August 28, 2008
Interviewed and transcribed by Mandy Dailey for Josh-Jackson.net
I was fortunate enough to speak over the phone with Josh while he was in New York fresh from the set. He talks about his new show “Fringe”, his views on politics and what else lies in store for this talented actor.
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Josh Jackson: Hey Mandy, it’s Josh calling.
Mandy: Hey Josh, how are you doing?
Josh: I’m doing good, and yourself?
Mandy: Good! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Josh: No problem!
Mandy: So, how are you adjusting to living in New York?
Josh: The New York thing is actually pretty great, I gotta say. I mean, it’s such a great city. It’s like alive and vital and I’m liking it so far. [I haven’t] lived in the winter here, so maybe I’ll be singing a different tune – unlike the nice temperate summer.
Mandy: Of course, the seasons change there, so that’s always nice. Now, you have family out there too, right?
Josh: I do, both of my half-brothers live out here and my sister is actually thinking about moving back, so we might have the whole clan here together.
Mandy: Because she went to school there, right?
Josh: Yeah, she went to NYU, exactly.
Mandy: Well that will be cool to have them there. Now your mom, she’s still on the west coast, though?
Josh: My mom is on the west coast, recently back in Vancouver. Uh, but, she’ll come out and visit and we’ll have . . . the gang’s all here!
Mandy: And you’ll still be having your home out in California, right?
Josh: My home will remain out there; I’m emotionally attached to that place. But for work and for right now, New York is excellent.
Mandy: That’s great to hear. I have to say though, everywhere I go I see something about [Fringe] that says it’s ‘The Television Event of the Season’ [Josh laughs] and I can’t help but giggle because it’s so amazing and overwhelming [that this has taken off]. How do you take it all in with it being so anticipated?
Josh: Well, the, I mean, the anticipation is great. It’s really nice to be a part of something that has, you know, the people that are looking forward to watching. And you know the downside is you have to actually make something that’s worth watching; pretty fantastic group of people. So, I’m confident that the pilot is huge and massive and sorta works like its own little movie. But the episodes that we’ve been doing here are more reasonable television episodes, but each one of them has a fantastic hook and the writing is really alive, and we have all the toys you could possibly want to have. So, we’re putting some really cool stuff on screen. So, knock on wood we’ll live up to all the hype.
Mandy: It does seem great. Because everything I’ve seen so far . . . and I’ll admit, I’ve seen the leaked pilot…
Josh: Naughty, naughty, naughty!
Mandy: I know, I know! I just couldn’t resist! I had to see what all the hype was about. But it looks fantastic, and I can’t wait to see the real final results, and yes, it is like a movie.
Josh: The pilot, even though you’ve seen the leaked one, shows most of what’s there, it’s not quite the finished product; but it’s a lot of the schemes [sic], and like the music wasn’t finished, and it wasn’t a very good print of the show. But yeah, that one is like a movie. It has its own beginning, middle and end. But in size the whole universe, and that’s kinda the fun of the show; sorta piece by piece getting farther and farther to what is the fringe world.
Mandy: That’s true. And with all the pseudo-science that’s being introduced on the show do you think that there is a possibility we’d ever see that kind of thing [in real life] in the future?
Josh: Yeah, well, some of that stuff isn’t that far into the future. You know, the bio-terrorism is obviously a possibility and unfortunately, in the present. And as far as the dreamscape goes that’s been like hypothetically possible to some degree, maybe not the synchronizing of two brains, but there is nothing that we talk about, that is as it goes, impossible. And unfortunately, I can’t tell you what happens during those scenes, but the whole idea is that the world we live in heightened so everything has been grounded in sort of the reality that we all know, and at some point we’ll come to discover, my God someone has been experimenting and taken the things that we all have around us at all times, and just put them in a completely different light.
Mandy: I agree. And we’re really moving science at an extremely rapid rate and it’s a little . . .
Josh: A little scary, right?
Mandy: Exactly, a little scary! And I don’t even want to think what our government is already doing that we don’t know about.
Josh: And at its core, that’s really beyond the science, beyond anything else, that’s really what the whole show is all about, is what happens when we start really experimenting in the playground of God? Which is where science is pretty close to right now, and the things we can do with gene [sic] and map a genome, and our abilities to clone at this point, all the animals—and we’re starting to experiment and dream in ways that were really exclusively the domain of God, up until about 20 years ago.
Mandy: Exactly. And I know you touched base on the present and all the terrorist stuff that we have going on, and I didn’t know if I wanted to get into our president too much, because I know how you feel about our current president . . . [Josh laughs] and I know we have the Democratic National Convention going on right now.
Josh: Yeah, I know! Speaking of, is your television on? Is Barack Obama on stage, yet?
Mandy: I can find out for you… No, not yet. Are you leaning towards Obama?
Josh: Leaning towards? [laughs] I’m all the way tipped over!
Mandy: [laughs] Well that’s good! What do you think of Joe Biden?
