Arts & Culture

USA’s ‘Dig’ intriguing blend of history, mystery

Ronen Akerman/USA Network

Jason Isaacs made one big mistake during the filming of Dig, USA’s new conspiracy thriller.

The actor did too much research for his own good.

When Isaacs signed up to star in the 10-episode drama, which premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, he was psyched about becoming “an Indiana Jones-style hero who’s also fully human and slightly broken.”

He thought Dig was nothing more than escapist entertainment, a larger-than-life adventure story involving a murder mystery in Jerusalem and a secret society of end-of-the-world fanatics.

“Then the producers pointed out to me that the truly sinister conspiracy theory is based in reality,” Isaacs says. “I rushed to the Internet to find out how much of it was true.

“I discovered that there are many people in this world who believe in and are working toward bringing on the End of Days. Some of these people are in positions of great power or sitting on enormous financial resources. The more research I did, the less easy I slept at night.”

Isaacs — an English actor who previously starred in TV’s Brotherhood and Awake, as well as the “Harry Potter” movies — plays Peter Connelly, a troubled FBI agent stationed in Jerusalem.

While investigating the murder of someone he knows, Connelly uncovers an international conspiracy that dates to biblical times.

The series is created and produced by television giants Tim Kring and Gideon Raff.

“Before I knew the story, before I knew who I would be playing, I was running at it,” Isaacs says. “I mean, the man who created Heroes [Kring] and the man who created Homeland [Raff] are combining their talents? If these guys told the story of plucking their nose hairs, you’d want to lean in and listen.

“So when they’re taking on maybe the biggest story of our time, the End of Days and the future of the planet, you know that this is going to be must-do/must-see material.”

The excellent cast also includes Anne Heche, Lauren Ambrose, Alison Sudol and David Costabile. But the real star of Dig is the city of Jerusalem, where much of the series was filmed (although production there was cut short after political protests from pro-Palestinian groups).

In the opening episode, Sudol’s character, archaeologist Emma Wilson, marvels at how virtually every building, every street, every stone in the Old City is steeped in history and meaning.

Maybe the spectacular visuals could be adequately re-created on a soundstage in Culver City, Calif., but the city’s mystique couldn’t be faked.

“When you’re making a story about literally the most controversial and contested 100 square meters of real estate in the history of humanity, where all of the world’s great religions are crammed into tiny alleyways and crevices and competing for space, elbowing each other like an Australian rugby team, there is no substitute for actually being there,” Isaacs says.

Adds Raff: “We filmed underneath the city in various tunnels and caves. Most dramatic of all was perhaps the Tzidkiyahu caves, which was a quarry that is 3,000 years old. Originally, the rock here was quarried by King Solomon’s miners to build the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the Old City.

“It was an incredibly moving place that has never been used before for any filming location. When you are shooting in these amazing places, no matter where you point the camera, there are thousands of years of history staring back at you, which was a huge privilege.”

“We were filming our story on streets that Jesus Christ once walked up,” Isaacs continues. “Hopefully the sense of that history will communicate itself through the screen.”


▪ 9 p.m. Thursday