Over six seasons, Joshua Jackson effortlessly portrayed wisecracking slacker Pacey Witter on “Dawson’s Creek,” a role that put him on the map. The truth is, the charismatic Canadian actor couldn’t be more driven. At an early age, he began to soar in The Mighty Ducks and, ever since, Jackson has successfully navigated between film, television and stage. The triple threat is currently starring as Peter Bishop in the cult-favorite series, “Fringe,” and was busy in South Africa filming the political thriller Inescapable at the time of this interview.
“This is a first for me,” Jackson noted about doing a long-distance phoner from this part of the globe.
ComingSoon.net spoke exclusively to Jackson about Inescapable, past and future projects and of course, Fringe.
ComingSoon.net: You’re incredibly busy with “Fringe” these days, so what drew you to this independent film, “Inescapable,” instead of using your week off to relax? Joshua Jackson: Well, the truth is, they don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. If it weren’t for this project, I wouldn’t have a week off. They reworked my schedule on “Fringe” to put all my scenes at the beginning of one episode, give me 10 days off and then put all my scenes at the end of the following episode. It created a window which otherwise wouldn’t have existed. It’s a great role and a great script and I thought it was a good group of people. It had all the things you were looking for in a film.
CS: There aren’t very many details about “Inescapable” out there. What’s the premise of the movie and where does your character fit in? Jackson: The overall premise of the movie is a father trying to rescue his daughter, Muna. But I think the movie is really more about a man coming to grips with his own past and own story and the consequences or choices we make in our lives that lie dormant for many, many years, but never entirely go away. For myself, I play a Canadian man who works for the Consulate General in Damascus and gets himself involved in this world that quickly spirals out of control.
CS: In what ways has filming in South Africa given the movie a distinct look or vibe? Jackson: Where we’re shooting is all in Johannesburg, and mostly in downtown Johannesburg. This is a country that obviously has had a very difficult history in the last 30 to 40 years. Even post-Apartheid, it seems Johannesburg was not initially the beneficiary of this post-Apartheid rush of development and money. It’s only come around since the World Cup was here in 2010 that the downtown of Johannesburg has really started to be re-examined as a place for people to live and work. It has that feel of sort of a failed city, which was very much the look they were trying to go for in recreating Damascus circa 2010.
CS: As an actor, what’s challenging about a tight production schedule like this? Jackson: When you’re making a movie that quickly and on a budget, you need a lot of things to go right in order to get the film in the can. It seems like, particularly for [director] Ruba Nadda and [actor] Alexander Siddig, who have worked together before, there’s a short hand that really helps a lot of things. For myself, it really created an easy environment to step into. It’s a very relaxed set, everyone is here for the right reasons, so it’s been much more peaceful than my day job .
CS: Are you afraid the time zone difference will wipe you out once you’re back on Fringe in Vancouver? Jackson: The time difference is not so bad. It’s the same as Europe. It’s the hours on the plane. You don’t really go that far east, but you do go a lot south. I’m a 14-hour flight from London, so it’s going to be a trip. It’s always harder coming east than west. Jet lag is not the reason to not do a job.
CS: Most of your previous movies have been helmed by males. How has it been working with Ruba, who is your first female director? Jackson: Any good director has a different approach. Everybody brings their own particular voice to it. On the TV side, I’ve worked with a couple of women, but I’ve never worked in the feature world with a woman. I’m not really so sure her femininity is what sets her apart. I would say it’s not that her gender is inconsequential, it’s just not the defining aspect of her voice as a director.
CS: Your career is packed with independent movies and more mainstream ones. What’s the benefit of jumping back and forth between the two? Jackson: Generally speaking, you have more of a voice in independent film and the characters are more well-rounded. That, to me, as an actor, is always the most interesting thing. It’s getting to play something that is human at its center, a little bit challenging and hopefully the character is disappointing and redeemable all in the same film.
CS: Your Canadian flick, “One Week,” is a prime example of what you can achieve in an indie. Jackson: There again, that is a very, very small indie and we made that movie in six weeks. It was basically 17 people on a bus making that film. At the same time, if you scale that movie up, I don’t think you could make it at the small intimate level it needed to be made. That’s inventive filmmaking at its best.
CS: Switching gears, you appear in the upcoming comedy, “Lay the Favorite.” Was that an opportunity to do something more light-hearted? Jackson: Certainly, it’s nice to do something light-hearted and something romantic. It was also an opportunity to work with phenomenal people, really. It was an incredible blessing to be working with Rebecca Hall, who is just magical. To be working with Bruce Willis… it’s amazing this can be called an independent film, but in the world we live in, that’s an independent movie. That was just a very happy coincidence that the movie was getting made at a time when I was available.