Josh: Well, I truthfully don’t know too much about Joe Biden, other than being a long serving senator and serving on the foreign relations committee, but the Vice Presidential candidate is less important to me as the Presidential candidate. And I think the choice between another Republican administration, any Republican administration and frankly, anybody else? I’d go with anybody else. But I think that Barack Obama is the face that we want to be presenting to the world to you know, sorta say, “Our bad. We got a little off the rails there for a couple years. We’re sorry, but we’re fixin’ it!”
Mandy: Yeah, I don’t think I could handle having another Republican in office for four more years.
Josh: Yeah and the terrorism issues that I was talking about before, the reality is that at a certain point, terrorism is not going to matter if we don’t have an habitable planet and another four years of Republican rules is not going to get us any closer to kicking this country’s addiction to oil.
Mandy: So true. And personally, I’m not too keen on the idea of off-shore drilling, myself.
Josh: Well, the off-shore drilling doesn’t mean anything. You start drilling today and in 10 years, you’ll put some barrels of oil back into the pipeline. Ten years isn’t going to help anybody. Because in 10 years we’re going to be paying $15 a gallon for gas and the only people that will be benefiting from the off-shore drilling will be the oil companies. And they’re doing just fine.
Mandy: I agree. We don’t need to give any more money than we already have.
Mandy: Getting back on topic and your role in “Fringe”; do you think Peter Bishop is similar to any of the other characters you’ve played on film or in television?
Josh: Uh, well he’s . . . I don’t know. He’s more reluctant really. The sort of function of the character that’s implied in the story is similar, but the character himself? He’s darker; he’s a less altruistic type of character. I think he’s much more, hmm, well, he’s certainly not Pacey’s heart of gold in regards to any other TV character that I’ve played. And Peter does not have a heart of gold, and Peter is not there for you when you need him. And he’s very self-centered and really sorta out for his own benefit in a large fashion. I’m trying to think, “Cruel Intentions”, that character there, off the top of my head, that’s the only character that pops into mind. But yeah, that’s not to say that he’s necessarily bad, the only reason why he’s good is to get the expedience that he wants, rather than some moralistic attachment.
Mandy: I was thinking that because you’ve played a lot of roles that are very “blue-collar”, down and out kind of guy, coming into his own; and I see that this [role] was a little different.
Mandy: But getting back to the show in general, I know that you are a huge X-Files fan, which bears some similarities, but not extremely to the show—was it that type of Sci-Fi drama that drew you to this project or was having J.J. Abrams at the helm helping you with your decision?
Josh: Well, both, really. The genre I love, because I am a huge X-Files fan and if this show got anywhere close to X-Files, I would be very, very happy. And the thing that I learned from Dawson’s Creek was that the hardest part about television, other than actually getting a show on the air, is telling good stories often. And having just a good pilot doesn’t help anything. You have to be consistently cranking out things that are interesting and will keep the show vital, keep the characters changing and growing, not only because that makes it more fun as an actor, but also for the audience. If it just gets repetitive, it’s boring. A lot of conceptual television isn’t really built for the long haul, they’re just built to get on the air and figure it out after that. And the script for the pilot was fantastic, but what literally drew me in beyond just reading the script and going, ‘Man! That’s fantastic!’ was J.J. He and his gang of folks, his Bad Robot people, are able to tell stories well over a long period of time. And they have a track record with the incredibly penned stories of “Lost” and the incredibly, actually incredibly penned, stories of “Alias” as well. This sort of family of psycho drama set against an international super spy and it’s not by accident that it was the same guy that was able to write, like, Felicity. Because essentially they are character driven, even though they have this massive machinery behind them, and that’s just it – that we have a chance to do something great for a long time.
Mandy: Yeah, because I’ll read articles where others question if this show will make it and be another “Lost”. And they try to determine if it’ll even be as good as “Lost”. I’ve always felt that you just have to see it for yourself, and it may not be for you; but then again, “Lost” isn’t for everyone, and “Alias” wasn’t for everyone, you just can’t please people all the time.
Josh: No. And particularly and unfortunately, when you’re dealing with someone as successful as J.J. is, that has a tendency to breed a lot of naysayers. I mean, we still have a lot to prove, we’re not even on the air yet. So, who knows? But the reality is that he’s got more than one good story left in him and what’s so good about J.J., which is not always the case, unfortunately, is that he’s good enough to know he’s good and to trust the people around him. I don’t think he’s the type of guy who is threatened by the other people, you know… “Lost” is a perfect example, he was able to finally sorta give it to Damon Lindelof and say, ‘Okay, this is your thing. You obviously have the idea for this show in your head, now. So, go do it.’ And that’s what attracts good writers to J.J. and that’s what makes J.J. not only a good writer, but a really great producer. He allows people to just thrive and do their best work.
