Interview with Actor Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

The Eerie Digest magazine is extremely excited to proudly present to its readers actor Andrew Jackson. Andrew has made a benchmark of his acting career that most actors now aim for. He has been on many of the most popular television shows and films, and has worn many hats for the entertainment field during his career. Andrew you are extremely talented. Please tell us how you first started and what inspired you most in taking up this challenging field?

AJ- WOW…thanks for all the compliments! At the age of fifteen I was cast as the infamous pickpocket, ‘Fagin’ in a high school production of the musical, “Oliver”. I had seen the film as a child and was transported by the experience. The Dickens world was elusive, dark and somewhat terrifying. Each of the roles were so richly drawn that I was able to identify and empathize with many of the characters. I’ll never forget sitting in front of a mirror as old man makeup and grey facial hair was applied. I stared at myself and someone else stared back. I started to play with the voice of my character and what emerged from within startled and indeed frightened a teacher that was overseeing the transformation. Years later I visited the school as an adult and the teacher who was unfamiliar with the acting process relayed his take on the experience. He stated, “you were just a fifteen year old boy…..when the beard and makeup was complete, you became this strange old man…it was so um…strange… kind of disturbing”!! Unlike the confused teacher, I was in my element. I fell in love with the live theatre experience. My young soul had found a place to explore an inner world of magic. I was home! When I informed my mother that I wanted to pursue a career as an actor she didn’t discourage me from pursuing my dream. By chance an article had appeared in the press that listed the average income of a Canadian actor. It was below poverty line. She told me, “If you are willing to accept this reality, than by all means pursue your dream”. I chose to jump off that cliff! I won’t lie…there are times when I question my chosen vocation. It can be extremely difficult, even painful at times. As you grow older, the volatile nature of the business can become increasingly tiresome. The smallest events however can bring you right back to your original vision. All it takes is an inspired performance, a great film, a remarkable piece of music or an extraordinary painting to find one’s dream again. A conversation with a homeless person, a fight on a streetcar, a peaceful walk in the forest are all experiences that taunt one to go back and express the human condition.

ED- In 1987 you were first seen on ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’. Please tell us about this first venue for you.

AJ- O.K. that was a really long time ago!!! It was my first year in the business and I was extremely green. I was very tall, thin and fine featured. I tricked the director at my audition by wearing 4 light sweaters under a football jersey. I wanted to give the impression of being really muscular and it worked. Everyone was shocked when I arrived on set looking 20 pounds lighter than I did at the audition.  I was very nervous on my first day and tried running around the house where we were filming to calm down. The makeup artist panicked when she saw me before my first take. She yelled,“you are sweating boy!!!!” I enjoyed watching the whole filming process and quickly learned about the value of continuity. I kept forgetting my prop sunglasses in my trailer. After being yelled at twice I never made the mistake again. I was very good at listening to the other characters and felt very present in each scene. Listening is more than half the battle for an actor!!

ED- In your early years following this you appeared in a number of productions such as ‘State Park’, ‘Comedy of Errors’, the ‘Friday the 13th’ television series , and ‘Red Blooded American Girl’. How did this strengthen your commitment towards acting?