CS: You already have this funny wit about you. Did you learn anything from Vince Vaughn or even Bruce Willis, who are both in the movie with you? Jackson: My stuff wasn’t with Vince Vaughn, so I wasn’t on set with him. There’s a massive difference between somebody who has a sense of humor and someone who is a comedian. Vince Vaughan is a comedian. He understands working out pieces that would take a lot of trial and error on my part. On the other hand, Bruce Willis comes at it from more of an actor’s perspective, which is to figure out the emotional context of the scene, and then play it with a sense of humor. That is something that is easier for me to digest and understand. Mostly in this film, I play the straight man, bouncing off Rebecca Hall, who has this fantastically over-the-top broad character to play.
CS: You auditioned for the recent string of Batman movies. Now that Christian Bale is hanging up his cowl, are you gung-ho about trying out for the role again? Jackson: Ahh… I’m not going to turn down an audition for Batman if they ask me . As much as nobody in their right mind would turn down that job, I don’t know if you really want to be the guy after Chris Nolan and Christian Bale. Those movies are pretty fantastic.
CS: I haven’t heard you growl I’m Batman, but you would certainly make a dapper Bruce Wayne. Jackson: Well, thank you, I do my best . It would have been a different movie if I had been cast. You never want to admit you think somebody else made the right decision when they didn’t hire you, but Christian Bale was pretty amazing. The marriage of Chris Nolan and Christian Bale for those Batman movies was spectacular. I would be intimidated to step into those shoes, but if they asked me to audition, I would.
CS: After “Scream 2,” “Urban Legends,” “Shutter” and “Cursed,” are you finished with horror or is that a genre that still interests you? Jackson: It really depends. I like the horror genre just as a moviegoer, but it would have to be the right thing. I’m not a teenager anymore, so it’s hard just to be cannon fodder in another horror movie. There are many ways to do that with psychological horror, rather than blood and guts horror.
CS: Is there a horror franchise you were disappointed you missed out on? Jackson: No, because those movies resonate with people at a pretty early age. The franchises that I watched that scared the sh*t out of me when I was a teenager, they don’t really make those anymore. I’m not a fan of the “Saw” movies and the torture porn. I find it less scary and more cartoony than more psychologically terrifying movies. The scariest movie I’ve seen in the last 5-10 years was “Audition.”
CS: What Joshua Jackson movie would you consider a guilty pleasure? Jackson: Well, there are several of them probably. I guess “Cruel Intentions,” which is probably the pulpiest movie I worked on. It just depends on who you are. “The Skulls” is a guilty pleasure for a lot of people. “The Mighty Ducks” is another. I have a lot of movies that fall into that category.
CS: Once upon a time, we spoke while you were filming the “Fringe” pilot in Toronto. How different is the series from when you started? Jackson: Night and day. A lot of the threads we’ve played with over the course of the last four years started in the pilot. The direction the writers chose to take the story is completely different from what I would have imagined based on the pilot. There’s no part of me that thought the thrust of the show was going to be about resolving an inter-dimensional conflict and having my character be the doppelganger of a dead child to satisfy a father’s guilt.
CS: Peter is a stranger in two strange lands lately. Has he figuratively become an Observer himself? Jackson: Well, I guess you could make the case, in the way The Observers are just about to explained over the course of the next three or four episodes, I would say no. I understand what you’re saying from a metaphysical sense, yes, he is observing the world he can no longer be a part of. So, yes, in that sense, he is literally an Observer. But in the way, we’re just about to explain the Observers, no, even though I’m still on the bandwagon that’s how Peter should end up.
CS: What’s in store for Peter and company? Jackson: For the first time, the writers are committing themselves to real answers about what the Observers are, who they are and what their agenda is. Not all the episodes, but most of them, deal with the repercussions of what’s about to happen.
CS: Lastly, if this happens to be “Fringe’s” final season, are you happy with the direction the show is going? Will there be enough time to create a satisfying conclusion? Jackson: The direction that this season is going doesn’t mean as much. The only thing that would be a black mark against the show is if the people who have stuck with us for the four years and really invested and spent a lot of time tuning in and getting to the meat of it, if we didn’t give an ending, if we didn’t finish the story. That would be a real failure on our part.