Born in Singapore, 23-year-old Jackson Rathbone spent time in Indonesia, London, Connecticut, California and Norway before he finally settled in Texas. After discovering his initial love for acting while he was doing local theater, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue it as a full-time career. With a resume that is divided between film and television work, Rathbone, who also enjoys writing and performing music, is currently garnering attention for his role as Jasper in Twilight, the highly anticipated film, based on the Young Adult vampire book series by Stephenie Meyer.
Rathbone recently spoke to MediaBlvd Magazine about what it’s like to be involved with such a high-profile project.
MediaBlvd Magazine> You’ve been performing for a long time now. When did you become serious about acting and decide that you wanted to make a career out of it?
Jackson Rathbone> I’ve been doing the acting thing for awhile now, ever since 6th grade community theater in Midland, Texas. I started off with the Pickwick Players, a local young actors’ group. They put on about four shows a year, back when I was in it, so I grew up doing a lot of theater. I actually started off doing musical theater. I sang and danced, and did all that. Then, I got really into Shakespeare. A couple of my older actor friends put up their own versions of Shakespeare and I was in one of my friend’s versions of Othello, and I just fell in love with classical theater. Then, I went to Interlochen Arts Academy for my junior and senior years of high school, where I studied acting. Basically, it’s a high school for the arts, and I studied acting as a major there, and that’s when I really got into doing all the music as well. It’s an amazing music school. And then, as soon as I graduated from there, I moved out to Los Angeles and started doing the acting thing.
MediaBlvd> How did you become a part of Twilight? Did you have to go through the regular auditioning process for it, or had they seen you in something?
Jackson> They were casting for a couple of months, considering different people for different roles. For me, it was fairly simple. The audition place was close to where I live, so I just walked there, with my guitar, for the auditions and two callbacks. The first one, I happened to bring my guitar by pure chance, and then, for the next two, I was like, “Well, I got a callback from the first one, so I might as well keep bringing my guitar. It might be lucky.” So, I would just be in the waiting room with all the other actors and they’d be talking and I’d be lightly playing the guitar until I got called. I actually had to learn how to play guitar for a theater show of Grease: The Musical, and I just fell in love with it. I haven’t stopped playing since.
MediaBlvd> For those that are still somehow unfamiliar with what Twilight is, can you talk about who you play in the film and how your character fits into the story?
Jackson> The story is based on the amazing book series by Stephenie Meyer, which is about a human girl who falls in love with a vampire boy. He’s trying to control his desire to eat her because he loves her so much, and she gets wrapped up in the world of vampires. I play part of the vampire family. We’re trying to stay good. We don’t want to eat people. We think that’s the monsters’ way of life, so we’re trying to be good and only eat animals. Edward, the main guy, is part of this family of vampires that doesn’t eat humans, and they’re the Cullen family. I play Jasper Cullen, who is a vampire from the Civil War era that was turned then, and now he has this peculiar ability to be able to control the emotions of people around him. If everybody is very angry and starts fighting, he can calm them down or get them excited. It would be a lovely ability to have in real life. They’re a close family, so when the human girl, Bella, enters, they’re a bit worried, at first, because they don’t want anything bad to happen to Edward, since he’s falling in love with her. So, we all do our best to protect her when the bad vampires come around.
MediaBlvd> As an actor, when you’re playing a character that’s a vampire who is quite a bit older, how do you find something to identify with? Is his age something that you think about while you’re doing the project, or do you just deal with what he’s going through in the present?
Jackson> Once you get into the mentality that he is about 200 years old, but he’s trapped, forever looking like he’s 17 or 18 years old, it changes the way you go through life. When you’re going through life as a constant senior in high school, you don’t exactly have that certain maturity level put out there as much. I tried to keep it very stoic, calm and centered. I just fed off of the Southern vibe. He’s from Texas. He’s a Southern boy, and I’m actually a Southerner myself. My family is from Louisiana and I lived in Texas for about five years, and that’s where my folks live now. I just tried to keep up the values that I believed Jasper was instilled with, when he was a kid, and I think those were fairly similar to the ones I grew up with. I just tried to play the more humanistic element of him, while at the same time masking that monster element, which is what he’s trying to do anyway. It was a fairly simple task.
MediaBlvd> Since Jasper is developed over the course of the book series, does he figure more prominently into the film? Did you want to read the other books to get a better understanding of him, or did you just want to see what his background was in the first book?
Jackson> What I really wanted to do was just show the angst and the anguish, in terms of the character. Jasper is the latest to come into this vampire family, and the latest to accept this way of life, of not eating humans. He’s finding his morality, within this family structure, and so it’s a little bit harder for him. So, I tried to focus on that, moreso than anything else, and keep it like it is in the book. The character is slowly developed. That’s what really drew me to the character, and that’s how I wanted to play him.
MediaBlvd> At what point did you realize what a phenomenon these books had become and that you were a part of this whole crazy thing?
