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B.G. actor-musician goes country

Jonathan Jackson lands role in buzzed-about 'Nashville'

The Columbian
Published: October 5, 2012, 5:00pm

“Nashville” premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 on ABC, Comcast channel 2.

The new ABC drama “Nashville” might just be the perfect fit for Battle Ground native Jonathan Jackson, an actor known for originating the role of Lucky Spencer on “General Hospital” who’s also the frontman for the local band Enation.

“Nashville” combines his love of acting and music, and the focus on relationships makes the show feel like a prime-time soap opera, according to Jackson, 30.

The show centers on the country-music industry. Music legend Rayna James (Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights” and “American Horror Story”) sees her star begin to fade with the arrival of Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere of “Heroes”), a hungry ingénue whose record and ticket sales are surpassing her own. Jackson plays Avery Barkley, an aspiring singer-songwriter dating Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen), who’s the niece of Rayna’s lead guitarist and former flame.

Though it doesn’t premiere until Oct. 10, “Nashville” is already generating positive buzz. Entertainment Weekly predicted it would be the biggest new hit of the season, and it was named one of the five most exciting new series at this summer’s Critics’ Choice Television Awards.

Jackson, a five-time Daytime Emmy Award winner, relocated with his family to Nashville for filming, but he recently took time out for a phone interview to catch up with his hometown fans. The following Q&A has been edited for space and clarity.

What do you think sets “Nashville” apart from other television dramas?

I think the strength of “Nashville” is the characters and the confidence to do a show about relationships and about people. There are a lot of incredible shows on TV, and a lot of them are more big-budget, special-effects-type shows. I think people are still hungry for relational dramas. This is a like a prime-time soap opera. I think the strength of this show is its authenticity.

Tell us about your character, Avery Barkley.

Avery is a bit of a contradiction. He’s a real artist. I think he cares deeply about his songwriting. He’s really in it for the art of music and not so much to play the game of trying to make it in the mainstream. He’s a little bit of a rebel. He has that streak in him, but I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad person by any means. I think there are times that he battles making choices that are more selfish or narcissistic. Any artist who wants to make it in the entertainment business has to have some sense of opportunism to find that moment, but I think the relationship Avery has with Scarlett is genuine and deep and real. He’s definitely not a black-and-white character.

Will you sing on the show?

Yes. We’ll be singing and performing on the show. For all the people who are singing on the show, it’s their actual voice, which is great because it makes everything more authentic.

I’ve been working with my band, Enation, a long time, seven or eight years. I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to music, songwriting and performing, and I’ve also been continuing my acting career. I’ve always wanted to combine those two. I couldn’t have written a better project or dreamed one up. It’s really the perfect blending of those two things.

You left “General Hospital” in late 2011. Tell us about that decision, and is there any chance you’ll return to Port Charles as Lucky?

"Nashville" premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 on ABC, Comcast channel 2.

That’s always open. At this point I can’t because of my schedule on “Nashville.” Hopefully I’ll be able to do that at some point. The main reason I left was the workload and the schedule were too much. It was a perfect storm of intense storylines and the amount of work and the amount of pages I was doing per week. It was a sort of relentless barrage of intense storylines — the deaths of Lucky’s son and wife, his father’s alcoholism and his own drug addiction. I was grateful to be able to have great material to play, but usually there’s a balance of the intensity, and this kind of just kept going and going without a reprieve.

“General Hospital” filmed in L.A. How are you adjusting to life in Nashville?

We’re settling into Tennessee right now. It’s a great area. The people are very friendly. There’s a lot of music history, a lot of American history, and the kids love it. It’s been a blessing.

Besides acting, what other artistic pursuits have been keeping you busy?

My collection of poetry, “Book of Solace and Madness,” is out. It was released in the spring. I’m in the middle of a few other projects. One is a book about the arts. I’m also working on my first novel. Enation is still demoing. We’ll probably release an EP next.

Catching up with the Jacksons

Jonathan Jackson isn’t the only star in his family. His wife, Lisa Jackson (née Vultaggio), played Hannah Scott on “General Hospital” from 1999 to 2001.

The couple has three children: Caleb, 9, Adora, 7 and Titus, who turns 2 in October. Titus has already experienced life in the spotlight. He appeared on “General Hospital” as Aiden, the son of Lucky Spencer (the role Jonathan originated in 1993).

Jonathan Jackson comes from a family of entertainers. His father, Rick “Ricky Lee” Jackson, is not only a Battle Ground physician and one-time aspiring politician but also a country musician.

Ricky Lee performed his song “Freedom Family and Faith,” which he co-wrote with his wife and children, on the national Fox News morning show “Fox & Friends” in November of 2009. His other songs include “We’re Gonna Have a Par-Tea!” in support of the Tea Party movement.

Jonathan’s sister, Candice Jackson, lives in Clark County and is an attorney and author of “Their Lives: The Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine.”

His brother, Richard Lee Jackson, also is an actor. Richard Lee has appeared in film and TV projects including the 2004 movie “Bring It On Again.” Both he and Jonathan are in the local band Enation.