Meet Joel Jackson

We caught up with West Australian actor Joel Jackson who grew up in Karratha, and chatted about his role as Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.

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What was it like growing up in Karratha?

I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world. It was a coming of age surrounded by an unreal landscape and immense power. It wasn't so much about the people or what the city had to offer, but the landscape and the culture it engendered. We were always out in the open; fishing, surfing, riding bikes in the bush, playing sport, diving, camping, star gazing - you name it. It definitely left its mark on me and I'm forever thankful to the Pilbara.

Were you interested in the arts from a young age? How was that passion nurtured?

Always. As a kid, I'd escape the heat by watching concerts and music documentaries; Queen Live at Wembley, Robbie Williams Live at Knebworth, The Band's Last Waltz, Red Hot Chili Peppers Live at Slane Castle and so many more. That element of extreme performance and energy has been imprinted in my mind. No-one in my family performs or is in the arts, but we devour it. We love music, cinema and live performance. My folks too would always be having friends over and as a kid when I was first learning guitar, they'd get me to play. Those were my first gigs and then it progressed to pubs and clubs and beyond. But acting was a silver lining to all of this. I never thought it would be my entire life; I wanted to be a carpenter. But, thanks in part to Black Swan and Barking Gecko’s regional education programs, who gave me my first taste of acting and developing your own work, I fell for acting and my parents never told me not to go for it - which I think is the only reason I'm here now. They believed in me.

Have you always wanted to be in a Tennessee Williams production? What was it about The Glass Menagerie that attracted you most?

Always. I remember reading In Cold Blood at the same time as I was reading a lot of Sam Shepard and Tennessee Williams, and the mixture of violence, melancholia, the pressure of class and the failing of the American Dream is a bonfire for drama and poetry. In all three examples there is a real and present danger, but there is also a tenderness and vulnerability explored so poetically that your heart soars even with holes in it. The scale of the work is magnificent and I'm thrilled to be leaping at this production with my full force and that of a world class team.

How are you preparing for the role of Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie?

Well currently I'm in LA and doing some work here on the ground to explore the American system and the history of the period. But I've been exploring a lot of Williams' writing and his personal life, digging into the poetry and the scale of his metaphors, looking for ways to make them a universal theme to a contemporary audience. This is his most personal piece and I think we can all relate so well to Tom's struggle of wanting more from his life; more adventure, freedom and less dependency. Especially during the time of post COVID when the outlook for younger Australians is really quite dire. We're stuck between a rock and a hard place and to move forward we are no doubt going to have to upset the expectations of those that came before us.

Can you tell us a funny anecdote from playing Detective James Steed in Ms Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries?

Too many. But my only advice is this; don't work with pigeons, it can get very messy.

What advice would you give to a someone wanting a career in the performing arts?

Wake up and put yourself to work. Discipline, creative practice and knowledge of your domain is paramount. It may be daily writing, accent work, scene study, reading plays, attending galleries, auditioning classes, whatever; be actively creative. Love what you do and stay open to your instincts because they'll lead you on the path to finding your passions and skills inside this industry. The gift of this creative career is that people are always looking to employ the best you, because there is no other you. You're unique in every way and that is your asset.

The Glass Menagerie is showing at His Majesty's Theatre from 2 - 21 August.

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