Recently I got the chance to speak on a wide range of topics with one of Canada’s busiest actors, Andrew Jackson. Andrew is set to grace U.S. television screens Fall 2007 with his new show “The Collector” which has garnered high praise in markets where it has already shown.
Andrew will also be appearing in the upcoming Horror film Seed as well as numerous new projects. I want to thank him for taking the time to answer my questions.
You have an array of talents from writing, to acting, music, and voice over work. Can you tell the readers a bit about how you got into each of them, and how you find time for each of them in your schedule?
Andrew: Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough hours in the day to fully explore my personal and professional interests.
Music was introduced to me at an early age by my parents. We had a family band called the “Jackson Quartet” and played at various church venues throughout Northern Ontario. I studied piano between the ages of four and ten and trumpet from the age of eight to seventeen. From that point forward, I merely dabbled in music. My sister went on to write music professionally for schools and children’s theatre. There was a period in my adult life when I composed music. The melodies drifted through my mind as I slept. The dream world has proven to be an important source of creativity for me.
I have various story lines and script ideas waiting to be brought to fruition. This past year I took the time to write a number of prose pieces. The feedback I received was amazingly supportive. Friends have encouraged me to publish some of my work. A great deal of the writing ideas and phrasing comes to me in a dream state at around 5:00 am. Years ago, a First Nations stone carver in British Columbia advised me to get up and write at exactly 5:00 am. He said it was my time of creativity. Given my disdain for early morning rises, I dismissed his wisdom.
Acting is my greatest passion. I discovered the liberating world of human expression and story-telling during the rehearsal period of a high school production of “Oliver.” I played Fagan, the infamous leader of the pick pockets. The experience was life changing.
Voice-over work can be an actor’s quickest source of much needed revenue. I had been in the business for years before I started getting voice and animation auditions and jobs on a regular basis. A voice performer doesn’t have to concern themselves with their physical appearance or memorize 12 to 15 pages of text a night to prepare for an audition. He or she arrives at the audition 20 to 30 minutes before hand, prepares, enters the studio and collaborates with the casting director or director/producer.
The voice is an amazing instrument. The music training that I received at an early age and the high quality concerts that my parents had me attend, helped me to develop an ear for sound, intonation and rhythm. A great voice performer is blessed with an innate gift, works their ass off to perfect their individual voice, develops a range of characters and remembers to always find a sense of personal freedom that comes from a willingness to have fun.
As a follow up, which ability do you find the easiest, and which the hardest?
Andrew: Pursuing music or acting professionally is nothing short of madness. It requires a commitment that goes beyond anything that a rational individual would tolerate. I have a tremendous respect for any performer who withstands the challenges of either career and commend them for their undeniable passion. I am not familiar with the challenges of a professional writer. I’m certain it is an extremely difficult career path. I’ve witnessed actors who took up the challenge of script writing, developed a strong interest in their material and ultimately had their storylines or ideas stolen. I think that kind of experience would crush my spirit as a creative individual
The Collector is set to debut in the states this fall, and based on the buzz
it has earned, looks to be a very good series. What can you tell us about the
character you play in the film, and the series in general?
Andrew: The Collector is an inspired supernatural dramatic series. The talented writer/producers Jon Cooksey and Ali Matheson did an outstanding job. Each individual episode focuses on a featured character who has sold their soul to the devil. The protagonist and soul collector has a narrow time period to find out who suffered as a result of the unfortunate pact. Some guest starring characters are able to find redemption and others are sucked into the bowels of hell. One of the greatest things about the series, is the range of material explored from one episode to the next. Many of the guest starring characters have made a soul selling pact in exchange for something that many audience members will view as surprisingly noble. Amidst the dark and heart-felt storylines is an ever present sense of irony. The devil channels through a completely different character each episode. His or her dark iconic sense of humour coupled with the quick flash of red eyes immediately establishes the anti-Christ.
I have a recurring role on the Collector series as ‘Danny,’ the deceased husband of ‘Jerry” (Ellen Dubin) and father to ‘Gabriel’ (Aidan Drummond). My character appears in flash-backs and makes spiritual visitations to his autistic son. The Gabe character is both elusive and fascinating. People will continue to love the series
In “Seed” you play a Dr. What can you tell the readers about your character and the film?
Andrew: Uwe Boll discovered a dark and controversial failure within the US criminal justice system. If an execution fails to take the life of a convicted criminal following three attempts, it is considered an act of God and the individual is set free. In his research Uwe Boll discovered historical cases of convicted criminals who survived the electric chair only to be left ‘brain-dead.’ He studied documentary footage from the 1970’s of real life executions. Mr. Boll considers the death sentence an extreme act of barbarism and a reflection of an implicit darkness that exists within all of us. The feature film “Seed” was inspired by Uwe Boll’s opposition to capital punishment.
I play the prison doctor in “Seed” who is responsible for determining a convicts medical status. After three failed attempts in the electric chair, my character is coerced by the warden to pronounce Seed dead. The central character is buried alive; digs his way out of the grave and embarks on a vengeful killing spree.
“Seed” is likely to be a controversial film. What attracted you to the
project, and what is your take on the controversy that some have about graphic violence in film and media?
Andrew: Uwe Boll approached Seed from a unique and challenging perspective. He wrote a treatment rather than a finished script. Actors were expected to improvise most of the dialogue. Much of the film’s storyline events took place during moments of silence. The executions were shot in real time, thus creating a gritty docu-style feel to the film. Improvising dialogue as a doctor was somewhat intimidating. I spent time with a physician and researched both the technical requirements in term s of medical instruments and language. Everything changed on the day of filming which proved to be somewhat unsettling. The natural silence and the nerve wracking uncertainty kept us all existing in the moment. It created a real-life performance experience.
