Harry Potter A History Of Magic at the British Library.
"I saw it as part of Jo Rowling's Lumos charity event," he says. "But the kids haven't seen it and it's mind-boggling.
"It's magical artefacts from the last thousands of years. Harry Potter is only a theme for it but they have collected things from all over the world and all over Britain and it's amazing."
Isaacs (54) is obviously closely associated with the world of magic and familiar enough with author JK Rowling to call her Jo, having played the blonde-locked Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.
But there is no blonde hair in sight today. Isaacs is casually dressed and heavily bearded because he is due to fly to America later to begin filming the second series of the Netflix sci-fi series The OA.
Despite this, and the fact the wizarding films concluded in 2011, he is still approached by Harry Potter enthusiasts on a regular basis.
"There are times that make you realise how much it means to someone else," he says.
"I essentially put on make-up and ponce around doing a funny voice and try to tell stories and sometimes it feels like it has more weight to it in the world.
"There are many people who claim, with some back-up, that it saved their life in dark times and you have to take that seriously and it's always humbling to meet people.
"I met a woman who is an engineer on an oil rig and had lived as Lucius Malfoy almost every single second of her life when she wasn't on the oil rig and was getting married as Lucius Malfoy,
"When you are opposite people to whom it has really meant a lot, it's humbling and inspiring and it reminds me not to be embarrassed that I'm an actor.
"For many years I was embarrassed to be an actor and I would never put it on a form."
This seems astonishing to come from an actor who has had such a long and successful career, starring in projects as diverse as The Patriot, opposite Mel Gibson, to last year's The Death Of Stalin and animated series Star Wars Rebels.
So why would he be embarrassed?
"Because it's essentially so trivial and I have friends who do much more substantial things in the world.
"I have a brother who is a doctor and many other people who I admire are changing things or researching things or engaging with people who are in need and helping them, and what I do is pretty narcissistic and trivial.
"But it does nonetheless have a powerful impact on people sometimes. So I'm only slightly occasionally less embarrassed to be part of the storytelling fraternity.
"There is a reason for hundreds of years we were drummed out of town."
Such a long career means Potter fans aren't the only people who approach him.
"I go occasionally to fan events for Harry Potter in America and people go, 'You know what you're fabulous in, what I really love you in?' and I presume it will be something that they are watching at the moment," he says.
"It's The Patriot! which plays every July 4 there. They were shown it first by their history teachers and I bring them down to earth and tell them Harry Potter is more historically accurate than The Patriot."
His latest project is an animated offering, called Monster Family, in which he lends his dulcet tones to Dracula, alongside fellow voice actors Catherine Tate, Emily Watson, Nick Frost and Celia Imrie, and is allowed to let loose his most dramatic tendencies.
"I spend most of my life, as most actors do, trying to be real, trying to do that thing of helping audiences suspend their disbelief," he says.
"You want the audience to feel like they are looking through a keyhole at a world and then with this they just said, 'Go as far overboard as you possibly can'.
"I did and they went, 'No, no, much more than that'.
"So everything was turned up to eleventy-stupid. That was ridiculously good fun for me."
Was it easily accessible?
"Being a terrible actor? Yes," he deadpans. "Dracula, in this, is the very worst actor in the world, the biggest ham ever and I am sad to say it's accessible every minute of every waking moment of my life."
Isaacs hasn't seen the finished product on the day we meet, but he has learned not to be too concerned with how things turn out.
"Who knows what it's like? I let go many, many years ago of any expectation of the final result of anything. My job is to enjoy the process.
"Some films are successful, some aren't. Many films don't come out, some do and make barely a ripple in the pond, and some the world sees and heralds, so my job is to enjoy the process and let go of the results."
Dealing with disappointment is a useful skill for any actor, but Isaacs seems better at it than most.
"I've been to Sundance (the independent film festival) seven times with eight films and I think only two came out.
"One lasted a weekend and one lasted a week. They are all great films, they are just as good, many of them, as the most successful things I've done and I have not a trace of disappointment about them."
He takes a long pause. "As long as every now and again there is a success that allows me to keep being offered work. I wouldn't enjoy starving."
At the moment, the answer is to choose projects that make him happy.
"If I was broke, I wouldn't - and when the coffers run low, I would rather have something that has slightly more zeros and you're not making your own lunch, but I try and pick things that are good."
Monster Family is in cinemas and on Sky Cinema now