Jason Isaacs (‘Mass’) on grief: ‘It’s not just wallowing in something, it’s aiming for something’

Jason Isaacs is quick to correct someone if they describe his new film “Mass” as a heavy viewing experience. “I don’t think it’s heavy,” he states. “It’s a film about people trying to find their way forward. Trying to unburden themselves of baggage that’s just paralyzing them.” The movie, from debut writer/director Fran Kranz, sees two sets of grieving parents in a room together. Each person is eager to throw blame at the people across the table from them, but Isaacs explains that their transformative journey through grief and towards acceptance is the heart of the story, and what makes “Mass” an ultimately positive film. “It’s not just wallowing in something,” he points out, “it’s aiming for something. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

SEE Reed Birney interview: ‘Mass’

If critics or pundits have labeled the movie “heavy,” it’s certainly because the four central characters have experienced the unimaginable: one pair lost their son in a school shooting, while the other pair’s son committed the shooting before losing his own life. Isaacs’ Jay and Martha Plimpton’s Gail struggle to move past the murder of their son. “Our marriage is broken,” explains Isaacs, “we’re carrying too much and we’re unable to see forward.” The actor explains that he believes Jay doesn’t think he needs to meet with the parents of his son’s killer (played by Ann Dowd and Reed Birney). “Jay is there to manage his wife,” reveals the actor. But the problem is that this man has “not really acknowledged at any point, the pain and rage he feels.”

SEE Darren Morze interview: ‘Mass’ composer

The thought of working through those emotions towards some hope of catharsis was incredibly attractive to the actor, and the process was unlike any other film set. “We lived in a strange bubble,” Isaacs explains. The movie consists mostly of one long conversation, and the actors filmed it over the course of eight long days. Given the state of the characters, emotions ran high during the day, but then the performers would rehearse through the night in their hotel. “We never quite left the bubble…we kind of became this single unit,” describes Isaacs.

Isaacs has had success in small scale projects as well as massive franchises like “Star Trek: Discovery” and the “Harry Potter” films. “I just like great stories,” he replies when asked about what kinds of cinematic worlds he is drawn to. “Mass” is obviously one that he considers special though. “This small film feels like one of the biggest films,” he describes, “the biggest emotional landscape I’ve ever been in.”

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