by Charles Gant
source: London Evening Standard
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America’s biggest teen drama has produced an unlikely heart-throb, especially among grown women in the UK. Charles Gant meets Joshua Jackson, a.k.a Pacey from Dawson’s Creek.
Modesty comes naturally to Joshua Jackson, but even so, there’s a glint in his eye that acknowledges his relish at being Top Boy on Dawson’s Creek. Which is no small feet: the smart-talking teen series is a giant hit, both in the US and in Europe. Not only is it cult viewing among the teenage audience for which is was created: it’s essential Sunday-morning hangover fare for twenty and thirty-something’s who follow the ridiculously convoluted love-lives of the cast. Grown woman (and men) have been known to cry at the gnarlier plot twists and love-tugs.
His rival co-star, James Van Der Beek – the eponymous Dawson – is saddled with bad hair, a big forehead and a character whose simpering earnestness is, after 82 episodes beginning to grate. But Jackson’s sexy, regular-bloke Pacey is one we all love – in this country at least.
“That’s what they tell me” beams Jackson, sitting in the Met Bar. “It must mean I’m doing something right”.
But how does James feel about this turn of events? “I haven’t asked him. That would be kind of awkward. ‘So James, Pacey’s the most popular character on the show in Europe…'”
Jackson was born 23 years ago in Vancouver, but spent the early years of his life in the upscale hippy Los Angeles suburb of Topanga Canyon. The collapse of his parents’ marriage saw him arrive back in Vancouver, aged nine, with his casting-director mother and younger sister. A recurring role in ice-hockey movie franchise The Mighty Ducks failed to make him much of a star outside Canada, until fate intervened with Dawson’s Creek. Then came the post-Scream explosion of teen movies: Cruel Intentions, Urban Legend, Scream 2, Gossip and Skulls all conveniently arrived to assist the career of the likeable lad.
Today, he acknowledges that Dawson’s is a Catch-22 as far as his movie career goes. On the one hand, his TV stardom makes him castable for film roles; on the on the other, the fact that he shoots solidly from July to April severely limits his availability.
Many TV actors do quirky, independent movies to counter their squeaky-clean image and boost their credibility, but Jackson scoffs at the idea of “edgy for edgy’s sake” – a position that curiously puts him in the same camp as the one major star with whom he is most often compared: Tom Hanks. “It was (Dawson’s Creek creator) Kevin Williamson who started that whole (Hanks comparison) thing,” he says evenly.
But Williamson has a point. Some actors you just can’t help rooting for. And Hollywood so desperately needs likeable, empathetic screen presences.
Jackson graciously accepts the compliment – “I’m not going to argue the point,” he says with a sly grin – and explains that he’s drawn to stories with “redemption”. “I don’t mind trying my hand at darker fare, but I need to feel cleansed at some point. I like laughing when I’m at work; I like falling in love with the girl. Maybe I’m just a big softie.”
In London, he’s been hanging out with his British Gossip co-star Lena Headey and her actor boyfriend Jason Flemyng. “Josh is a contradiction. He’s older than his age, but he’s still a kid,” Lena tells me. On the one hand, a private jet would shuttle him back and forth between the sets of Gossip and Dawson’s Creek; on the other, “he wears the same T-shirt for seven weeks”. He’s “a real sweetheart” and “will try anything”.
It’s fair to say that Jackson remains unaffected by what must, by now, be serious wealth; he spent last summer backpacking through Europe. “We had a fabulous time – it was so much fun. Four guys, just trekking around.” A couple of days after this interview, he’s off to Greece to go island hopping. He’s unfazed by the prospect of being approached by fans – after all, he will be unshaved, scruffy and not particularly recognizable.
A couple of years ago, he complained that his fan mail had yet to reach the “panties and photo’s” stage, but that has now been corrected. “I haven’t seen any letters from prisoners, but I know Katie gets some freaky letters”.
Ah, Katie. The lovely, talented Katie Holmes, Dawson’s Creek Joey. Josh and Katie famously enjoyed an onset romance which echoed their on-screen one, and then infuriated the world by barely acknowledging it, let alone talking about it. Today, after shameless probing, I get him to concede that, “It affected every part of our relationship. We were in love. It was a good thing and it’s over now. It’s water under the bridge, but it’s still a cherished part of my life.”
Famous and discreet: what a winning combination.