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While he's usually too busy serving the Dark Lord, Jason Isaacs found the time to return to the world of Harry Potter by teaming up with Audible and Pottermore Publishing for an audiobook adaptation of J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Isaacs, who played Death Eater Lucius Malfoy in the live-action Potter films, was tapped to narrate the darkest and most macabre magical fairy tale of the bunch: "The Warlock's Hairy Heart."
"[I] was just reminded of the unlimited breadth of Jo’s imagination," Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. "The story I’m reading is a particularly dark tale ... I’m an actor, so I read scripts all the time. With scripts, you always have some sense, like audiences always have some sense, of roughly where you’re going, what world you’re living in, and roughly how things will come to an end. That stuff just isn’t true with Jo’s stories at all."
Below, you can enjoy an exclusive excerpt of Isaacs reading his segment, which deals with a callous wizard who cuts out his own heart to avoid falling prey to the "weakness" of love.
While he'd read all seven Potter books while making the movies, Isaacs had never picked up a copy of Beedle the Bard (a collection of ancient wizarding kids' stories first mentioned in Deathly Hallows), which became available to the public in 2008.
"I wasn’t familiar with them at all, which was great," the actor says. "Sadly, one of the constants of being an actor and with the advent of the internet, is I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to when I was younger. I jump at the chance to narrate audiobooks and when someone says, ‘There’s a Jo Rowling story to be done,’ I was [excited] because I hadn’t read them and I wanted to see what she’d come up with. She never disappoints."
His approach to narration wasn't to try and emulate his character from the films. Along with the in-story sound effects (expertly provided by Pinewood Studios), he just wants to subtly help listeners conjure a fantastical world inside their heads.
"Lucius Malfoy isn’t telling the story. Jo’s telling the story through Jason’s voice. Jude isn’t being Dumbledore and Warwick’s not being Flitwick," he explains. "That’s all stripped away, we’re just actors and the trick to narrating a great story is to get out of the way of it. You don’t want people to picture you at all. You want to be able to build a picture completely out of the listener’s imagination—of what the people look like and sound like and the situations they’re in ... You’re not trying to act, you’re just trying to encourage and nudge their imaginations to build the universe for themselves."
Here's another exclusive peek at the audiobook:
The Audible and Pottermore project is meant to raise money for Lumos, Rowling's non-profit that reunites institutionalized children with their families. Its name refers to the spell for casting a beam of light from one's wand tip.
Wizarding World vets such as Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Jude Law (young Dumbledore), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione in Cursed Child), and Sally Mortemore (Madam Pince) make up the rest of the audiobook's all-star cast. Both Law and Mortemore pipe in between each story with ancillary comments that explain certain terms or provide background on how Beedle's stories influenced wizarding culture over the centuries.
"Who wouldn’t want to read any of those stories?," Isaacs asks. "Pretty much everybody, I think, who has been involved with the films, when you come across the work the charity does, you’re so impressed by it ... She set up this charity, which does amazing work, and it’s work that nobody else was doing. So many of us [involved] with Potter have been involved in it."
With everybody on lockdown due to the global coronavirus pandemic, reading or listening to stories is just what we need right now. Turning to your imagination as a way to relieve anxiety, stress, and panic is almost...well, it's almost like magic.
"I found them just an incredibly welcome relief," the actor concludes, referring to Beedle's parables. "It’s fabulous to have your mind take you elsewhere, particularly during stressful times. It’s one of the reasons I was happy to do the interview, to encourage it not just because Lumos is a wonderful charity and the [tales] are wonderful, but because I think it’s a great time to be listening to stories and books."
Audible's production of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is now available to purchase for $14.95.
Aside from "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," the fables also include: "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" (read by Davis); "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" (read by Lynch); "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump" (read by Wright); and "The Tale of the Three Brothers" (read by Dumezweni).