Jason Isaacs lives two realities in ‘Awake’

Is he dreaming? Det. Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs, right) can’t figure out if his son (Dylan Minnette) has died in an accident, or his wife is the one who was killed. “Awake” premieres tonight at 10. on NBC.

Jason Isaacs, perhaps best known for his portrayal of the “Harry Potter” villain Lucius Malfoy, may have hung up his broomstick, but fantasy remains at the forefront of his latest project — even if it is a crime procedural.

The Isaacs-headlined psychological drama “Awake” is not a by-the-books “Law & Order” redux, that’s for sure. In the show, Isaacs plays detective Michael Britten, who is involved in a deadly car accident with his wife and son — except, he’s not sure if it was his wife or son who perished in the crash. Britten has developed a unique coping mechanism that has convinced him he is living two realities. In one, his wife is alive, but his son is not. He falls asleep, wakes up, and lives the second reality: His son is alive, but wife is not. The cycle alternates every day.

“In many ways I took the part because I wanted to see what Episode 2 was before anybody else read it,” Isaacs jokes. But intrigue did play a major part in Isaacs’ decision to join the show. “It’s just one of those incredibly simple yet powerful premises about your imagination: What if your dreams were so real that you didn’t know you were dreaming?” he ponders. “I’m always furious when I wake up and I know I’ve had this incredible dream that’s just evaporated. But that doesn’t happen to him.”

Things get more complicated — and dangerous — as Britten’s two worlds collide on the job. A random person in one “dream” may lead to a crucial piece of evidence in a case he’s working on in the other “dream.”

“Sometimes I have to reorient myself as a character to remind myself who we’re chasing after and why,” Isaacs says. “The people around me, obviously, react as you would to somebody who seems to have lost it.”

Was it just a dream?

The idea that Det. Michael Britten is living two lives brings into question whether or not he really is just dreaming. Maybe it’s an elaborate, fantastical alternate universe, instead?

“There’s no sci-fi,” Isaacs insists. “He doesn’t fly. Both worlds are equally and completely real — to him. But only one of them does exist.”


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