Mandy: Absolutely! And I’ve heard J.J. talk and be interviewed and he’s always had such great things to say about you, and when he describes you I think to myself, that ‘Yes, that’s sounds like Josh and he sounds like he really knows and trusts the people that are a part of his projects and that’s just great to see and it’s quite like a family unit.
Mandy: But getting back to X-Files for a moment, I have to say you missed out on Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny at WonderCon!
Josh: I know, I know! I was still up in Toronto shooting the pilot and trust me, believe me when I tell you that the HUGE X-Files fan that I am? The only reason I wanted to go to WonderCon, nothing against WonderCon, [Mandy and Josh laugh] was because I wanted to see Gillian Anderson. I tried so hard to get into that X-Files movie, I can’t even tell you.
Mandy: I was there, and I couldn’t believe you were missing it. When I heard you couldn’t make it, I felt bad that you were really missing out.
Josh: It was good, huh?
Mandy: Yeah, it was pretty intense there. (Fan wise)
Mandy: One last question: Since the last time you were on series television, you’ve made some interesting and unique professional choices in regards to the movie roles that you’ve taken on. What made you follow that path towards a lot of independent films?
Josh: Well, there was necessity and joy. I mean, the necessity part was I needed time to be able to grow up as a person and also grow up as an actor. And, obviously, there is no denying that I’m drawn to a certain type of character because I seem to revisit the same theme: a sorta blue-collar guy, trying to figure out his life. I don’t know how many times I gotta make that movie before I feel like I made it. [Mandy and Josh laugh] But there is just something about those honest, simple stories of people just trying to get through, I don’t know, I just feel very connected to them.
Mandy: They’re kind of relatable, too. A lot of people can look at them and say, I know someone like that or that’s me.
Josh: Yeah, that’s what draws me into those scripts. I read them and I’m like, ‘Yup, I understand that. I can feel where this guy’s coming from.’ So, that’s what the part of me that needed that time and frankly it’s not like Steven Spielberg was banging down my door. So, you gotta take the work where you can get it.
Mandy: This is true. But it seems like you have fun with what you’re doing and I personally loved “Aurora Borealis” and I just thought that was a fantastic film and I wish more people could have seen it, but that’s just how it goes with independent film.
Josh: There are a couple movies that I’m really proud of, and that’s one of them. I really think that’s a good film.
Mandy: Yes, it is. I wanted to say, congratulations on “One Week” debuting at Toronto Film Festival!
Josh: Thank you!
Mandy: And that’s your first time being an Executive Producer.
Josh: First time producing a film, and that’s actually a really good film, too. A very Canadian movie but it’s really quiet and sweet and emotional without being maudlin, which is sorta my high mark for movies like that. And for it to be given a platform like that at the Toronto Film Festival is fantastic!
Mandy: From what I’ve seen of just clips and photos, it looks really gorgeous. Of course, anything in Canada/Pacific Northwest—as you know, I used to live up there so I know how beautiful it is. It really looks like a postcard to Canada.
Josh: Yeah, part of the movie, really one of the characters – one of the main characters, is the beauty of Canada, and how epic it is. And you get it in the American West, too, but because there are so few people in Canada, it’s just this scale of the country and the naturalness of it, to me is overwhelming and that’s definitely a character in the film. I have to say I’m really proud of that movie.
Mandy: I hope that we get to see it, us below Canada borders. I know it’s an independent film, but I’m hopeful that people will get a chance to see it.
Josh: Well that’s the great thing about coming to Toronto, if we can get a little bit of buzz and people start talking about it a little bit, then it actually has a chance, which would be great! [Josh laughs]
Mandy: Are you going to be there when it debuts?
Josh: Yeah! I’ll be there!
Mandy: That would be great! Because I don’t think you’ve ever gone to Toronto as the lead in one of your films that has shown there.
Josh: Toronto? No, I’ve never, yeah, it’s a “step out” moment.
Mandy: Anything else in the works?
Josh: No, for right now the total focus is “Fringe” and trying to get it launched and good. And my hope is to be here for a couple years and just make a great show and one that’s really excellent.
Mandy: And you’re back on the east coast again, you just can’t get away from it!
Josh: [laughs] And the show is set in Boston, which is hilarious.
Mandy: I thought that, too! I couldn’t believe it. Yet another television show set in Boston, that’s not filmed in Boston.
Josh: I know, and New York of all places is similar to Boston.
Mandy: Well, it’ll look a lot better than Dawson’s Creek did.
Josh: Yeah, North Carolina [laughs] for Boston doesn’t make any sense at all.
Mandy: Well, I won’t keep you, but I really appreciate you taking the time, I know it’s late there.
Josh: And Mandy, thanks again, as always, for sticking with me all these years. I really do appreciate it.
Mandy: It’s always a joy to watch your career grow.
Josh: Thank you, I appreciate that.
Mandy: The best of luck to you with the new show and I wish you the best of success! I can’t wait until the 9th of September.
Josh: Fingers crossed!
Mandy: Fingers crossed! Have a great night.
Josh: Talk with you soon.