By J & M S h e p h e r d
"T h e F r e e S o u l
is r a r e. But you know it when you see it. Basically because you feel good.
V e r y G o o d. When you are near them. "
- C h a r l e s B u k o w s k i
Most of the world knows him as a vampire.
How many people can actually say that?
In 2008 he was thrust onto the scene as a part of the cultural phenomenon that was Twilight. An actual Cullen, no less! That movie took the world by storm and in it every actor catapulted into instant Hollywood royalty.
Since that time, however, Jackson Rathbone has shown us that there is much more to him than just being an impossibly beautiful, blood drinking, superhuman creature. He surely falls into the category of a true modern-day Renaissance Man. In addition to acting in well over 20 feature films, Rathbone has had his hands in both writing and directing. He is a poet, singer and a multi-instrumentalist. Right in the middle of the Twilight frenzy, Jackson bowled us all over by stepping on the gas and shifting into an even higher gear by taking his funk-rock band 100 Monkeys on the road to strut their stuff all over the US on their 100 City tour.
The whole experience was daring, madcap, beautiful chaos!
But, it doesn't stop there.
Just when you think you got Jackson all figured out, he flips another coin, and he's off again zooming by all of us. A fearless firefly making a trail of magic wherever he goes. There's just no time to stop, when there's more artistic avenues to be explored. But again, if you turn just around the corner, you will soon find out that the man also has a very gentle, spiritual side. A devoted family man, he is a dedicated husband to his wife Sheila, and a loving father to their three beautiful children, Monroe Jackson VI, Presley Bowie and baby Felix Valleau.
Photo: Jackson Rathbone Instagram
The man has a certain light about him.
You would think that when Stephenie Meyer's supernatural love story, "Twilight" first slammed into jam-packed theaters all over the world, that every single eye would be utterly and completely focused on the two protagonists at the center of the story. Shy, awkward, Bella Swan and the sparkling, yet tragic soul of a vampire, Edward Cullen. But that wasn't so. Not "all" of us were looking at the Cullen who was front row and center. A good portion of that audience was drawn to the strangely haunting Jasper Hale who was always lingering ghostly in the peripheral. Although his body language was very strict and still, everything the viewer needed to know about him was revealed in his large, soulful eyes, which almost reminds one of a Tim Burton creation come to life. This was quite an introduction to Rathbone's acting for many of us, and it definitely captivates and beckons the observer to want to know much more about this Jasper fellow and also about the man himself behind those mysterious, hungry eyes.
And that would bring you straight to the world of Jackson Rathbone, of course. If you're expecting this actor to be anything like his quiet, yet restrained Twilight character, It's actually quite a glorious revelation to discover that Rathbone is a very relaxed, easy-going kind of guy. Super expressive, friendly and charming. He really retains a refreshing, salt of the earth-like quality that Hollywood could certainly use more of these days. We would all surely see more of Jasper in the Twilight saga movies that followed, but before all of that, Jackson would show the public another side of himself.
You can learn to expect the unexpected with Rathbone. Who knows, maybe it has to do with being born in Singapore, growing up in Norway, and Indonesia before settling into his Texas roots. Or maybe it's in the blood, Jackson is distantly related to the historic General Stonewall Jackson, the legendary English actor Basil Rathbone, and there was even a General Rathbone who was sitting with Abraham Lincoln in the box when John Wilkes Booth took that fateful shot so long ago. Jackson also has a zany, hilarious sense of humor, and let's face it, he is quite easy on the eyes. A perfect combination of southern charm and spunk that radiates on screen and lights up any stage he steps his trademark cowboy boots on.
But if one were to try to observe and sum up the essence of Rathbone's one unique quality overall, it would indeed be his wild and free, unpredictable gypsy soul. The man plays a mean ukulele, adores donning his funky hats, knows how to "swing dance" and yes, even has a ketchup bottle tattooed on his leg. That's just how Rathbone rolls. He's a little bit of heaven with some wild on the side. And it's that particular quality that makes Jackson Rathbone bring those iconic words by poet Charles Bukowski to life.
Photo: Jackson Rathbone
Music, Monkeys and Mayhem
Immediately following his big break in Twilight, Rathbone dove headfirst, crashing into the music scene with his band, 100 Monkeys. And we can tell you from personal experience, that the 100 Monkeys Experiment was a funked-up, genius of a band! If you were lucky enough to witness a performance, you would know it was like being transformed into a big carnival of sound and sight, where the fun didn't stop until the very last note. The energy was phenomenal, because the band members didn't stop switching instruments, changing places on stage, telling jokes and making up clever rhymes. That mix of groove, energy and humor, all coming together in a burst of rapid heat that lit up the stage, made it impossible to not have a fantastic time! We know, because we were there! When Jackson stepped on the stage, he absolutely came to life by giving us all his fancy word play jive and manic screams that resembled something like a funky preacher on fire! Each performance captured the "New Year's Eve" vibe every time. And that was something to behold. From that point on, we were convinced of Rathbone's ability to do what a lot of celebrities can only hope to be able to pull off in this time era. To strive to be a successful actor and musician that is taken seriously, and in our opinion, he's just talented enough to make that work.