AJ- This is the first interview where I’ve been asked to relay my training wheel work experiences.  “State Park” A.K.A. “Heavy Metal Summer” was my very first feature film. It was originally titled, “National Park”. I had just finished working on a Shakespeare in the park production of, “Macbeth” as ‘Lennox’ and understudying ‘Malcolm’. I had been making $165.00 a week as an equity apprentice and was suddenly making thousands of dollars a week. I’d gone from focusing on a Shakespeare text including all its complexities, to playing a California surfer dude named ‘Corky’ with a sidekick named ‘Mondo Jimbo’. When I auditioned for the role of the surfer dude, I pretended to be genuinely brain dead. It helped me book the role. After I filmed my first scene in “State Park”, I spoke to the screenwriter/producer. She looked shocked by my behavior and confessed, “we thought you were really that stupid…’s part of the reason we hired you”. She went on to tell me a story about an actor who auditioned for the role of a biker. Apparently he was brilliant at his audition. When the producers and writer found out on set that he wasn’t really like his character, they fired him. They didn’t want an actor. They wanted the real thing! I was horrified!! While being driven to my hotel/ cabin one night I was asked by my driver if I’d like to try some of his cocaine. I quickly declined. I had no interest in the drug and certainly didn’t want to deal with the aftermath while filming the next day. The driver broke down and cried like a baby. “I can’t do it alone” he wailed “you are making me feel so ashamed!!!!!” (I’m pretty certain the production company that hired the driver was unaware of his drug problem). Cocaine was a huge problem in the film industry at that time. The drug had destroyed many lives and bank accounts. Thankfully I had no interest doing drugs. That experience with the driver later informed my performance in a scene from “Being Erica”. Incidentally the scene appears on my drama demo. Please feel free to check it out on my official website:“State Park” covered the cost of white braces that I wore on stage for the next 2 years followed by a retainer. It paid off all my student loans. Unfortunately my last 5 grand was stolen by a financial manager. Word of advice…. never give anyone power of attorney. It’s too big a temptation. It turns out my financial manager was a cocaine addict as well. (No one knew!) After learning that the financial manager stole money from a number of his clients, including one who drowned herself in her bathtub, I came close to walking in his office and being charged with assault. The best part of shooting State Park: I was being granted the opportunity to play a clown and train as a triathlete. I was running 12 miles a day through bear country, kayaking and swimming. I was in superb shape and having the time of my life! The CBC agreed to film a Stratford Festival production of “The Comedy Of Errors”. I played a drunken belching fop that sported a 2 foot high powdered wig and 4 inch high heeled period shoes. Props had engineered an air pump within the frame of my wig. Every time I hiccupped, I squeezed an air pump hidden in my muff and a tiny perched red hat would rise a foot in the air and fall with an ending ‘hic’!! It was hilarious!!! “The “Comedy Of Errors” was presented in the same evening as, “Titus Andronicus”. It was a very ambitious and successful ‘double bill’!  I played the raping murdering Chiron in the first half of the double bill and returned as a neutered dandy in the second half of the evening. I think that particular stage experience inspired me to pursue a career driven by diversity and range. On the “Friday The 13th” series a.k.a. “Friday’s Curse”, I played the French General Lafayette. I worked opposite the very talented Neil Munroe who played the Marquis De Sade. I loved doing a period character on film and wish there had been more opportunities to do period pieces in North America. I played Christopher Plummer’s bodyguard in the horror film, “Red Blooded American Girl”. It was a B-movie and I delivered a B performance. It’s not one of my prouder career moments. We learn from our mistakes! It’s important to fail along the way!! Christopher Plummer proved to be extremely charismatic. He’s a wonderful storyteller and he possesses a sharp and at times biting wit. He announced one day between takes, “If you get any bigger with those broad shoulders and remain at Stratford, you will be the first actor to play “Tamberlaine The Great”. I’d studied the play in University and understood the context or meaning of his remark. The play was considered impossible to mount on stage. The text was impenetrable and no classical actor could embody the mammoth size of   “Tamburlaine”.  Classical actors aren’t generally built like Lou Ferrigno. The early work experience shapes one as a performer. It’s important to embrace the positive and the negative aspects of those experiences and learn from both!!!!!!

ED- You also appeared in the TV-movie ‘Peeping Tom’ and the television series ‘Top Cop’. This was followed with an amazing performance as Dr. Stephen Hamil in 173 episodes of ‘All My Children’. How did your mode of acting in this very popular TV-Soap Opera differ to the way that you performed on film?

