Joshua Jackson

Joshua Jackson: Working For “Bobby”

Nov 15, 2006 – Lynn Barker
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You know him as Pacey from “Dawson’s Creek” but now 28-year-old actor Joshua Jackson wants us to know that, although he owes some of his success to that series, he’s grown up a lot and moved on. Josh is actually “moving on” with an old pal for whom he has great respect. Back in the early to mid-’90s, a very young Josh was one of The Mighty Ducks, a kid hockey team in films that was coached by ’80’s brat-packer Emilio Estevez. Now, Emilio is directing grown-up Josh in the political drama Bobby. Josh plays a insider, preppie campaign worker for the Bobby Kennedy presidential campaign in 1968. The role made Josh think more about our very different political world today.

Jackson looked very polished in a designer gray suit with gray and white stripe shirt and tie for our interview in Beverly Hills recently. He is also a very well-spoken actor who has no problem talking about his character, his director, research for the role and some confrontations with a very outspoken costume designer who made him think seriously about just what a young, well-educated guy would wear in the 1960’s. Check out Pacey grown up…

TeenHollywood: Did you have any idea when you were working with Emilio as a kid that you would do something like this one day?

Josh: When I was 13, shooting The Mighty Ducks movies, I didn’t know much of anything about anything. I was just glad to be working on that show. But, beyond all the obvious reasons for wanting to be a part of this movie, there’s something very personally satisfying for me to be able to be involved in what I hope will be Emilio’s moment in the sun. He, I think, deserves an unending amount of credit, not only for the film as it stands but for his belief in the material and his unwillingness to bend on the principles that he thought his movie should be made by. He so passionately believed in the purpose of what he was doing that he stuck with it.

TeenHollywood: Was he as passionate about “Mighty Ducks”? Were you?

Josh: When I was 13 years old and we were shooting the first Mighty Ducks movie, I knew nothing about what it meant to be an actor on set. I frankly didn’t know much about what it took to be an actor, period. But, he, in his humble and wise way, took all of those kids and created an environment where they could be as good as they could be and also taught them how to respect their job which, at 13, you just don’t know. You think it’s playtime. It was really satisfying to me on a deep level as a man, to come back all these years later and hopefully, show that I had put those principles into practice in the way that I work.

TeenHollywood: How much have you guys kept in touch over the years?

Josh: I spent four and a half months of every other year from 14 to 17 with him [on those movies] which are pretty formative years in your life. When I was in North Carolina (on ‘Dawson’s Creek’) probably less. But, much in the way that people keep in touch with their college professors, when someone leaves an indelible mark on you like that, at a formative time in your life, you can’t help but come back to that. And, you judge your worth as a man by how those long-standing relationships live and grow with you. I think that’s how you come to know yourself. Those constants reflect who you are and where you are. Simple answer is a bit. Not a lot, but a bit.

TeenHollywood: How did you get Emilio’s script and learn about the film and the role?

Josh: I think, when he finished the script in 2000, when I first read the role, I was years and emotionally, too young to play the role that I ended up playing. So, unfortunately for him, fortunately for me, it took several years for the movie to get made so that when it finally came around, I was old enough to play this role. This sounds pat but it’s true, it’s the role that I always wanted to play because there are a couple of things that I get to say in the movie that I connected to in a way that made me campaign for this film, to make me say ‘I’ll audition. I’ll do whatever it is that you need to do’. I’m only 28 years old and, at that time I was 27 and you don’t often get the opportunity to play a passionate idealist, intelligent, articulate character at my age, or frankly at any age.

TeenHollywood: So this is a big “I’m a man” role for you?

Josh: I’ve gone through my teen stage and I’ve gone through, I think, my coming of age story stage, and this was the first role that I was able to be a man in, to speak to things that are important to me now at this point in my life rather than at 23 or 24 and looking back on a different portion of my life.

TeenHollywood: How do you think this role will change your career image? You’ve had a pretty wild ride.

Josh: I have no idea. After 16 years, the one thing I know is I don’t know much. Acting is a fickle mistress, the sands are constantly shifting and there is no way of predicting it. I try not to worry too much about career paths and arcs but to keep myself as happy as I can each step along the way. If you had asked me at 13 whether or not I thought I’d be in North Carolina for six years of my life, at 18, I’d have called you crazy. At the end of that if you had told me that I would spend the better part of the last three years traveling around the world working on films, I would have also called you crazy. If, even a year ago, you would have told me that I would be making a movie where my name would come directly under Anthony Hopkins and Helen Hunt’s, I would have thought you were really nuts so things are constantly shifting.

TeenHollywood: Did you have any background in politics at all or did you have to research for the role?