Jackson> It was in increments. After I booked the project, I called my parents and let them know I was doing the film, and my mother was like, “Oh, the book Twilight, okay.” And, she told my little sister, who’s 13, and all of her friends love the book and were just going gaga over it. And then, my family read the books and they just fell in love with them. They burned through the first three within a week or two. And then, all my cousins started calling me, from all over. They had all found out that I was doing it and they were so excited. That was the first tip to me. I was like, “Wow, people know this book!” And then, while we were filming in Portland — and this is the thing that really got me — every set we were on, we had fans track us down, who were on the outskirts of the set with long lens cameras, taking photos of us while we were filming. That was like, “Wow, this is pretty big! They’re tracking us down. This is interesting.” Once we started receiving care packages from the fans, in our hotel rooms, we were like, “Oh, my God! They’re really into this! This is great!” It’s nerve-wracking because it’s such a huge thing. It has this momentum and this force behind it. Everybody loves these stories, and they’re beautiful, so it’s an honor to be a part of it.
MediaBlvd> Had you been a fan of the vampire genre prior to this?
Jackson> I’ve always had a big thing for vampires. I love the vampire films and the books, like Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat, and all those. I went through those when I was in high school. I loved all the old, bad vampire movies. Nosferatu is one of my favorites, but that’s not a bad one. There are a lot of bad vampire movies out there, and I’ve seen most of them, but I still like them. It’s an interesting genre. It lets us imagine that there’s a realm where we could live forever, and there’s a certain morality behind that. It shows the extremes of human behavior and desire. I’ve always been drawn to extremes. Plus, it’s just an amazing story from folklore that’s lasted over the years.
MediaBlvd> Were you disappointed at all that you didn’t get to wear any fangs in the movie?
Jackson> There was a slight disappointment, but there are so many of those films where they look normal and then, suddenly, they turn into these monster-looking things, like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was happy because it makes it more real. Humans naturally have canine teeth anyway, so I don’t think they need to grow teeth to be able to bite somebody. If you think about it, it’s a little gnarlier that we don’t have teeth.
MediaBlvd> What was it like working with the other actors who played the Cullens?
Jackson> It was fantastic to work with a big ensemble. We all got up there two weeks prior to filming, just to train and talk about the characters and bond as a family. It took one meeting and we were all thick as thieves. We went out every night and hung out. It was a lot of fun. We have a lot of musicians in the cast as well, so we jammed quite a bit. Rob Pattinson and I played an open mic night, right next to the hotel, which was a lot of fun. We just jumped up on stage, in the middle of filming in Portland, Oregon, and did some little singer/songwriter numbers. And, we had a lot of jams back in the hotel. Nikki Reed, myself, Rob and Kristen Stewart all jammed together a lot, played some guitar, made up songs and sang the night away. And, Ashley and Kellan are two of the sweetest people. Kellan helped train me a little bit, back in the gym. We took Ashley out for her birthday to a sushi place. I don’t eat sushi, but I tried. I had several different pieces of raw fish and it didn’t really suit me well, I’ve got to say. But, Ashley loves her sushi and it was her birthday, so we had to take her out. It was fun. Everybody is so chill and just really cool. Peter Facinelli actually took me to get Indian food. I didn’t really know Indian food either, so he helped by ordering for me and telling me what was good, and I fell in love with it. I’ve had it many times since.
MediaBlvd> What sort of training did you do and how involved did you get in the stunts? Had you ever done anything like that before?
Jackson> Actually, this was the most stunt work I’ve done so far, and it was a lot of fun. There’s a big action-packed fight sequence towards the latter part of the film. We had to do this stunt where they strapped us in these harnesses and we jumped off a balcony with a 30-foot drop and then landed. It was about five seconds of pure free-fall, where we jumped off the balcony and were like, “I hope to God that cable catches me, and those guys holding the cable are paying attention.” You get a little bit worried. And then, there’s that moment where they finally catch you and you land and you’re like, “Oh, God, that felt good!” Choreographing that fight was how we spent the first week. And then, for the baseball sequences, we all had to train in different manners. I had to learn how to bat left-handed, and I’m a righty, so that was a little bit difficult. I wanted to perfect that because I didn’t want to have a lame swing, so I worked on my left-handed swinging for a bit. I’ve played baseball before. We had some cast members who had to learn how to play. For the most part, it was fairly simple training. It was mainly about getting into the minds of these vampires, who are a family.
MediaBlvd> What was Catherine Hardwicke like, as a director?
Jackson> Catherine is incredible. Her energy just drives the entire set. She’s got more energy than anybody else there, and she’s constantly running around, figuring out the cool shots. She knows what she wants. She’s worked with young casts before, in Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen, so she’s got a handle on that youth vibe. She’s got an incredibly young spirit too. She’s sweet. She’s just incredibly artistic, which is lovely to see.
MediaBlvd> If the attention you receive from this film helps generate other film offers for you, are there any specific types of projects or genres that you’re hoping to work in, in the future?
Jackson> I really have been looking for a role where I can play music and maybe even sing, but more in the rock ‘n’ roll type sense. Not so High School Musical, but more like The Who’s Tommy. To re-envision something like that would be incredible. But, I’m trying to be fairly picky. I’m looking for roles that show different aspects of my own personality. I think I have many different aspects to my personality, so I like to play as many different types of roles as possible.
