'Moon Knight': Oscar Isaac on Steven Versus Marc and the Possibility of More Personalities (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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Oscar Isaac leads the MCU’s latest original series, Moon Knight, as the titular superhero with dissociative identity disorder possessed by the Egyptian god, Khonshu, and his multiple personalities, Marc Spector, Steven Grant and Mr. Knight, who all find themselves on a mythological (and psychological) adventure akin to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Aside from Khonshu, Isaac is tasked with bringing to life four distinct personalities as he jumps from Grant to Spector to Mr. Knight at any given moment in any given scene.
While speaking with ET, the actor, as well as head writer Jeremy Slater and directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, breaks down the different personas seen onscreen and the possibility of any more personalities, as previously depicted in the comic books, appearing in the six-part series.
On the series, Isaac portrays Marc Spector, an American CIA operative turned brutal mercenary whose superhero counterpart is Moon Knight, a caped crusader; and Steven Grant, the disheveled, socially awkward London local who eventually learns how to conjure the alter ego, Mr. Knight, a suave and expertly suited masked man. And for the actor, the draw was “to be able to create one incredible, indelible character and then also create the counterpoint to that character,” Isaac says.
When viewers first meet Grant, he’s nothing more than a lonely museum employee and self-taught scholar of Egyptian history with a sleeping disorder who seems barely in control of his own body. “We’re introduced to this very mild-mannered, sweet, awkward man who is kind of desperate for a connection,” the actors says.
“And every night he goes to bed and he dreams about a different life that is much more exciting, much more dangerous than the life he is currently living,” Slater adds.
But “he slowly discovers that he has all this other unknown life to him living inside of him,” Isaac says. However, it’s not until he wakes up mid car chase and hears the voice of Khonshu that he begins to suspect that something’s wrong. Soon after, he eventually realizes that these waking nightmares are not dreams but actual events taking place when Spector takes over.
From then on, it’s a battle of the minds, not only as Grant and Spector fight for control of their shared body but try to navigate the influence Khonshu has over them as the god’s human avatar. And for Isaac, part of the challenge was to “find a tension between how they interact,” he continues, especially when it’s revealed that Grant, the audience’s main point of view, is “sharing his body with an ex-mercenary in the service of an Egyptian deity.”
Not only that, but Grant figures out, more or less by accident, that each persona has masked alter egos -- except that Grant’s Mr. Knight is vastly different from Spector’s Moon Knight. “That was a really fun thing to play with, the idea that he has the power, too,” Isaac says. “But he can manifest the suit into an idea of his own, which is this three-piece, very dapper suit that he has. And so, playing with the humor of that was a lot of fun.”
As for portraying the two masked heroes, Isaac recalls what it was like first seeing himself in full costume. “I saw myself in that, I was like, ‘Yes, we were working with all the psychological aspects and all that, but this guy’s a superhero,’” he says, finally feeling like “a Marvel superhero.”
He adds that it was “very powerful and scary as well” to don the costumes’ unusual design. “It felt like we were really pushing the genre into new places,” he says.
When it comes to Isaac’s performance, and what he’s able to pull off with the multiple personalities, everyone involved in the project was blown away. “The second we knew we had Oscar, we knew we were in good hands and we didn’t have to worry anymore,” Slater says of the trepidation that preceded as he and the writers were putting together the episodes and not knowing who was going to take on the role, especially considering they “needed an actor with the talent and commitment to really bring [a totally different person] to life.”
The head writer adds that after Isaac was cast, they were able to “go as weird and ambitious as we want and this guy is gonna be there just giving it 110 percent.”
Benson and Moorhead, who helm episodes two and four, add that when Isaac arrives on set as any one of the personalities, “they are all very different people and you can tell [who he is] before he even speaks,” Benson says. “Like, literally you can see it in his face which character he is when he enters the room and it affects the whole room depending on which character he is. And it’s just one of the most profound things to witness a performer do.”
His commitment to making each personality so distinct and present made the directors’ job easier, especially when it came to showing somebody interacting with themselves. “We’d come up with all these plans to make sure at least that it’s clear and, at the very most, that it’s emotionally resonant,” Moorhead says. “And we realize we’re not gonna have to do very much at all. It’s gonna be very clear to the audience because Oscar’s just giving us everything.”
For his co-stars, it was like watching a masterclass or an athlete at their peak. “The fun of performing over a lifetime is to watch when actors get really excited about a part and somebody really pours themselves into it,” says Ethan Hawke, who plays the cult-like leader, Arthur Harrow. “It’s like watching somebody jump off a high dive or something. Like, when they’ve got the guts to do and they’ve got the brains and discipline to really work at how to do it well. It’s exciting to be around.”
“He’s an incredible actor and then you just see that over and over again, especially in this where you see his versatility and capacity to grasp this subject matter,” says Fernanda Andrade, who appears as Wendy Spector.
Antonia Salib, who plays Tawaret, says that she “got to see him switch between the two and he’s done a brilliant job. It’s not easy to keep switching accents as well. But he’s able to really balance the truth and the dark journey this character is going through with the humor and the British accent as well.”
That said, given that in the comic books there are even more personalities, including Jake Lockley, that are manifested on the page, time will tell if there is more to be seen from Isaac than just Grant and Spector. “It’s very possible. You’ll have to keep watching to find out,” the actor teases.
And given that Mr. Knight is to Grant like Moon Knight is to Spector, if there is a Lockley, is there another masked ego? “I like how you’re thinking. That is very logical,” Isaac responds, not offering much more of an answer than that.
Moon Knight is now streaming with new episodes debuting Wednesdays on Disney+.