Josh: The specifics of it I didn’t know at all because I’d never worked inside of a campaign which is a very specific subculture. There is a culture that does that for a living, goes from campaign to campaign. For this guy, he’s a true believer. It’s not just candidate du jour. He was a believer in Bobby, a believer in the message and a believer in this moment of change in American history. There was a little bit of research that had to be done. I grew up in a very politically conscious, politically active household. Politics and religion were discussed often and usually loudly at my table growing up so that idea of being able to articulate your ideas and articulate them forcefully and passionately, that wasn’t new to me.

TeenHollywood: Did you look into the very different way of dressing in that era? Does that help you really get into character?

Josh: Actually it was nice and a relief after playing contemporary roles. There was a formalism to expression, not only verbal but physical expression in that era that I found actually really endearing. It was fun to play with being buttoned-up and having the tie on and being aware of your appearance before you walk out the door and also, because these were young campaign workers, they understood that they were physically the face of Bobby before he arrived so there was a consciousness about their presentation and who they were. These guys were very conscious of the fact that they were the best foot forward so to speak and they wanted to maintain that image for Bobby.

TeenHollywood: We hear that you had a really intense costume designer on the film.

Josh: Well, our costume designer is a wonderfully eccentric, brilliant woman. I’ve never had a more specific costume design I guess. Whole characters were built in this woman’s head and she was specific and, if she disagreed, she would absolutely tell you. You walk in and she’d say ‘where were you born’? ‘Vancouver’. ‘No, no, no, no. You left him at the door. Where were you [your character] born? How did you come to work for this campaign? What does Bobby mean to you? Are you a working class guy? Are you an intellectual? Are you a blue collar boy? What is your association with the Kennedys? Why are you working in the Civil Rights movement?’ Really specific stuff beyond ‘do you like French cuffs or skinny ties?’ It certainly put you on the balls of your feet.

TeenHollywood: How much research did you do into 1968 and what did you learn about Bobby Kennedy? We understand that Emilio had films and books for everyone.

Josh: I know the same things that every North American child learns in Social Studies or history class in high school and there is the broad cultural understanding of that Camelot era, the civil rights movement which he is indelibly associated with. I had those broad understandings. Emilio had put together this package of some of the footage we see in the movie, the raw CBS newsreel footage of the entire night so you could get a feel of what that ballroom was like, which is not easy footage to watch. He had put together a sampling of music and a timeline of 1968 starting from the [Vietnam] Tet Offensive and ending in the riots in Chicago. I’m sure I learned it in school but I’m not sure it dawned on me what a tumultuous year 1968 was in Western politics.

TeenHollywood: There are so many actors in this film. Did that make it a bit difficult?

Josh: There is no lead or I guess Freddy [Rodriguez] is the closest thing to it or maybe Anthony Hopkins as the physical incarnation of the hotel itself. He gives us the historical context of The Ambassador from the beginning to the end. But all the characters stay alive in each other’s storylines. I’m like ‘Where’s Waldo’ in this movie [laughter]. You look closely, I’m always there in the background. The storylines would mix and mingle around each other. Emilio was under intense pressure but he was always gracious to give the actors time. I never felt rushed which happens sometimes.

TeenHollywood: What are you working on next?

Josh: I’m going up to Vancouver for a movie called Battle in Seattle. I play a militant anarchist who is a disturber at the World Trade Organization protest in ’96.

TeenHollywood: How often have you been able to work in Vancouver?

Josh: This will be the first time being a Vancouver boy, that I have worked there since I think 1994 which puts me in a pretty small group of actors who have not worked in Vancouver in over a decade. I know. It’s shocking. I’ve worked in Toronto I think six times.

TeenHollywood: Do you still have family there [Vancouver]?

Josh: Yeah, my mother still lives there, a little bit outside the city and I maintain a residence there still. Depending on how you answer this question, Vancouver is or isn’t my home. If it’s where you hang your hat, it’s here in Los Angeles, but if it’s where your heart is, Vancouver will always be my home. I don’t know why it is that I just can’t seem to get a job there but it looks like I’m breaking the streak in ’06.

TeenHollywood: Are you just drawn to political stories now?

Josh: Well, yes and no. Am I drawn to political stories exclusively? Absolutely not. All of life is not politics. Even though this movie is political, Battle in Seattle is a more deeply political film. It’s a more stridently opinionated film because it takes a side whereas I think that this [Bobby] is less a political, partisan film than it is a call to action. His words are transcendent and inspirational. They’re not the tit for tat that we have in politics today. He’s not saying ‘I’m this as opposed to him’. It’s not, ‘he’s a bad guy and we should kick the bums out of office’, he’s saying ‘I am this because I believe in it and I think we can all be better off if we try to practice these ideals’ and not ‘vote for me because that baby-killer is going to raise your taxes’ which is where we find ourselves today. I think it’s not necessary and I think we’re all debased as a nation regardless of where you live by that tone and the tenor of races like that [we agree].

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