On January 20, 1998, “Dawson’s Creek” premiered on the “WB” network, thereby instilling in teens of the late ’90s a life-or-death sense of urgency compelling them to be near a television on Tuesday nights no matter the costs.
A first of its kind creation from “Scream” writer Kevin Williamson, this soap-styled teen drama principally chronicled the lives of four high school sophomores as they fell in and out of love with each other with all the delicate serenity that embodied their breezy and wistfully romantic surroundings. Set in the fictional New England town of Capeside, Mass. (actually Wilmington, N.C.), the show’s highbrow dialogue and far reaching pop culture references left most teens in the dark, but the universal loneliness of adolescence and the promise of a happy final ending kept viewers of all ages spellbound for six seasons. Not to mention that at its beginning the show was a welcomed, if not the only, fresh alternative to pandemic coverage of the ensuing “Lewinsky Scandal.”
Already an accomplished actor at nineteen, with a memorable role in each of “The Mighty Ducks” movies, Canadian born actor Joshua Jackson’s cherubic looks, often described as winsome, combined with his charmingly mature sensitivity, came packaged as “Pacey Witter.” We would come to know the teen heartthrob Pacey as a quipping ne’er-do-well whose comedic wit concealed his bruised self-esteem – a result of his father’s aspersions.
During the heyday of the show, Jackson acted in several high grossing box office hits, including a small but popular role as the bitchy gay teen socialite “Blaine Tuttle” in “Cruel Intentions” (1999). Most memorable of “Blaine” was his line: “The only reason I let him keep up the charade is because the man’s got a mouth like a Hoover. Ooh!” In 2001, Joshua appeared in “The Laramie Project” as the bartender who was working in the Fireside Lounge the night hate crime victim Matthew Shepard was picked up.
Now, three years after the tear jerking series finale of the show, twenty-eight year old Joshua Jackson has done at least seven feature films and recently finished shooting a television pilot. Joshua talked with O&AN to discuss his most recent release, “Aurora Borealis.”
O&AN: What was your inspiration for making this film?
Joshua: The attraction to the film for me was to play a character, one that I was the same age as. And because the ages of the characters were contemporary, I felt like the crisis of that character, the thing that he was trying to cope with in his life, felt very honest and real to me. And it was something that I don’t think I was going through at that particular time, I had maybe just gotten past it, but a lot of my friends were sort of going through that, at the moment. And you know, it’s something that everybody has to do – what is your purpose? It’s a very hard question to answer, and probably has several different answers over the course of a life. But I feel like we all, at times, find ourselves in eddies – life sort of eddies out you. You’re in motion, but you’re not really moving anywhere. You’re just sort of spinning the wheels of life, and kinda doing the daily do, but it doesn’t really have any purpose. Then at the same time, you have this other storyline – especially, you know, you got Donald Sutherland playing it, who’s this big strong presence [with gruff tone]. And him trying to grapple with Alzheimer’s, and seeing a proud man break down piece by piece – and the difficulty. I think all guys have a hard time asking for help, period. And you see someone coming toward that portion of their life where they can’t function anymore, and it just felt like a really honest telling of family dynamics and what it’s like to be a man at two different times in life. I just found it really interesting.
O&AN: For you, what is the importance of independent film?
Joshua: I think the importance of independent films today is the same as the importance of independent film over the course of the last twenty-five or thirty years – as studios have headed more toward the large blockbuster. I think a multiplicity of voices is a good thing, and I think independent film is where those voices and subject matter that probably wouldn’t be broached on a large scale, and probably shouldn’t be broached on a large scale, can actually have an opportunity to find an audience. Sometimes it’s nice to just go buy a bucket of popcorn and watch “Independence Day,” and sometimes it’s also nice to go watch a movie that makes you uncomfortable at times.
O&AN: One that has depth…
Joshua: Exactly. The industry seems sometimes like it’s run by test screenings, which can be a little bit frustrating. Very often what happens in more difficult films is that the test audience will say, “Well, I don’t know, it made me uncomfortable,” and that’s generally marked down as a negative, but I think that’s actually a very positive thing. I think a film that makes you uncomfortable is probably doing its job. If it challenges you, or pushes you to think something that maybe you hadn’t contemplated or considered before, I think that’s actually a success as a film. And you know that certainly I’ve walked out of movies – and sort of – you’re skin feels dirty. You’re just like, “Oh god, man, that was truly hard to watch.” But, sometimes you need that. You need to be poked and prodded. That’s the function of art isn’t it?
O&AN: Do you still keep in touch with your cast mates from “Dawson’s Creek”?
Joshua: On and off. We all scattered to the four winds. Michelle, she’s done pretty well for herself, but she’s out in New York living in Brooklyn, so I don’t see her all that often. And Katie’s married to Tom Cruise, so that’s sort of a whole other ball of wax…
“Aurora Borealis” opens in select cities on September 15. Jackson says his next release, “Bobby,” is a reenactment which follows the intersecting lives of a number of people who were at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, when Senator Robert. F. Kennedy was assassinated. Directed by Emilio Estevez, the hodgepodge ensemble cast brings the six degrees of separation in Hollywood down to one. The cast includes: Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood, Lindsey Lohan, Helen Hunt, Christian Slater, Nick Cannon, Shia LeBeouf, and Mark Valley as Kennedy. We find Jackson as a Kennedy campaign volunteer. “Bobby” is scheduled to show in limited release starting November 17, 2006.