AJ- In “Peeping Tom” I played a ‘Chippendale’-style stripper named ‘Mr. Battering Ram’. The name says it all!!  The show was intended to be a parody of the talk show world. Unfortunately talk shows at that time quickly became parodies of themselves and the show became redundant before it ever had a chance to air. Being certified as a diver helped me book a role as a police diver on an episode of “Top Cops”. The episode proved to be somewhat of a nightmare. I was dressed in a dry suit and was encouraged to wear my street clothes underneath to stay warm. Unfortunately the zipper across the back of my shoulders was not done up properly and the water quickly filled my suit after diving into polluted water. The director had me swim to my starting mark which was 30-40 feet from a small motorized inflatable boat. On action I was instructed to signal for 3 beats on the surface, dive below and swim underwater 40 feet to a precise corner of the boat. Upon surfacing (while still on-camera of course), I was told to remove my oxygen mask, quickly flick off  a tiny off switch with my gloved hand while holding onto the boat and proceed to do my dialogue with a New Jersey accent. YIKES!!! The water was so polluted that a flashlight was incapable of penetrating the murky water. It was pitch black! After numerous failed attempts to find my mark, the director was screaming in frustration. I eventually did find the boat corner, surfaced, removed my mask and began to speak after failing to shut off the switch on the mask. It was louder than an industrial vacuum cleaner. Tempers were flying. When I finally did everything perfectly, a stunt diver leaned into the boat and blocked my shot. They screamed at him, “Why did you do that”!!! The stuntman replied, “I was afraid of falling in the water”!! AAAAAH!!! When we all got it right I removed the mask and the fake mustache hung halfway off my face. The makeup and hair department couldn’t reach me in the water. The half hung mustache appears in the episode to this day!!! I received calls from my home town with family and friends laughing about the drooping moustache when the episode aired. During a scene shot in the boat, the neck on my tight dry suit was starting to cut off the circulation to my head! A crew member yelled out, “Hey our leading man has a blue face”. I started to sound like I’d been sucking back helium coupled with a New Jersey accent. What a circus!!! A week before I worked on the show a police diver was doing a search for the body of a missing girl. They asked him what he could see and he pointed to his black glove. Fortunately Lake Ontario has been cleaned up considerably in recent years. Landing a role on ABC’s All My Children was a surreal experience. Keep in mind I had just spent four consecutive seasons at Canada’s Stratford Festival being trained as a Classical actor. Suddenly every work day was opening night. I was no longer hiding under mounds of makeup, wigs, period costumes and speaking in iambic pentameter. The text was no longer sacred. Shakespeare’s language provides every actor with brilliant clues about his or her character. During the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, the text or consonants force the young lovers to form their mouths into the shape of a kiss. He was a genius both in terms of the language and poetry as well as his understanding of the human condition. When I first started working on the soap there was little to no back story and I was required to memorize lines at an incredible pace. An actress working on the show who played multiple characters claimed her long term memory was fading as a result of learning 80 pages of heavy dialogue a day. Fortunately everyone was extremely nice, professional and compassionate. I suppose the biggest adjustment was the sudden loss of public anonymity. Nothing can prepare you for the sudden onslaught of strangers who start shrieking at your mere presence. It’s unbelievable!!!!! How did my acting change??  I’d come from the stage so I had to stop projecting, work at an insane pace and adjust to a work formula or structure that was opposite everything I’d learned up to that point in my career. Being shaken up as an actor is very healthy in my opinion. If you land a role on a soap opera for the first time remember to breath, relax, know your lines backwards and trust your instincts. It’s all you have!!

ED- Tell us about your character on this show and how you interacted with the other performers in it.

AJ-  I played a doctor on the show so I was required to memorize rather challenging medical terminology and was taught by a nurse how to work with various medical instruments. I found that part of my character fascinating! I still remember the second line on my second shoot day, “We’ve done the sugars, the gases, the scans, the MRI, the breathe tests, the secretion analysis and I’ve even started him on the allergy scratch tests but there’s a couple things I’d like to try first.” Phew!!!!! My character was referred to as, “Dr do right”! I played an honourable, righteous man who was capable of fleeting moments of rage. The writers watched us intently in search of ongoing writing ideas chemistry and any form of inspiration.

ED- Never one to sit still you followed this long standing show with roles in the TV-series, ‘Highlander’ and the television movie ‘Bermuda Grace’. How did this change of pace provide new challenges for you?

AJ- After a run on All MY Children, I was screen tested for the lead on the series, “Due South” and was up for a guest starring role on a television pilot called, “Bermuda Grace”. I came close to the Mountie role on Due South. Paul Gross booked the role and did a stellar job.  He is a multi-talented artist! I did however land the guest starring villain on Bermuda Grace. We shot in…..ah ….you guessed it!! The location was stunning!!! After two years in a darkened studio in Manhattan, I was suddenly working in an outdoor paradise. I ran on and off screen, trained with weights, swam and filmed driving a speed boat with the camera man shakily hanging on the bow of the boat. I arrived home after three weeks feeling like I’d had the best vacation. It was my first on-screen villain. Before filming, I told Kelly Ripa on the set of “All My Children” that I was off to play a villain. She stated emphatically, “you can’t play a villain, you’re a good guy!” Given the career that followed she must have eaten those words. By the way, she was a blast to work with. One day she said to me, “Andrew, don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, hate me because I’m talented”. God love her! After returning to Canada I headed off to Vancouver to visit with relatives. During my stay I auditioned for a guest starring role on the “Highlander” series. Casting agreed to bring me in for a pre-screen. After reading the part the casting director remarked, “Wow, you are really fighting your look on this one”. She thought my photo made me look like an Irish Spring commercial. She told me to come back the following day to audition for the director and producer and suggested I make myself look ‘really terrible’. Keep in mind I was very blond, rested and tanned at the time. When I showed up for the call back I noticed that one of the actors had slicked back his hair. Brilliant! I ran in search of a washroom only to discover that most of the building was still under construction. I ran outside in search of a solution! After discovering a mud puddle, I happily shoved my hands in the goop, ran the muddy liquid through my hair and let the brown liquid run down my face. When I arrived back in the actor’s waiting area, I discovered that my picture and resume was missing. I asked the other actors if they’d seen it and one responded, “Yeah I ate it…I was getting into my part!” By the time I entered the room to read the part I was covered in mud and full of rage. I booked the role! The director had to keep me in shadows for many shots to hide my innocent looking face. I think I rose to the occasion and did a solid job! It was great to play my opposite.

