By Solvej Schou
September 04, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
  • TV Show

Joshua Jackson plays Peter Bishop — a man with secrets, brains, quick-witted charisma, and a big smirk — on the Fox sci-fi series Fringe. In his new movie Inescapable, premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday, Sept. 11, Jackson reveals a broader ability to play up intrigue as a Canadian Consular official with a past.

The film is directed by Arab-Canadian filmmaker Ruba Nadda, who was born to a Syrian father and Palestinian mother, and whose Cairo Time won the best Canadian feature film award at the Toronto fest in 2009. Inescapable revolves around a father’s frustrated search for his daughter, who’s gone missing in Syria. The father, Adib, played by handsomely intense Cairo Time star Alexander Siddig, had left Syria for Toronto 25 years earlier, after being accused of being a spy. When his daughter Muna, a photographer, disappears in Syria, he follows in pursuit. Adib seeks the assistance of his wife Fatima, played with a thick, deep accent by Marisa Tomei, and Jackson’s character Paul.

Check out an exclusive clip from the movie, below, showing the moment Jackson’s Paul meets Adib for the first time. Be warned: there’s some language not appropriate for younger folks:

Currently in Vancouver shooting the fifth and last season of Fringe, Jackson said he hopped on a 22-hour flight to South Africa, where the movie filmed, during the show’s futuristic 19th episode last season. Jackson noted “it was a bit of a miracle” he could fit in the shoot, given his tight schedule.

“He’s a career diplomat, the character. In that scene when Paul and Adib meet, the awkwardness is born that not is all what it seems,” Jackson told EW. “I never went to drama school, so I judge my characters all the time. Paul comes from a certain family, and has had the easiest time in life. Now he’s confronted with real events. He is duplicitous. You learn some unpleasant things about the guy. Ruba’s passionate energy and excitement, and the insight she brings, given her background, was the final hook for me, doing the film.”

With a barrage of political turmoil in Syria over the last year and a half – the United Nations announced Tuesday that 100,000 Syrians fled the country last month – Inescapable comes at an especially tense time. It’s set before the Arab Spring, and artfully mixes violence and emotion-heavy cultural conflict.

“The political reality on the ground, we talked about this on set. It would be impossible to make a movie now about the current Syrian conflict because it changes day by day,” said Jackson. “Because of Ruba’s cultural connection and personal experience, she brings a real perspective of tensions and paranoia of living under a police state. There’s nothing more serious than what’s happening in Syria and the Middle East. Anything that brings awareness to the region is a very good thing.”

Political thrillers and sci-fi drama TV, though, have particular elements in common (any fans of The Twilight Zone can attest to the talents of writers Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and others straddling the line between reality and fantasy), and that’s the pull of human stories.

Jackson sees Fringe and Inescapable as having that in common.

“All of great science fiction is an allegory to what we deal with in our real lives,” said Jackson. “Inescapable takes a different tack. It pulls you into Adib’s personal story, and the backdrop of Syria comes in. If you didn’t get hooked into Peter or Olivia or Walter, on Fringe, everything else would just be special effects.”

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