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A Conversation with Jackson Ross

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Jackson Ross.jpgJackson Ross is equally at home on screen or in the theatre, having taken to the stage in plays such as Midsummer Night's Dream, and Oedipus Rex.  A busy man, he has worn may  hats such as  film producer, director, writer, as well as being an actor.  In some of the films he's involved in, Jackson often plays the cop or wiseguy but he also likes roles that challenge his range.

Originally from Kinston, North Carolina he wound up in Miami via Minnesota.  In Minneapolis he had his first brush with movies while working as an extra in Drop Dead Gorgeous.  That's when he first  became interested in film.  While still in Minnesota Jackson produced films of both stage plays and screenplays.   He also met his wife Karuna Sun when she auditioned for a film he was working on.

From Minneapolis they headed to Miami where Karuna was urged to come for modeling work.  Jackson's first job in Florida  was playing a Russian thug in Burn Notice.  Ready to go anywhere he's looking to come back to North Carolina for some of the productions springing up in the area.   Here is a conversation with Jackson about where acting has taken him.

When did you first become interested in acting?Jackson Ross5.jpg
I started acting when I was in 9th grade.  I was asked to be in the children's traveling production of The King Of Ice Cream Mountain.  I loved it! I felt at home entertaining kids on stage.  I studied Shakespeare in high school and went on to study acting in college.  The film acting came later on when New Line Cinema came to Minneapolis to make Drop Dead Gorgeous.  I played a small featured extra part of a SWAT cop.  I became fascinated with everything behind the camera.  So I went back to school to study the history of filmmaking.

In 2004 I formed a company to produce film and stage productions in Minnesota.  We started with short films, like Cab Ride, Defending Sam,  and stage productions such as  My Life As A Telephone Psychic.  

So you have some theatre experience and have worked both sides of the camera.  Which do you like best?

Theater is full emersion with an instant audience which can be good or bad, but what a rush!  I have some really good theater stills, if you want them.  With that said, I want to focus on the tv and film side of the business.  

Is having a theatre background helpful to you as a film actor? 

Yes!  Memorization is huge!   In this biz, if your not prepared, your outta here!  When you have to memorize script and blocking in a short time, it really makes you sharp.  I advise all actors to get into a play at some point.  

I'm a fan of all things bicycle.  Tell me about Killing the Messenger.

Its a race that happens every year on the saturday before the Superbowl.  It was called "Stuperbowl".  The race consists of mostly, die hard bike messengers.  The race was unsanctioned and , therefore, illegal.  Bicyclists from all over the US came because of the challenge of winter, ice and drinking.  YES, I said drinking.  check out the trailer below of Kill the Messenger.

We did principle shooting with 9 crews armed with everything from Canon XL1's to Go Pro's
We had to wait a year (the next race) to do pick up shots.  It was a nightmare.

My first (maybe last) documentary feature.  It took place in late January  .  It was below zero (10 Below) we had all kinds of problems with the cameras. I do, however, feel like I can produce anything after this mess.  

Edible Love sounds interesting.  What is that about?

This was a short, weird film about time traveler and an Aussie infomercial. With the director involved and the budget they had, I was surprised at the outcome. Think in the fashion of most Japanese films. It's funny! And was fun to do!

What kind of acting or film work did you find when you arrived in Miami?

I  was a Russian thug on Burn Notice  and bartender on the next Step Up 4 in 3D. We have been here 9 months but during the winter, TV is on hiatus. They just started up a month ago. Now that we went union we can't do any of the extra or featured extra work.  Karuna gets more work than I do down here.  It's all about models down here.

That's interesting.  What made you decide to choose Miami?  Did the sun, surf, and sand have anything to do with it?

Karuna was getting modeling offers from Florida but then they found out she was in Minneapolis.  They said she had to be down here. Yes. We both hate the snow.  Now we are thinking of North Carolina. We will go wherever the work takes us. All of my immediate family lives in North Carolina, so it would be nice.

Is there an active film community organization in Miami for people wanting to get involved in acting or filmmaking?

Here's the deal about Miami, you can work as an extra on these shows for about $80 a day plus agency fee.
Extra work is an excellent way to get to know the inner working of production. You won't be able to pay the bills with it.

The community is kind of an inner circle thing down here. There are numerous workshops. They all cost money though

That's good to know.  Getting your feet wet by being on the set not only helps a novice learn the jobs of the film crew,  it also helps you learn how to behave on set.  Not to mention the opportunity to do a little networking and get to know people that can be of help in the future.

What do you think about doing shorts and student films for little to no pay as a beginning actor?

Do it! Remember that short films are still films. Acting is still acting no matter how long the film is. Some films have large budgets. Some shorts become features. You may get a chance to showcase your work.

I have a short called Killing Kelly.   It's a short for the sole purpose of showcasing the feature, which I am writing now.   Killing Kelly is in the process of being edited. It's sitting on DV. I shot it for about $10,000.

What are some of the highlights of your theatrical and film career?

The highlights have been on my productions. I have produced stage, which is a big undertaking. As with big projects comes big rewards.  My Life as a Telephone Psychic was a fun play.  An original written by Erin Muir.  

I'm not the type of person that gets star struck, but I had a chance to talk to James Belushi on the set of  Joe Somebody  back in 2001, I think.  Big guy!  Really funny!  We talked about Chicago, where he is from and my brother currently lives.  I am impressed when stars take the time to talk to extras and crew between shots. That was a big highlight for me.  I really respect him as an actor.  

Another highlight was playing a Russian thug on Burn Notice when I first moved to Miami a year ago.  I was a fan of the show already. That may have had something to do with having a lot of fun on set. I think the day ran 14 hours and it was above 100 degrees

Opposite Blood.jpg

What roles are you best suited for and what kind of roles are you anxious to do?

JR: I don't think it's really a matter of best suited.  Type-casted is more like it.  When I perform on stage I get the opportunity to play funnier parts like, Bryan Wingfield in You Cant Take it With You.

In film, I always play cops and/or bad guys.  It's easy to do and doesn't really challenge me that much.

Who is your favorite actor and what is your favorite movie?

My favorite actor, for range is Johnny Depp by far.   Action is Jean-Claude Van Damme.  I know I am a product of the 80's and early 90's.   He will be back.

Favorite movie is  Point Break.  I do love the movie  Hugo though.  I can be a softy at times.

What's ahead for Jackson Ross?

On the plate: I am working on re-writes for a script thats been sitting on my desk since 2006.  Financing fell through and now I want it to take place in South Florida.  I am also writing a horror film called  The Sick and The Guilty.  My wife and I are trying to get our foot in the door ror  Iron Man 3.   We need an agent who has the stones to submit us.

Thank's Jackson for taking the time to speak with us here at the GigSpotting Network.  Do you have one last bit of advice for the aspiring actor be it theatre or film?

Advice for actors: Don't wait for the big break.  Forge your own path!  I act, produce, direct, write,  and help productions out in any area they need.   I just saw a trailer by a young director, Chris Maney, in Jacksonville,  North Carolina for The Hollow Oak.. It looks really good!   I think he has a real eye for directing. It's people like him, I like to help out.


Special Thanks to
Billy Xiong 

For the photos from Opposite Blood