ED- Once again you lent your talents to playing a long standing role of the character Jon Futing in 29 episodes of the program ‘Family Passions’. With many college acting students as fans of our magazine describe how your character differ from any of those that you played before.

AJ- I returned to the stage to play Christian in a Sterling award winning production of Cyrano De Bergerac starring the Tony award winning Brent Carver. It was an exceptional experience complete with standing ovations every night. While performing on stage one night my Toronto agent desperately tried to reach me about a 4 month contract offer on a Canadian German soap opera called “Family Passions”. I was granted the role of a butler who has an affair with the woman he serves named Yvonne (played by the beautiful Jennifer Dale). This flip flopping from classical theatre to soap operas and back again was becoming less of a shock! It felt a bit like a polar bear swim! (I’m crazy enough to have done it several times in January) There were some extremely talented actors working on “Family Passions” who went on to do some amazing work on other shows!!! Check the cast out and you might be surprised. During my second round on a soap opera, I realized that a soap career wasn’t going to be my future. I have a great respect for actors that commit to a soap opera and all its demands. It’s difficult to explore character range on daytime and retain a certain standard of performance when working at such an alarming pace. At the end of the four month stint I returned to the stage to play a half naked ‘Appolodorus’ in Bernard Shaw’s ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’.

ED- You then exercised another great talent that you possess that of a voice actor. We understand that you have been able to perform more than 65 voices characterizations in some of you films. Please tell us about these and your ability to do so.

AJ- Voice work is something that should be pursued by every actor at some point. It can be both liberating and lucrative. You don’t have to shave or worry about your look…you can BE ANYTHING!! I am presently recording the role of a 19 year old digital New Jersey weasel on the anime series ‘Bakugan’. Commercial voice work allows an actor to work like a musician. Timing, inflection and the ability to make 4 to 10 quick adjustments is part of the job. There is no need to memorize 10 to15 pages of text for the audition and when you book the gig you can get paid extremely well (especially in the U.S.). Voice work has saved many an actor from poverty. I had the chance to play a spitting, belching and farting South American bat-like creature in a cartoon series called ‘Skatoony’. A friend’s six year old nephew watched the show knowing that I’d played the role. He particularly liked the part where I was covered in gorilla dung and carried off by Santa’s elves. He asked me with all sincerity, “how did you fit into the little bat suit??” Remember a voice performer can be anything!!!!

ED- The list doesn’t end there as you performed many roles in such television series as ‘Lonesome Dove’, ‘Due South’, ‘F/X’, ‘Avolena’, ‘Fast track’, ‘Charmed’, ‘Smallville’, ‘Sea Wolf’, and Stargate SG-1 are just a few. You also appeared in nine episodes of ‘Wind At My Back’ and another 4 episodes in ‘Earth: The Final Conflict’, and others. How were you able to develop such multiple characters so successfully?

AJ- Every young actor should explore mask work. As an exercise, try staring at yourself in the mirror and focus on your eyes. Continue to stare at your eyes until your face starts to blur.  Relax and watch your face begin to morph into other faces. Keep focusing on your eyes. Now allow various voices to emerge from those different faces. There is an endless source of possibilities within. You simply have to trust your imagination and free yourself. Your imagination will guide you. Actors will suddenly experience a moment of discovery after researching and exploring their new found character for days or weeks.  A wig, a pair of boots or an accent can suddenly act as a trigger or doorway to this organic process. Lose yourself in the character but step on land long enough to remain grounded and sane. Once an actor finds that inner character, it becomes easier for the performer to slip back into the role.

ED- More films and televisions shows followed adding to your success and once again you turned to voice acting as your ability to transfer your talents continued. Tell us about your roles in such favorites as ‘Beyblade’, ‘Bakugan Battle Brawlers’, and ‘Razzberry Jazzberry Jam’ and how your abilities made these so successful.