MediaBlvd> What is your involvement with the Donnie Darko sequel, S. Darko, and what can fans expect from it?
Jackson> It’s a fun movie. I got to play a real fun character, in terms of character development. The story is basically about Sam (Daveigh Chase), who is Donnie’s younger sister, and she’s run away, about 10 years after her brother’s death. She’s 17 now, and she’s run away with a friend of hers (Briana Evigan) to go off to California to become dancers. And, on the way to California, their car breaks down and they go into this town full of interesting characters. I play one of the townsfolk. I’m the local nerd and the not-very-popular kid, who just spends most of his time researching. I fall in love with Sam, at the off-set, and then, as the story progresses, there are lots of turns and twists. I can’t really reveal anything, but there’s some great moments that should make fans very, very happy.
MediaBlvd> Has it been a conscience decision, on your part, to pick such interesting and different characters to play, instead of going the typical teen movie route? Jackson> Yes. When I was doing theater, and musical theater especially, I was always a character actor. I’d always play the weird parts, or the crazy guy, or the killer. I never really played leading men. I always stayed away from those characters. I’ve never found them as interesting as the supporting characters and the side parts, who drive the story a little bit more. I’ve always loved the character of Iago from Othello, and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing, and Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar. I find the characters that have these dark sides, or even extremely light sides, more interesting. I try to find extremes. Everybody has them, whether you’re a really quiet, soft-spoken person, or you’re loud and obnoxious and you need people to always look at you. Everybody has these basic principles that are all the same. What separates us are the decisions we make. I find it really interesting to just see how different people make different decisions, and how that affects the way that they grow up or define themselves. I grew up around the world, constantly trying to change to fit in. It took me awhile to figure out who I am. I’ve figured out that I’m a chameleon, so I like to try on as many different skins as possible.
MediaBlvd> You currently have your own band as well, don’t you?
Jackson> I do. My band, 100Monkeys ( http://www.myspace.com/these100monkeys, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDgzc7RqaKo ), is comprised of myself, my roommate Ben Graupner, who’s an actor, and our other friend, Ben Johnson, is the drummer. He is the former drummer of the Stevedores, which is one of my favorite bands, so we’re really excited to have him. We’re all old friends from high school. We all met at Interlochen Arts Academy, and Ben Graupner and I were actually roommates back in high school as well. Once we all graduated, we all went to different areas. Ben Johnson went to New York and Ben Graupner went to Scotland. They both went to college, and I moved out to L.A. to do the acting thing. And then, finally, about a year ago, Ben Graupner moved out here to L.A., and then Ben Johnson came out. We started playing together, and it just sounded so sweet. It was just so much fun. The idea of 100Monkeys was something that we came up with. It’s all improvisational music. It’s like a jam band, except we do sing and make up lyrics. Whenever we record, the rule is that we only get one try. You can’t have a redo. You can lay one thing down and do one set of over-dubs, but that’s it. We try to break it down to a simple, natural, live, creative art type of thing, which is what we’ve been doing for the last year. But then, we started settling down and taking a lot of these songs that we just made up on the spot, that people seem to like, and just redid them and kept it up, so we have practiced a few. What we’re doing right now is getting geared up to start playing at this bar in L.A., called the 24K Lounge, which is on Santa Monica. We’re going to have a regular gig there, where we’ll be doing a lot of improv, as well as the couple standard songs that we have.
MediaBlvd> Would you ever want to go on tour with your music?
Jackson> I don’t necessarily want to go on a huge tour, or anything like that. I just love playing and jamming with my friends. There’s just something about music. I don’t need to be paid. I just want to do it. I don’t really want to focus so much on the music side of making things happen. I’m an actor, first and foremost, but the music, for me, is my soul. I could never give it up. I love performing. It’s my only outlet now because I’ve stopped doing theater. I go out and I play open mics, or I play shows at the Kibitz Room (at Canter’s Deli), or a couple other places around L.A., and it’s a blast. It’s a lot of fun.
MediaBlvd> What made you decide to start your own production company, and what do you hope to achieve with that?
Jackson> What my co-producers and I are trying to do with the production company, right now, is write a lot. We have two pilots that we’re writing, for TV shows that we’re trying to get into production. We’re doing some pitching right now. There are some scripts that we’ve written, and that friends of ours have written. I’ve always been blessed to be surrounded by a lot of artists and very creative people, and people that I trust and admire and, because of that, I’m lucky enough to have access to these types of scripts and projects. I just want to bring them to life. I really hope to see a screenplay I’ve written, produced, and hopefully act in it myself. One day, I’d love to direct. But, I never went to college. I’ve learned everything from just being out here in L.A. It’s nice because, every time I work on a film, I try to study as much as I can from the producers, the cinematographers, the directors and the writers. I ask as many questions as I can, to pick as many brains as I can, just to figure out what moves people. I firmly believe that film is an art form. It’s the art form, nowadays, that’s the most prevalent, in terms of being able to affect people. Stage is dying out, to a certain degree, and it’s sad because I love stage. I believe in art, and how art has the ability to affect people and open their horizons. I think film really can do that, and that’s what I hope to achieve.
Source: MediaBlvd Magazine