Long before Jason Isaacs became involved with PBS' "Masterpiece Mystery: Case Histories" -- the concluding two-hour episode of which premieres Sunday, Oct. 30 (check local listings) -- he was intimately involved with the Kate Atkinson novels on which it's based, having read them for audiobook versions.
This doesn't mean, though, that prior to filming, Isaacs could have told you much about them.
"I'd forgotten it," he says, calling in from the set of his upcoming NBC series, "Awake." "When you follow directions from a GPS, and someone asks you which route you took, you can't remember, because you just went left and right when it tells you.
"I just lived through all the characters and brought them all to life. I rediscovered them when we shot. Although sometimes, I'd be in the middle of a scene, and I'd suddenly remember what it was like when I played an elderly South African lady."
Aired as six one-hours early in the summer in the U.K., "Case Histories" premiered Oct. 16 with a two-hour episode based on the first book (actually called "Case Histories") featuring Yorkshire-born private investigator Jackson Brodie. That was followed on Oct. 23 with an episode based on the novel "One Good Turn."
Oct. 30 sees the premiere of an episode based on the last of the Brodie series, "When Will There Be Good News?"
Set and filmed in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh -- known for its stunning architecture and multiple arts festivals -- the story finds Jackson injured in a train wreck while investigating a suspicion of infidelity.
A teenage girl (Gwyneth Keyworth) saves his life and then insists, in return, that he find her missing employer. But that's not before Jackson, while barely conscious in the hospital, makes a startling declaration to his former police colleague, D.I. Louise Monroe (Amanda Abbington).
Also starring are Zawe Ashton, Millie Innes, Edward Corrie, Maarten Stevenson, Paterson Joseph, Natasha Little and Kirsty Mitchell.
If you're expecting a lot of thick Scottish brogues, kilts, bagpipes and sheep, you might be surprised.
"For anyone who's actually been to Edinburgh," says Isaacs, "one of the most remarkable things about it is it's almost completely absent of Scots. It's such a fantastically beautiful place that like a magnet, it has attracted people from all over Europe.
"There's an enormous variety of folks. There are some Scots, for sure, but many English people, many Eastern Europeans and Europeans of all hues and descriptions."The difference, Isaacs says, extends into the storytelling as well, since Atkinson's books are considered "literary thrillers" (as opposed to "pulp thrillers" or just "thrillers").
"It's not set in the mean, gritty streets and the underbelly of Scottish cities," Isaacs explains. "It's not as if the crimes aren't vicious and people don't die, but it's the kinds of characters one doesn't normally find in crime fiction. It's more of a social satire."
A lot of the popularity has to do with the character of Jackson Brodie.
"He's an iconic figure for women in crime fiction," Isaacs says. "It's raised the bar very high in my household. Nobody could live up to the kind of white-knight universe that Jackson inhabits. Kate's said of him that he's made up of all kinds of bits women wish they could find in men."
Brodie is apparently also a man not overburdened with self-knowledge.
"He's a great, big, seething mass of contradictions," Isaacs says. "He thinks he's very hardhearted and cynical, but actually he's ludicrously optimistic. He thinks he's very emotionless, but actually he's very sentimental, listens to country music all the time.
"He thinks he's a great father, or tries to be, but unwittingly he exposes his kid to all the wrong things at all the wrong times. He's such a clumsy dad. He thinks he's hard done-by, and he's sensitive to the people around him, but he constantly puts his foot in it. He just doesn't know himself and is his own worst enemy, in a very entertaining fashion."
In spite of himself, Brodie still tries to do right -- and that's another one of his problems.
"He's unfailingly moral and ethical," says Isaacs, "and he cannot stop himself doing the right thing, even when the last thing he ought to be doing is aligning himself with so many lost causes and no-hopers, because he just feels like something ought to be done."
Even though Isaacs wanted a job in London so he could be with his children, when the offer came to head north, he just couldn't say no.
"Just for a second," he says, "I fast-forwarded into a world where somebody else got to be him, and it was just unconscionable. He's just too much fun and too juicy and too interesting and literally too much of a character for me to give up.
"I would have been too envious of anybody else."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times