Uwe Boll has an enormous passion for animals, with a particular fondness for dogs. He was granted animal torture footage from PETA which appears at the beginning of Seed. Witnessing the torture of domestic animals is something I will never forget. It changed my world. Uwe wanted to prove his Nitzchean inspired perspective of humanity with his film. He succeeds in exposing man’s ugliest and darkest nature. The opening docu-sequence shifts perfectly into the imaginary world of Seed.
I am not a huge fan or advocate of violent films but I believe in the freedom of expression. When I see films like ‘Braveheart’ or ‘300,’ I sit in my seat, broadsword in hand relishing the death of my blood-soaked enemies in the name of justice. I am aware of that primal part of my being and acknowledge it as part of the human condition. That said, I would not and could not act upon that buried impulse in the real world. I am simply given an opportunity to explore that part of the self through the film and entertainment venue. We have a responsibility to question and acknowledge that part of ourselves through literature, art, music and film. Sometimes it’s not okay or acceptable to simply go with the flow and accept corruption. If we believe in something and our expression of those beliefs frightens and angers some individuals, so be it. Stir the pot and save your soul! I believe in an artist’s responsibility is to awaken the senses. At times it is necessary to shock an audience into laughter, tears or even rage. Artistic expression has changed mankind’s views throughout history and in many cases guided us to develop new constructs or points of view.
I personally believe in a spiritual afterlife, the human soul and that mankind is capable of rising above his most putrid nature. That is simply my point of view and welcome anyone who chooses to challenge my feelings on the subject through film or any other medium.
What were some of your biggest challenges in making “Seed” and what are some of your fondest memories of the production?
Andrew: The film Seed was shot at Riverview Mental Hospital in British Columbia. What a disturbing and fascinating setting for the film. Highly questionable experimentation was done on patients during the 1950’s. Our North American society had extremely damaging views and attitudes towards people placed in such institutions.
Riverview has a notorious reputation for being extremely haunted. One can feel a very strong and oppressive energy throughout the hospital. At one point outside the building during lunch, I felt a strong presence at may side. I turned to some fellow cast and crew members and said, ” We have a visitor!” It was a very hot, calm summer afternoon. Suddenly a gust of wind knocked everything off the table. It left my co-workers stunned complete with gaping mouths. To me, the experience supported my belief that we exist in an inter-dimensional world.
You have done a solid amount of work in the fantasy genre. Would you say you are a fan of the genre, and if so, what are some films and shows that you enjoy?
Andrew: I love the fantasy genre both as a performer and as an audience member. There is a wonderful moment in “Time Bandits” that captures my imagination and creates the sense of magic one experiences only as a child. The film’s characters are traveling on an 1800’s style ship battling out their personal drama, when their world is disrupted by what appears to be a beast of the sea. After great waves and rocking, the entire ship rises above the ocean surface revealing the head of a massive giant. The oversized man walks onto the shore line carrying the ship on his head, proceeds to rub his bald scalp and removes his hat/ship. That’s real magic! Quality fantasy films awaken the inner child and remind us of the joy of wonder and discovery.
I enjoyed, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Harry Potter numbers one and three, Merlin (the original NBC mini-series), Dreamkeeper, The Never Ending Story and Jumanji to name a few.
What was it like working with Uwe Boll, and what would you say are his
strengths as a film maker?
Andrew: Uwe Boll is extremely direct as a man at the helm. He trusts his performers and has a very clear idea of what he wants. I love the fact that he is not afraid to be controversial and pursue his vision in the face of great criticism.
I noticed that you are able to do many different accents, can you tell the readers about some of them, and how did this ability evolve as I imagine it must take alot of study to perfect various accents.
Andrew: The entertainment business often takes what it needs and can have a serious impact in shaping an actor. I started to develop a range of accents as the result of accent requirements for auditions and roles. Once an actor has done the appropriate accent research, is confident with the intonations and sounds, settles into their role, the result is liberating. One ceases to feel self-conscious or self-aware when embodying an accented character.
As an actor, what would you say have been some of your biggest challenges, and if you were to be able to work with anyone you wished, who would that be?
Andrew: Canada is shaped and controlled by its big brother to the south. If a Canadaian artist stays in Canada, he/she relinquishes a wealth of career opportunities. That said, I feel that the greatest obstacle I’ve had to face as an actor lies from within. The nature of the business can challenge every part of one’s spiritual, mental and emotional being. Finding a sense of balance in life in conjunction with being successful has proven to be my greatest challenge to date.
Daniel Day Lewis is an amazing, brilliant and an inspirational actor. Working with him would undoubtedly be an extraordinary experience.
What do you have upcoming that fans can look for you in
Andrew: I recently recorded the lead in an X-BOX game. I performed 116 pages of a 118 page script and am still working on the project. I will keep people posted once I am granted the freedom to share more details. Shhhhhh!
What do you like to do in your free time, and what sort of music, movies, and
games fdo you like?
Andrew: My interest in music and movies tends to eclectic and diverse. As for film, some of my favourites are in no special order:
The Red Violin, Tous Les Matins du Monde, Bliss (Australia), Angelie, Pulp Fiction
Finding Nemo, Babette’s Feast, Mask (Jim Carrey), Jesus of Montreal, The Red Lantern
A River Runs Through It, Waking Ned Devine, Citizen Cane, Before The Fall (Germany)
Como Agua Para Chocolate, Jean de florette & Manon des sources..
Spare time interests include: weight lifting, rowing, canoeing, wildlife, hiking, European style coffee shops, cigars, scuba diving, movies, theatre, biking, mountain biking, travel, writing, reading, great food, red wine and fantasizing. As for games, (I assume you are referring to computer games), I have an obsessive personality and stay clear of such dangerous temptations.