Vancouver Sun, March 1, 2003
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Vancouver’s Josh Jackson is on the phone from Wilmington, N.C., the home base for hit series Dawson’s Creek, on which he’s played hellion-with-a-heart-of-gold Pacey Witter, for all of its six seasons. He’s just back from a last-minute location scout, and he’s got less than 48 hours before making his directorial debut on the series.
So, how do you learn to direct? Does it happen by osmosis?
“Dawson’s Creek is almost second nature at this point,” he says. “Plus, I feel very comfortable with this crew — being able to ask for things that maybe I wouldn’t get anywhere else and being able to really talk to the actors on an intimate level about performance, because I know them, these are my friends.”
The hip show about four teenage friends facing life’s daily dilemmas premiered on the WB network on Jan. 20, 1998, and made a star of both that network and its young cast, including Jackson, James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes and Michelle Williams.
This January, after much speculation, the network announced the final episode would air May 14. The two-hour finale, which will see the gang several years into the future, will be directed by the show creator Kevin Williamson.
Jackson will direct episode No. 619 (tentatively to air April 16) based on the MTV call-in advice show Lovelines. The show’s real-life hosts are on tour and come to the fictitious Dawson’s Creek colleges and the characters “get sucked into embarrassing moments on stage explaining their love lives in front of a bunch of strangers,” explains Jackson.
“Basically, I get to film a bunch of uncomfortable, embarrassing moments of all my co-workers.”
But, says Jackson, Pacey won’t appear in that episode.
“Thankfully I don’t have to direct myself for my first time out. They figure I’m not funny enough,” he adds with a laugh.
Jackson says the cancellation announcement wasn’t a blow, or even a surprise to the cast and crew. They had known the show was coming to an end since last summer.
“In knowing through the whole season that this was going be the last one, it’s actually been quite a nice experience to have the time to properly say goodbye. When it just gets cancelled out of the blue, you never really get to say your goodbyes.”
Jackson confesses that he and the rest of the cast are experiencing “a kind of jubilation,” knowing that the show is almost finished, but as the end gets closer (they wrap April 26) he suspects that sadness and nostalgia will take over.
After all, they were mere kids when they began, and since then, they’ve basically dedicated their lives to the show.
“The framework of my life has been Dawson’s Creek since I was 18,” explains Jackson, who turns 25 in June.
“When Michelle came down here she was 16 and had only been working for a couple of years. Katie essentially came directly out of Toledo, Ohio, to Wilmington to work on Dawson’s Creek; James had done a couple of years at community college. So nobody had really gone out and defined who they were as people. The life that all of us left is not the life that we’re going to be going back to.”
Jackson has essentially lived in Wilmington nine months of the year for the last six years.
“I’ve lived with this crew, which is almost to a man, the same as when we started. This has been my life. So, it’s exciting to think that now I’ll have all this time to just go and see what else exists out there in the world.”
Jackson got his start in the movie industry in Vancouver in the 1991 film Crooked Hearts. The next year brought his big break, in the Disney hockey flick The Mighty Ducks.
I met him when he was 13, shooting an indie film, Digger, and visited with him as he grew up on the Vancouver sets of Magic in the Water, Robin of Locksley and Ronnie & Julie.
Just before landing Ronnie & Julie, Jackson endured a drought of sorts, and I recall bumping into him one day in Pacific Centre where he cried on my shoulder about not having had an audition, let alone a role, in nine months.
The next thing I knew he was working on Dawson’s Creek.
“That was the end of the hardest stretch of my professional career. And I was 17!” he says, laughing at the memory.
“At 24, I am a totally different man than I was as a 17- or 18-year-old unemployed guy.”
And unemployment, if it happens, will be different this time. He’s been careful with money earned from the series and can now afford to take some time to contemplate life.
“My plan in the immediate future is to go anywhere I damn well please,” he says with a chuckle.
In a perfect world, he admits, if something great came along to work on, he’d go to work; if something great doesn’t come along immediately that’s okay, too.
“I don’t think it would be at all unhealthy to take six months and go and live and not be an actor for a while, considering that at the tender age of 24 I’m already a 14-year veteran.
He’d love to travel for a couple of months, perhaps visit his younger sister Aisleigh, who’s on a New York University study program in Florence, “and then I’d like to come and spend the summer in Vancouver,” he admits, longingly.
He recently bought a home in Los Angeles where he’d also love to spend some time — the actual house in which he lived with his family as a young child. (At the age of eight, after their parents’ divorce, he and his sister moved back to Vancouver — Josh’s birthplace –with their mother, Fiona, then a film casting director.)
Jackson has a couple of projects in the can: the small indie, I Love Your Work, shot in Los Angeles in January with Giovanni Ribisi, Franka Potente, Christina Ricci and Vince Vaughn, and another independent drama, The Safety of Objects, shot in Toronto last summer.
In that film, opening in theatres next Friday, and also starring Glenn Close, Dermot Mulroney and Patricia Clarkson, Jackson plays the son of Close’s character, whose coma galvanizes his family and friends.
“It’s quite a somber, and at the same time, beautiful movie. After you finish watching it, you’ll want to call your loved ones,” he says.
So, will we see Joshua Jackson shooting on Vancouver streets anytime soon?
“Oh, man, I’ve been trying for years! You really don’t know how hard I’ve tried to do a job at home. I’m the only person on Earth who can’t get a job in Vancouver,” he says, adding a plaintive plea to producers: “I am available for Canadian work, and I am Canadian!”