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By Heather Wadowski
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In March of 2000, Joshua Jackson stood backstage at “Saturday Night Live” with butterflies in his stomach. In just a few moments he was going to step onto the same stage he had watched his idols stand upon since he was 11 to host the very same show hosted by such A-list celebrities as Steve Martin and Tom Hanks for 25 years. Only the biggest stars in Hollywood ever got to set foot where Jackson was going, and he was getting to go there when he was only 21 years old. To top it all off, later that month Jackson was going to be a guest star on “The Simpsons” when he voiced the character of Jesse Grass in the episode “Lisa the Tree Hugger,” an honor even fewer celebrities have ever had the chance to call their own. And as the Saturday Night Live band played the show’s opening theme song and Jackson walked on stage to give his monologue, only one thought was going through his head…
“Things are all going to go downhill from 21.”
Not that Jackson’s career was over– not by a long shot. In its second season, “Dawson’s”-mania was at its height and Jackson was featured in virtually every teen pin-up mag known to man. He had just done a cameo in the newest Muppets movie, Muppets From Space, and was about to take his first big-screen leading role opposite fellow teen heartthrob Paul Walker in The Skulls. Unknown to anyone at the time, The Skulls would be a huge success for both Jackson and Walker, and yet another reason why Jackson lived up to his title of being one of Teen People’s “Hottest Young Stars Under 21.” But how does one top hosting “SNL” and voicing a character on “The Simpsons” within a month of each other? And three years (or six seasons) after America first set sail on everyone’s favorite “Creek,” is Joshua Jackson still something to talk about?
You bet he is.
Although “Dawson’s Creek” is finally coming to an end (yes, the Capeside crew won’t be on the air long enough to follow them into the retirement home a la “Beverly Hills, 90210”) Joshua Jackson is proving that there’s more to him than Pacey Witter and living up to the media’s expectations of being the solo “Dawson’s Creek” cast member to have a career past 30. With The Safety of Objects now in theaters and both Lone Star State of Mind and “Dawson’s Creek: The Complete First Season” coming to DVD April 1, Joshua Jackson seems to be everywhere. And before his days as everyone’s favorite troubled 20-something are over, Jackson will be taking control of “Dawson’s Creek” by directing his first episode. Although Jackson feels he is still a bit young to be directing an episode of a major primetime series, the 24-year-old admits he is eager to test new waters.
“Things are going really well,” Jackson says when asked how the location scouting is going for his directorial debut. “This whole thing began as sort of an out-crapping of curiosity, sort of an egotistical, ‘hey– I could do that!’ realization. Being that this is our last season, it was the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet because I couldn’t be in a more supportive environment.”
Jackson’s directorial debut seems fitting for the Vancouver native, especially considering how much his on-screen persona has grown over the past five years. Coming from Pacey Witter, mixed-up 15-year-old who sleeps with his teacher, to Pacey Witter, mixed-up 20-year-old who works at a brokerage firm, watching Jackson transform from a teen heartthrob who landed small roles in thrillers like Urban Legend and Scream 2 to a handsome 20-something who does cameos in blockbusters alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt and co-stars in indie pictures alongside Glenn Close and Christina Ricci seems like a natural transition. And similar to former WB princess Sarah Michelle Gellar, for Jackson his last episode of “Dawson’s Creek” won’t be something he’ll regret.
“The poetic ending for “Dawson’s Creek” would have been to end the show right after high school,” Jackson states. “After all, that was the tie that bonded the characters together. I mean, how many people do you know that hang out with their high school friends everyday? So when Columbia and Warner Brothers made the announcement that this season would be it no one was surprised. In a way the decision was made last spring, just no one really came out and said it.”
With The Safety of Objects, Jackson is showing audiences yet again how he refuses to be typecast by a single role. After making the transition from simply being known as Charlie, the kid from The Mighty Ducks, to WB hottie Pacey Witter, Jackson is making the jump from teen heartthrob to feature film actor with the same ease. Co-starring alongside Hollywood legends Glenn Close and Patricia Clarkson, Jackson says he was eager for the chance to work alongside actors of such high caliber since most 22-year-olds don’t get the opportunity to watch actors who know what they are doing work that often.
“Before I wasn’t old enough to star in much else besides teen movies– plus “Dawson’s Creek” was at the height of the whole teen movie craze,” Jackson says. “So I had to really look at the roles and make sure that what I was doing wasn’t getting too stereotypical. Like with Urban Legend I played this date-rapist guy, this total pig, and in Gossip I played this rich, arrogant prick– just a well-dressed, preppy son-of-a-bitch. Then with The Skulls I got the chance to bust my ass as the lead, this Americana all-around good boy. None of these characters really fit into typecasting, so it let me progress as an actor cause they each had their own challenges.”
Given the type of roles Jackson has played on screen, one might think that his real life persona fits into his snooty Hollywood image. However, no amount of fame or success has changed the Canadian boy at heart, and Jackson still remains the same outgoing, down-to-earth individual he was before “Dawson’s Creek.” Though the young star doesn’t have much free time between production schedules, Jackson still finds time to read up on current events and attend hockey games whenever possible. Jackson also likes to travel, and recently has returned from backpacking through Europe and running with the bulls in Pamplona. The 6’2” star is also very family and friend orientated, and Lone Star State of Mind co-star DJ Qualls says that he walked away from filming the black comedy romp with Jackson as one of his new best friends. So what is Jackson’s secret to staying so down-to-earth and not letting his Hollywood status get to him?
“For one, I don’t live in Hollywood,” Jackson says. “And secondly I love my job. I enjoy doing what I do. On your average day I have a good time at work, so it affects how I treat others.”
Jackson also says that he doesn’t live life worrying about what he’s going to do next, which relieves some of the pressure most TV actors face when their shows finally wrap.
“I have no long term plans– I never had,” he states. “My mind just doesn’t work that way. Maybe I should take life more seriously, I don’t know, but to me it just seems like a trap to say ‘in five years I have to be in a movie directed by Martin Scorsese.’ It takes away from living life in the moment because you are always worried about where you have to be. For me I’d rather be happy in the moment than live life miserable because I’m not somewhere else.”
As for what lies ahead for Joshua Jackson once he leaves Wilmington, North Carolina, even he doesn’t know. Jackson recently wrapped up production on Adam Goldberg’s I Love Your Work alongside Giovanni Ribisi and Franka Potente, but beyond that has no immediate plans to co-star in another feature film. And while it would sound cool to say he no longer “does TV,” Jackson says that he doesn’t rule out the idea of returning to another primetime series in the future, especially something the caliber of “Six Feet Under.” However, there are two predictions Jackson feels safe making as his run on “Dawson’s Creek” comes to a close: the first being that unlike the cast of “Friends,” Jackson won’t have to worry about only being known as Pacey Witter when the show ends, and the second being that 10 years down the road, his legacy won’t be Pacey Witter… it will be Charlie from The Mighty Ducks.
“Canada plays it every year like It’s a Wonderful Life, so to this day I have 5-year-olds coming up to me saying, ‘it’s Charlie!'” Jackson says with a laugh. “It’s great though. It prevents me from buying a Hawaiian shirt, getting a buzz cut and walking around going, ‘look everyone! I’m first season Pacey Witter!’ when the show is all over and done with just to get noticed.”