Many TV viewers first met Joshua Jackson when he played the preposterously charming Pacey Witter on the teen soap sensation Dawson's Creek. Since then, he has bulked up his IMDb page with a mix of interesting movies and edgy TV projects, including his latest gig playing the strong, silent (and seriously sexy) Cole Lockhart on The Affair (currently airing its second season on Showtime). Here, the Vancouver native shares some of the secrets to his success including why, when you're a dude, dressing sharply is pretty simple.
To be creative, you have to be prepared
When you get into a character, you try as much as you can to have sorted out the lay of the land for that person beforehand, which allows you to be really specific in the individual expressions in a scene. Before season one [of The Affair] we had a clinical psychologist in who deals with infidelity and relationships, and then I spoke to other people about the trauma of losing a child and how that colours your interactions. You build up a framework for who you think this guy could be.
How to be a real man (on camera)
When you do a sex scene there is the very real issue of gender politics in the situation. As much as a man is mostly naked and exposed, which can be kind of awkward, there's a certain degree, in general, in which a man feels more comfortable in that nude space, where a woman does not because of objectification. Particularly since most crews are mostly male. So [for the woman] it's this environment where there are 35 or 45 male energies in that space. As the male actor, it's incumbent on you to create a safe environment. You have to work out the mechanics of what she's comfortable with. Again, all that is is preparation and honesty and a bit of grace and humility, but it does not make for the sexiest moment.
The trouble with the trappings
I look back on the bulk of [my Dawson's Creek] experience very fondly. I'm not so sure that I had really metabolized the whole fame portion of it at that age because it all happened so fast. [As an adult actor], there is a large portion of that stuff that I don't find all that interesting. I love the actual doing of my job and some of the trappings are cool. It's nice to be able to get a good table at a restaurant and there are definitely perks I indulge in, but a lot of the fame portion of acting is not all that fun. There is a certain degree to which feeling like you're being observed alters your behaviour. I resent the idea that a lunatic with a camera can follow you around all day and suddenly you can't just live your life. You can't get away from it. Even if you ignore it, that's a new action. It alters the course of your day whether you choose to engage in it or whether you try to pretend it's not there.
It's okay to dress like a grown-up
If you've been paying attention you'll notice that, yes, I have started dressing like an adult. For a long time in my 20s, I didn't feel comfortable dressing up a bit, dressing the part. Maybe it's the Canadian boy in me; I didn't want to be peacocking. That changed with Diane [Kruger, actress and Jackson's long-time girlfriend] when I started to see myself through her eyes, and I know that sounds incredibly sappy. I'm not sure that I ever felt like I was a handsome man before her, and then when you wake up next to somebody every morning and you see the love in their eyes, that starts to change, so that's the organic way that [my fashion sense has] shifted over time. In the specifics, it's a lot easier for a man. If it's black tie, I've got to put on a tuxedo, or if it's dressy, I wear a suit. There's a lot less bandwidth.
Throw yourself in front of the (figurative) train
After Dawson's Creek was done, I was feeling burnt out by the intensity and the length of that experience. I went and did a play in London. I wasn't making any money, it wasn't a grab for fame or the next big thing, but it allowed me to rediscover the things I am passionate about. I think that's a good lesson. Every once in a while, do something that terrifies you. Put yourself in the way of something that you could potentially really, really fail at. Succeeding and failing are both instructive.