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Interview: Neil Jackson

In general, acting as a profession can be a road filled with as many ups as there are downs. The key as an actor is to keep pushing forward because you never know what is right around the corner. One actor who is all too familiar with the highs and lows is Neil Jackson.

Right now, you can say Neil is on a high in his career as he has three high profile projects on the horizon. He’ll be appearing in the new series DC’s Stargirl, the third season of Amazon’s Absentia, and the upcoming action and adventure film The King’s Man.

We had the chance to sit down and talk with the talented actor about all three projects. We discuss what fans can look forward to with DC’s Stargirl, why his work on Absentia is very important to him personally and his character in The King’s Man.

**SPOILER ALERT** One of the Absentia questions contains a spoiler if you haven't seen the second season!**

Pop Culture Principle – You will be appearing in the upcoming DC Universe series Stargirl. What can you tell us about your character Jordan Mahkent?

Neil Jackson – Jordan Mahkent is a businessman who has substantial wealth and resources. He was married to a woman named Christine and was desperately in love and then she got sick and dies. The reason she died is because she was a teacher and the school that she worked at was built on ground that was used as a toxic waste dump for a pharmaceutical company and they covered it up. Jordan found out that she ended up dying because of someone else’s negligence and made it his personal mission to make sure that nobody else would ever suffer the same indignity or indiscretion again.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you see Jordan Mahkent as a villain or is he in that grey area between villain and hero?

Neil Jackson - Well, he set up the Injustice Society to fight the injustice that caused the death of his wife. It’s interesting because he’s labeled as the villain of the piece and he’s kind of the leader of this group of “villians” but I never saw him like that. In his own mind, he’s a hero because he’s the one that’s trying to do something to seismically change society and the community to make sure that everyone is better off and never suffers the loss that he suffered. It just so happens that the way he goes about it, some people may not agree with his method.

When the show creator Geoff Johns pitched this character to me, I didn’t think that he was a villain. He’s just a very passionate, vitriolic person who believes wholeheartedly that he is doing good and when you hear him talk about it, it’s difficult not to accept and agree with his stance, it’s just that his methods are slightly more out there.

Pop Culture Principle – Did you do any type of research in preparing for the role of Jordan Mahkent?

Neil Jackson – I started looking at the comics, but there are so many iterations of this character. He was introduced several decades ago and in the original iteration of the character, he was almost like this impish Jack Frost character who was mischievous. He had a freeze gun that would freeze things around him. So, that didn’t really help me a great deal and I then decided that I would go off script and talk to Geoff about him.

The research quickly became about the version of the character that was created by Geoff and the world that he was creating. All of that was born out of a lot of conversations about what are his motivations, who is he, and what does he want in this world. We decided upon a blue-collar palette and said that yes, he can turn his skin to ice, but the cold is also a metaphor for how he has become as a person because of the death of his wife. He has turned very cold and analytical to the world and wanted to make sure he was laser-focused on the mission that he set upon himself.

Underneath all of that is this blue tone of sadness. He is deeply, deeply sad and it would have been easy to play this guy as aggressive, fiery and vitriolic, but it made a lot more sense and it seemed a lot more interesting to me and Geoff to play him a lot sadder. He wished that he didn’t have to do this, but he believes that he is the only person with the strength and volition to follow through and make the hard decisions to make sure that society changes for the better.

Pop Culture Principle – The DC Universe has a big and loyal fanbase. How does it feel knowing that you will now be a part of the DC Universe?

Neil Jackson – It’s going to be fun! I kind of had my first taste of this about fifteen years ago when I did Blade the series which was shot up in Vancouver. That was the first time I was involved with any Marvel or DC projects. Back then, that was before social media really kicked off and back then people were using Myspace and they would contact me via that platform. The number of people who reached out and were passionate back then will be nothing compared to this. I am really excited to see the response.

I genuinely believe in what Geoff has created here. He always said that his touchstone for this project was Back to the Future. He wanted to try and make a show that was full quadrant, full family entertainment that has real darkness and is scary in moments, but real light and happiness and all the magic that comes in between, and he’s succeeded in that. In the pilot, I feel he got that energy from that. It’s silly in places which I love and it’s very, very dark and moody.

You get a little bit of an introduction to Jordan in the pilot. A little more of an introduction to him in the second episode, but it’s the third episode where you get his backstory and you really find out who he is. His story gets gradually darker and darker. I’m very excited for fans to see this and I am very excited to hear their comments and thoughts on the show because I think people are really going to be blown away by what they will see on the screen.

