Joshua Jackson Interview: Empowering Independent Storytellers
Image attributed to Stephen Lovekin
Canadian-born actor Joshua Jackson is known for his role as Charlie Conway in Mighty Ducks, as Pacey Witter in the teen drama television series Dawson’s Creek (1998-2003) and as Peter Bishop in the science fiction series Fringe (2008-2013). Jackson recently portrayed Dr. Christopher Duntsch in Dr. Death, which was inspired by a true story. He also starred in the two drama miniseries Little Fires Everywhere and The Affair.
In addition to an acting career spanning over 30 years, Jackson is the chairman of Liquid Media Group, whose goal is to empower independent storytellers in film and television. The company produces and distributes entertainment content for platforms including film, television, gaming and VR through its network of shared services. In short, Liquid Media wants to create an easier path for filmmakers to get their content in front of audiences, allowing them ownership in their content across all ancillaries so that they survive to tell another story. The company serves customers in Canada and the United States.
"There are many more voices out there than stories that have been told."
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Josh, I understand you got the idea for a company like Liquid Media Group from your years as an actor?
Joshua Jackson: I did. Yeah. The germ of the idea came out of me being a young actor in Vancouver and seeing that there was a real disconnect between the amount of talent that was kicking around and the amount of ownership that was being retained by that talent. Obviously, that went through a lot of different permutations in my mind before we got to the point of the company. But one of the things that happened in the intervening years was that the streaming revolution made the barriers to entry much, much lower for storytellers who wanted to get in front of the world and tell their stories, but it also made the landscape much, much more complex.
Ultimately, what the company is is an understanding that there are many more voices out there than stories that have been told, but the tools necessary that the studios, or the gatekeepers as I call them, used to provide don’t really exist at the independent level. So what we’re trying to do with the company is to appreciate this very unique moment in time, this streaming revolution, and provide the tools necessary for storytellers to be able to tell their stories and then get them in front of the world.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Does the company invest in certain projects?
Joshua Jackson: Yeah. It can. It’s a variety of different things. Investing is certainly one of them. It can start from even earlier than that like from building out a budget plan and a production plan for a story. Very rarely has this happened, but sometimes you actually have too much money for a movie. Usually, it’s the opposite problem. But when you’re making a project, it’s hard to know what size you should be making it in order to potentially recoup that investment, right? So we can come right in at the beginning and help develop a story, help develop a budget, and we can provide investment. We can also provide assistance on physical production, and then as we get to the end, on post production and even through to release.
I don’t want to give myself too much credit for having a brilliant idea. It’s an idea that was had about 75 years earlier at the beginning of the studio system, recognizing that it takes a lot of hands to make a good project. In order to give a project the best possibility it can have for success, you need a lot of different skillsets. I think it’s amazing, the world we live in right now. But the truth is: By those big studio systems kind of moving out of the scene mostly, they have less of a vacuum of skills and tools in the industry that are maybe more necessary now than ever because the landscape is so complex.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You are talking about the number of streaming service options available today?
Joshua Jackson: Exactly. Instead of it being a traditional eight or six studios and a couple of networks, now you have 10 major streaming platforms plus the traditional studios, plus a bunch of smaller platforms who each own an economic model whether it’s ad based, not ad based or subscription based. There’s just a huge variety of complexity, which, as any business person will tell you, that provides opportunity. But being able to navigate that landscape is not necessarily the same skillset as being able to direct a great film or writing a great TV show.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do the filmmakers or the showrunners come to the company, or does Liquid Media reach out to them?
Joshua Jackson: It depends really. There’s a certain amount of projects that we know are out there, so there are some we will certainly pursue. But generally speaking, so far, it’s people coming to us who need help in some part of the process. Not every project works for us. We’re still a small company. We’re building and growing up right now. So we are going to be increasing our capacity to take on more projects, but right now, it’s a conversation between ourselves and a producer, a director or whomever about how we can mostly be of service in that storytelling.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How long has Liquid Media Group been operational?
Joshua Jackson: We have been operational for just less than five years now.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Are you slowing down on the acting roles to take a more active part in the company?
Joshua Jackson: I hope I’m not slowing down on the acting roles. My intention is to do both. There is a professional management team that runs the company. I’m the chairman. So I’m not part of the day-to-day management part of it. But I am very active and hands on in the implementation of it.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Where is Liquid Media located?
Joshua Jackson: The company’s located in Vancouver, but in a way that the entertainment industry is a global industry. We’re a bit all over. One of our subsidiaries is based out of Seattle. Two of our executives live in Toronto where we just closed an acquisition for a company based out of Los Angeles. Our intention is to have a reach beyond the borders of Canada. But also there’s a reason why we are a Canadian-based company. There are great advantages of production out there, and there’s also just a gigantic talent base that traditionally has had a difficult time getting the risk capital necessary to tell their own stories rather than being hired in the service of somebody else telling stories.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: I believe that Canada is one of the most popular filming locations for Hallmark movies.
