Why am I here? It’s the question that every Marvel Cinematic Universe hero asks himself at some point — along with the size of his tights and sidekick possibilities.
At noon on a Monday at his home in Brooklyn, actor Oscar Isaac was still mulling over those heady questions while discussing his much-awaited new Disney+ series, “Moon Knight,” debuting March 30.
Isaac plays the dual roles of Marc Spector and Steven Grant in the story of a former U.S. Marine and antihero struggling with dissociative identity disorder and his various alter egos. Steven is plagued with blackouts and memories of another life. The character first appeared in the comic universe in 1975 and was a fan favorite because of his unique struggles.
In blue pants, a blue jacket and white T-shirt, Isaac plays superhero shrink for a moment. Why is Moon Knight here — now? “I think it’s a superpower to live through abuse and trauma, survive it and come to terms with it instead of pushing it all away,” he said. “To see that kind of journey happen with this new Marvel show is a really powerful thing.”
The 43-year-old native of Guatemala City never imagined a life in acting. His family came to the U.S., settling in Miami where Isaac played lead guitar in bands before switching to acting and graduating from the Juilliard School. His lengthy filmography includes the “Star Wars” and “X-Men” franchises, “Dune,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and the recent HBO hit “Scenes from a Marriage.”
Now living in Brooklyn, he’s married to Danish film director Elvira Lind and father to two sons, Eugene and Mads.
He will play filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola in the upcoming “Francis and the Godfather”
Review-Journal: Here you are playing someone granted with the powers of an Egyptian mood god. Blessing or curse, Oscar?
Oscar Isaac: (laughing) Both. I’m in the skin of this guy and experiencing both those blessings and curses, and he feels it. There’s something terrifying about that immediacy, which makes it an exciting show. It is also a story about wanting to connect with people, which is such a timely topic.
You’re a veteran in the fantasy genre after “Star Wars” and “Dune.” What was it about this one that intrigued you?
There was a real opportunity to do something different in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I knew we could really focus on the internal struggle of this character while also using Egyptian iconography to tell an exciting story.
Who came first for you — the Mark or the Steven?
Once I got a real take on how I wanted to play the Steven part, it all fell into place. With Steven, there is a sense of humor, which is still different from what we usually see in Marvel shows and movies. Marvel does such a great job combining the serious with the comedy, but this took it to another level. This was a guy who doesn’t know he’s being funny. The counterpart is Mark. He’s the dark one, more of a vigilante, with this little Englishman living inside of him.
In the early stages, how do you know if a show is working?
For me, I love when my ideas are considered. It’s great to be with real collaborators. Then, you know it’s an adventure for all.
How do you play someone who talks to himself? It’s two guys living in the same mind.
The first step was to hire my brother Michael to come to the set and be the other me. That’s the closest thing to me. He would come to set and play either Steven or Mark. He’d do the accent. He’s a great actor and shares my DNA. So, we’d play off each other. Frankly, I didn’t anticipate how technically demanding it would be to show up and then decide which character to play first. Then you had to block out the other one. With my brother, I’d give him notes and we’d go up and back with each other, so it wasn’t all in my head.
What is the rush of acting like for you now?
It’s acting opposite someone and letting something spontaneous happen.
You do a good British accent in “Moon Knight.”
I asked why do we need to have a Brit and I was told, “Because we have too many characters from New York.” Part of this character is in London, which was actually great. I love English humor. For me, it was like, “What if Peter Sellers was approached to do this … what would he do?” Of course, that led me to studying the accent and thinking about the Jewish community in London. I began by listening to that specific accent there.
How did your relationship with Moon Knight’s Layla (May Calamawy) change with the different guys?
I wanted her to feel more guarded with Mark and more nurturing with Steven. She does dance with Mark in his superhero suit. I found that the suit worked on all levels. I could fight in it … and dance in it.
Your introduction to the acting world was quite dramatic.
There I was this kid in Miami going to a school where they didn’t have the arts and the arts weren’t encouraged. Then, a hurricane actually hit my school, so we had to move. I ended up at a new school that unlike the old one was all about music and dance. It was a natural disaster that brought me into the acting world, and I ended up at Juilliard.
How do you find a character?
It’s a lot of dumb ideas — and then some good ones.
What does it feel like to experience a new level of fame?
Crazy. Weird. Incredible. Really, me? Grateful for the work. Humbled by my life.
Finally … what is your idea of a great Sunday?
Brunch with family, a walk in the park, a good movie to shake up our collective imagination … and maybe a few episodes of “The Office.” I really like to laugh.
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