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Essence! Jason Isaacs on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance's future on Netflix
Last summer, Netflix seemed to do the impossible: build out the sprawling fantasy world of Thra with The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. A 10-episode prequel to Jim Henson's 1982 masterwork, the show represented a win after decades of failed attempts to make some sort of follow-up to the film. In addition, AoR did all it could to hearken back to the golden age of puppetry, a time when computer-generated special effects were merely a fever dream beyond the horizon of Hollywood's evolution.
Now that Dark Crystal fans have finally gotten another swig of delicious Gelfling essence after nearly 40 years of withdrawal, can Netflix really afford to not produce a second season of the acclaimed series?
"It was a one-off series, but it definitely left open [the door for more stories]. There’s thousands of years to fill," Jason Isaacs, who voiced the Skesis Emperor skekSo, exclusively tells SYFY WIRE.
He's right, by the way. Just as Episode 10 wrapped up, the Gelflings were preparing for an all-out war with the Skesis, Thra's deceitful and lizard-like rulers who perfected a strain of unbeatable soldiers: the Garthim. By the time we get to The Dark Crystal movie, chronologically, almost all of the Gelflings have been wiped out and drained of their essence, so there's a sizable gap to cover. And that's not even mentioning breakout characters like the wooden spoon-wielding Podling Hup.
One reason Netflix may be hesitant to green-light a second season of Age of Resistance is the simple fact that Season 1 took an inordinate amount of time and money to produce. Director Louis Leterrier's commitment to doing things as practically as possible ensured the process would reach a level of difficulty almost unheard of in the modern entertainment industry.
"It was an usual experience, to be honest … I’ve never done what we did on Dark Crystal, which is record after the 'animation' is done," Isaacs (a Harry Potter and Star Trek: Discovery alum) says. "It’s a very, very strange thing to do. They had shot the puppets for over a year, I think, on these gigantic Hollywood sets with the world’s greatest puppeteers."
For the ensemble voice cast — which also included Taron Egerton, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mark Hamill among many, many others — the challenge was to match their vocal performances to what had already been filmed.
"It meant that when you were doing the voice, the mouth flaps were already committed to [a certain way of talking] and the puppeteer had done the voice in synch with his [or her] own arm movements," Isaacs continues. "It was very strange, trying to build a character or bring whatever you’re meant to bring as an actor — bringing your scene to life when it’s essentially all done. You’re creative within very narrow parameters and I know that feeling was the same for all the other actors because a lot of us know each other."
In the end, however, the actor was "just agog at the work that had been done onscreen. The magnificence of the craft and the task they had set themselves, which is to use almost no CGI or as little CGI as possible ... The fact that they pulled it off was insane."
Given the vicious and grotesque nature of the Skeksis, each one of them is characterized by animalistic snarls, roars, and other bestial mannerisms. Isaacs, who, upon being hired for the project, had vaguely remembered the '82 movie and thought of it as being similar to The Muppets, was quickly disabused of that notion as he began reading the Emperor's lines.
"There wasn’t one time recording that I left with my voice intact. We always had to stop because I lost my voice doing the Emperor," he says. "[I] was quickly brought short by how very dark the subject matter was and how very complicated and adult and challenging and gruesome it often was."
Isaacs concluded that no one felt the crushing weight of the production more than Leterrier, who poured about two years (give or take) of his life into the project, overseeing the puppet shoot in the United Kingdom and then the voiceover recording sessions in Los Angeles. To say that his non-stop involvement from start to finish was grueling is very much an understatement.
"I watched him gradually fade and look like a puppet himself. He looked like a skeleton puppet," Isaacs says. "So, I hope he’s getting a lot of rest if we’re gonna do it again."
Developed by Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews, Season 1 of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is currently streaming on Netflix.