AJ- I booked a 17 episode role on the anime series, “Beyblade”. I was brought in to do a voice match replacement audition. A recording of another performers work as “Doji” was emailed to me for my audition preparation. After listening to the performance I suddenly recognized the actor’s voice. I had worked with him many years back at the Stratford Festival. It’s a little disconcerting trying to mimic a friend and colleague to get a job. I worked hard at the task and booked the gig. I began my first recording session and I sounded so much like the original actor, the director/ producer said, “O.K. you are really spooking us in here…you sound exactly like the original actor”. After a few episodes the director encouraged me to make the role my own. I confess I listened to one of the old episodes and even I couldn’t tell the difference.  After 5 episodes the people behind the scenes asked, “Has the new guy started yet?” I felt like I’d done my job! I auditioned for a 3 episode role on “Beyblade” and was cast as a Russian villain team leader named, “Anton”. I made a point of exploring my lower register. On “Bakugan”, I’ve played multiple characters. Last season I played a number of dragon-like warriors. I had the challenge of not destroying my vocal chords and keeping each of the characters voices separate in my mind. I used various animal sounds to keep the character sounds contrasting. I would allow my body and face to distort as I said each line. It helped me to transform into each character. On ‘Razzberry Jazzberry Jam’, I play various talking musical instruments. ‘Tesla: The Theremin’ was a lot of fun. They wanted an old classical stage actor sound for the mysterious magician. As an electric guitar named ‘The Shock’, I chose to play the role laid back and cool! When I had to sing, (YIKES!), I caught myself playing an air guitar. I’m glad it wasn’t filmed! So embarrassing!!! The director chose not to have a Spanish accent for the bongos, so I had to find two separate yet similar sounds for the two halves of the drum. I wanted to bring a hint of Antonio Bandera’s. (No such luck!)

ED- Recently you performed roles in three new projects. Can you tell us something about your roles in ‘Skatoony’, ‘The Blood of Pegasus, and ‘King, and when our readers will be able to see these roles?

AJ-Recently I had the pleasure of playing an amazing role on an episode of the new Global series, “King”. Hopefully the show will be picked up in the U.S. I played an ex-enforcer / independent biker who’s been recently charged with assault for the third time. It was one of the most well constructed roles I’ve played to date. The character called, ‘T-Bone’ is a large intimidating man capable of terrifying violence who possesses a vulnerable and somewhat tragic emotional life. The role touched my heart and soul. If I did my job properly the audience will want to lock T-Bone away one minute and hug him the next. On “The Blood Of Pegasus” I sleighed a C.G.I. dragon, ran around on a freezing beach in a toga, and learned to fire a long bow. I got to live out a childhood fantasy!

ED- Andrew, your talents are extraordinary, and many actors will never reach your heights during their careers. We have learned that you are also proficient in writing and have written a classical TV series treatment, a horror screenplay, and two children’s books. Please tell us about these.

AJ- Wow…the compliments!!! I frankly think I’ve been blessed with an interesting range of experiences but have yet to find the role that will take my career to the next level. As for writing, I only started to explore that particular talent in recent years. The classical series treatment is my baby! The protagonist is a homeless man that finds context and meaning in his desperate world through the works of Shakespeare. Many walks in Vancouver’s Stanley Park coupled with a love for Shakespeare filled my mind with a series of images that lead to my series vision. The horror feature script is based on my experiences living in an apartment that was part of an old Victorian home. My dream world started feeding me information about the buildings dark unburied history. One morning I awoke from a nightmare and a series of arms were trying to pull me into a damp bedroom wall. It was as though the wall or buried souls needed my life force. I moved out of the apartment shortly thereafter but continued to be troubled by the history of the home. Incidentally the Victorian family buried there family members around the property. Writing children’s books was the result of a publisher who asked me to attempt the challenge. I couldn’t get over how natural the process was. I wrote one story about a little girl and her relationship with the ‘little people’ or ‘sleep well tic tocks’. The other story involves a boy’s relationship with a dragon. The feedback on the stories has been truly amazing!! When I write stories, I watch the imagery flow in my mind as though I’m viewing a movie. It almost writes itself. It comes from a place of pure creativity.

ED- Aside from acting and writing you have been a casting director and an outstanding musician, and the list seems to go on. It has been an honor and a pleasure Andrew to introduce you to all our readers and we want to thank you, and your representatives at Wanstrom & Associates, for allowing us to do so. We wish you much luck in all that you do, and hope that you keep in touch with The Eerie Digest so that we can keep our readers, and your fans, informed with all your future career updates.

AJ- Thank you again for all your support and interest in the development of my career. I’m not actually an ‘outstanding’ musician. I was raised by a very musical family Who blessed me with some basic music training at an early age. To the reader pursuing a career in this somewhat insane profession, please remember the following: You are a creative spirit. Only you know deep down what you are capable of. Don’t allow someone else’s bitterness, jealousy or fears to govern your future or sense of self. Seek out artists that inspire you, nurture your creative being and keep growing! You CAN DO ANYTHING!!!!!!

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