Pop Culture Principle – Many actors we’ve spoken to have all said that one of the things they wanted to do is play a superhero or a supervillain. Do you feel the same?

Neil Jackson – I never really thought about being a supervillain. I’m British, so James Bond was always the superhero that I gravitated towards. I think to a degree, it’s everybody’s dream to be a superhero. When we are children, we want to believe that we are special. The angst that we are going through and the pains that we are going through and the drama that we are going through, we are special and there is a reason that we are special.

I think that is why these stories really touch us when we are children because the idea of sometimes wishing that we could just fly away and disappear or just be invisible. Sometimes we wish that we had the strength that we could go against the bullies. We all wish at some point that we had a superpower that would list us out and make us special. The idea that I get to play characters like this on screen is so much fun.

When I was growing up, there were films and television shows, mainly films, that I would watch on repeat. Richard Donner’s Superman, Indiana Jones, Tim Burton’s Batman, and of course James Bond. These kinds of stories I would watch over and over again because they were ways for me to cope with growing up and my childhood and giving me hope and everything else like that. The idea that this thing that we’ve created called Stargirl could mean something like that to somebody else is so beautiful to me.

Pop Culture Principle – You are also appearing in the third season of the series Absentia. For those who haven’t seen the series, can you tell us a bit about what Absentia is about?

Neil Jackson – Honestly, that show is the little engine that could. Sony TV did something really exciting with the show. They’ve created a show that is incredibly dark. It’s a show about an FBI agent who disappears and the show picks up six years after she disappears and is believed to be dead and it turns out that she wasn’t dead, but actually captured by someone and tortured. She gets found, but then copycat murders start happening and they believe that she is actually the murderer, so she has to go on the run to clear her name. It’s incredibly dark and there are a lot of emotions in the show.

Pop Culture Principle – What can you tell us about your character Jack Byrne?

Neil Jackson – Jack is the brother of the main character. When his sister was pronounced dead, he was a surgeon and couldn’t deal with it and went off the rails. He started drinking, became an alcoholic, and lost his medical license because of his alcoholism. He ended up selling medical supplies on the black market and got heavily into prostitution. Emotionally, they really go to places in this show, and as an actor, to get to play these ranges is just phenomenal. This is the third season and we really hope we get one more because there is so much in there to mine.

This third season is so emotional just from Jack’s perspective. At the end of the second season, Jack had finally got himself together. He was working as a paramedic and was about to get his medical license back. He had stopped drinking and fell in love. He happened to fall in love with the stepmother of his nephew and nobody could be told about this affair because it was within the family.

At the end of the episode, she died. So, season three picks up with Jack mourning the death of the woman he loved, but he’s mourning in silence because nobody knew about the affair and it’s eating him alive. He has numerous panic attacks and breakdowns in this opening episode. When reading the script, they really put this character through the wringer in this episode emotionally. I felt a raw sense of responsibility because I’ve battled with depression and I’ve been quite vocal about it on my social media. It’s a topic that is obviously very dear to my heart and I wanted to portray it in a way that was faithful to the character and also faithful to people who deal with depression on a daily basis.

I can’t wait to see it because they allowed me to take it to a place that was painful to experience and I am sure incredibly painful to watch when it comes out, but incredibly truthful. So, that one I am fascinated to see how it turns out on screen. It’s going to be a very interesting and raw experience.

Pop Culture Principle – You are also starring in the highly anticipated prequel The King’s Man. What can you tell us about this movie and your character?

Neil Jackson – Again, it’s one of those amazing gifts that came along. I was over in Bulgaria shooting the second season of Absentia and wasn’t able to go over for an audition for this role, so I quickly taped the audition. I flew over and met Matthew Vaughn and they sent me the script. The first Kingsman movie was incredible and I really loved it. I thought it was just a perfect action film.

The fact that they have set the entire thing in 1911 at the beginning of the first world war and it’s really the origin of the Kingsman. I get to play this character called Captain Forest who is a high-ranking officer in the British army and he’s on the front line in the trenches of World War I. He’s given a mission to recover some secret information from the Nazis that could turn the tide of the war. I can’t wait for fans of the first movie to see this one!

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A huge thank you to Neil Jackson for taking the time to sit down and talk with us. DC's Stargirl will make its premiere on Tuesday, May 19th at 8/7c on the CW. The third season of Absentia kicks off soon on Amazon Prime and The King's Man hits theaters on September 18th.

**Main photo courtesy of Manfred Baumann**

**DC's Stargirl photos courtesy of Smallz & Raskind/The CW**

**Absentia photos courtesy of Amazon**

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