Joshua Jackson: Yep. I know one of the producers, and they do quite a lot of those in Vancouver. But they do them all over. Those artists who are working on those shows have their own stories to tell. While it’s great for them to be able to work on Hallmark or whoever’s piece of material, a healthier version of the business is recognizing the talent that’s there and assisting them in getting their stories out rather than just working on other people’s work.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Josh, you were born in Vancouver but spent the first few years of your life in California?
Joshua Jackson: Well, I spent the first few years of my life in Vancouver, and then we moved to California when I was two. We spent five years in California and slowly moved our way up the coast to Vancouver. I came back to the States for Dawson’s Creek when I was 19. I was in North Carolina for six years, and then I was back in Vancouver. I went to New York for a little while and back to LA. I’ve lived a typically nomadic life that is an actor’s life.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Your mom was a casting director, so is that why you began acting when you were young?
Joshua Jackson: Yeah. Things get passed down to families. My mom was a single mother and was a single working mother. The glorious beginning of my career, I think, was literally for her to have a place to park me where she could keep an eye on me (laughs). I liked it. Because she was in casting, she knew the pitfalls and the perils of it. So she was very conscientious about making sure it was always something that I enjoyed.
But I just kept going in a very kid way. My childhood was not a professional one even though there was a professional portion of my childhood. I’d do a job, and I’d go to regular school. I’d do another job and go back to regular school. I think I had probably the healthiest version of that. There was not a lot of pressure on me at a young age. The pressure got a little higher as I got older, but there was not a lot of pressure on me at a young age to be doing this fulltime. My fulltime job was still being a student.
Smashing interviews Magazine: Dawson’s Creek was your breakthrough role, but what was your first professional acting job?
Joshua Jackson: The first significant role that I booked was Mighty Ducks. Technically, my first role was in a movie called Crooked Hearts. I’d been working for five or six years before Dawson’s Creek. When the audition came down for Dawson’s, it actually only happened because I was doing another job in Los Angeles at that time. Like I said, I really wasn’t a professional kid, so I never went to pilot season before that. It just wasn’t part of the way mom was raising me. It was only because I was down there for work that I was doing other auditions while I was there. That worked out pretty well for me.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Indeed, it did. I read that showrunner Kevin Williamson wanted you to play Dawson.
Joshua Jackson: I don’t know that he wanted me to play Dawson. I think ultimately everybody was in the places he wanted them. But he definitely had me audition for Dawson. The audition process for that show was so crazy (laughs). I can’t remember how many it was, but we came back time and time again. I’m surprised they didn’t have me audition for Joey at one point.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Fringe developed sort of a cult following over the years. Did you ever have any strange encounters with fans about the show?
Joshua Jackson: We’d go down to Comic Con every year. I don’t know if it was strange, but it was pretty overwhelming the response we’d get down there. Comic Con itself is just an overwhelming place, but the amount of love we’d get in the two days we were down there was shocking. You know, when you’re working on something, you sort of lose the forest for the trees, and then every once in a while, you’re reminded, “Oh, no. People are watching this and they really like it.”
Smashing Interviews Magazine: You should be very proud of your work, too, in Little Fires Everywhere with Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon (also executive producers).
Joshua Jackson: Thank you. I am. I need to sing the praises of those two women. I think they are amazing, and they both did incredible jobs. They deserve all the credit in the world for putting that together.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: How difficult is it to play a seemingly evil person (Dr. Christopher Duntsch) with apparently no redeeming qualities, and shut all of that off when you leave the set?
Joshua Jackson: Yeah. It’s difficult for sure. You’re putting yourself inside the mindset of somebody who is just evil. He’s just a terrible, terrible person who did terrible things and ultimately didn’t hold himself responsible for the awful actions. So there’s definitely a weight and a burden that comes with that in the telling of that story. I think the best antidote you could possibly have is to come home every night and have a loving wife and a happy baby, which I did, thankfully. Otherwise, it would get to be very dark very fast.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Your daughter is precious, by the way. You and your wife, Jodie Turner-Smith, are both in the entertainment industry. So what if, in a few years, your daughter told you that she wanted to pursue an acting career?
Joshua Jackson: I would encourage my daughter to do anything she wants to do. So if it’s something she was interested in, I would encourage her in the most helpful way possible. I’m not sure that I think that sets, particularly for young children, are very good environments. It’s a professional environment, and I’m not sure we need to professionalize children ever. So I would say, “Great. Let’s get into school plays. Let’s do the drama club.” If the desire is to perform, there’s lots of ways to do that before you have to meet up with getting paid and all of the pressure that comes with that.
If she wants to keep on doing it as a grownup, I think that’s fantastic. I love what I do for a living. I love the life it has provided me, the exposure to things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and the interesting people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I would love that for my daughter.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Any regrets about your career thus far?
Joshua Jackson: That’s a very long list of things I would’ve liked to have done but didn’t ultimately get a chance to do. But the truth is, when I sit here looking back on the last 32 years of doing this, even the places that were dumpy, I wouldn’t trade out because then I wouldn’t be here.
Smashing Interviews Magazine: Do you have some final thoughts about Liquid Media Group?
Joshua Jackson: I’m just happy to talk to anybody that wants to talk about it because it’s been a real labor of love. I think we have an opportunity to do some real good inside of our industry. I just want to say that I thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
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