Made of Gold
It was during that 100 Monkeys period that Jackson Rathbone took the time out to bring much awareness, light and love to an amazing poet and insightful musician named Spencer Bell. For Jackson, it was clear that Spencer was a very close, personal friend, that meant so much to him. They went to school together and formed a unique bond that would have a lasting effect on Rathbone forever. Spencer's story was indeed a very sad one, when at the very young age of 20, he passed away from this world from a very rare form of adrenal cancer in 2006. The world would certainly lose out on knowing such an incredible human being that very day, but it was at these performances of the band, that you couldn't help but feel that Spencer's Legacy was threaded throughout each and every single note that was put out there. Spencer Bell seemed the heart beat and driving force in this music project and it was very clear that Jackson wanted his good friend's legacy to never be forgotten if he could help it. We think the lyrics of one of Rathbone's heartfelt songs says it best. It was called "Made of Gold" and it was obviously written from the depths of his soul and dedicated to his fallen friend.
"He was the lyricist, the mad scientist. An architect of quick wit. The best to smoke and drink with. The best to joke and think with. He was one of the lost. He was the first to be found. We'll keep playing his songs to give us comfort and keep us proud. To have known this body whose soul is still so loud.."
Jackson continues to support his late friend's artistic spirit to live on with being a part of "The Spencer Bell Legacy Project" for many years now. This organization has been going for well over 10 years and was started by Spencer's family and friends to help keep the memory of this truly remarkable man alive for generations to come. We would like to thank Jackson for working hard to bring the works of Spencer Bell back to life for all of us for all of these years. To us, it is the ultimate dedication for a loved one lost.
When you venture in further still, and open up Rathbone's acting vault to full capacity, what you will see is an actor who takes on a wide "mixed-bag" assortment of different characters. With all of that talent and creative fire, it's no wonder that Jackson chooses to put on so many different layers to each and every role he dives into, no matter how big or small they may be. He has very interesting character choices, and the roles he chooses to play are far from stale or stagnant. You won't see him play the same old character type over and over again as many actors choose to do. They just never venture out of their comfort zones, so we can never get to see just what it is they can really do. When it comes to Jackson, you definitely get variety. He has a wide array of tools in his acting cabinet, and clearly he chooses to use them all with each and every role he takes on.
Rathbone can easily carry a film as the lead, such as in the 2009 dark and disturbing psychological horror thriller, "Dread" based on a short story by Clive Barker. In this film, Jackson gives a stellar performance as the loner film student who has to face his demons full on and then some. In our opinion, this was a real breakout performance showing off Rathbone's true range of emotion and vulnerability as an actor to be taken seriously.
Jackson can easily turn from an innocent, down to earth, sweet kind of character, and not be afraid to get downright dirty and gritty to take his villains to the max. From the violent and severe, jealous ex-boyfriend in 2010's Independent film "Girlfriend", as well as his wicked but ultra-stylish, psycho cult leader of a gang of misfits, in 2014's "City of Dead Men". Let's face it, when Rathbone lets that trademark smile of his gleam, whether for good or evil purposes, it all just comes together, doesn't it? Not everyone has a smile like Jackson Rathbone, but when you see it, he surely has the full attention of his audience. We are on the edge of our seats waiting to see Rathbone in the newly released "Do Not Reply" where Jackson goes into dark, serial killer mode in this slasher horror thriller.
Rathbone has proven he's got the goods to take on action movies as well, such as playing the kung fu fighting Sokka in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Last Airbender" back in 2010 and of course, who can forget his vampire training expertise in the "Eclipse" film of The Twilight Saga series, where Jackson has said he loves doing his own stunt work.
But it's not all action, fighting, blood and horror with Rathbone either. He's an accomplished versatile drama actor as well. Jackson can tug at the audience's heartstrings as he did playing the charmingly sweet school teacher who deals with rejection in the beautifully filmed 2015 romantic mystery thriller "Pali Road." or tackling the homophobic and transphobic, real life Andy "Doc" Dixon in 2017's "Heart, Baby! (Aka "The Hammer"). In this film Jackson really digs deep to show us real emotion after Doc ends up having a spiritual awakening that completely transforms and changes his heart. Rathbone also gets to use his musician expertise and sing in the film as well.
Also, Rathbone is no stranger to television, giving a highly charged performance as a delusional serial killer in the episode "Conflicted" on the crime drama series "Criminal Minds". He also starred in the 2003 modern soap opera series "The O.C" and 2005's Drama series "The Beautiful People."
Comedy seems to come effortlessly to this gifted actor. You can see some of these particular skills, when he both starred in and executive produced, the first ever interactive web series back in 2011 called "Aim High" where he played a high schooler by day and a U.S. spy by night. Rathbone also went on to write and direct his own comedy project titled "Couch Surfing USA" which won the Best Comedy award at the Vancouver Webfest in 2016.
Photo: Jackson Rathbone Instagram
Photo: Jackson Rathbone Instagram
And even though 100 Monkeys have since disbanded some years ago, Rathbone's love for music still remains as strong as ever. Being a music lover since he was 13, he soon picked up a guitar and started his own mobile DJ'ing business. It wasn't long before, at 18, he moved on out to Los Angeles, determined to become a songwriter. But life had other plans and it seems destiny pulled him a different way into the arms of his other love "acting." But the music never left Rathbone's soul. It was not very long ago in 2018, that Jackson released his very first solo album called "American Spirit Blues." The album blends folk and rock, exploring the true "American Spirit" while painting the listener a picture of who Rathbone used to be, but also who he wants to become. Included in the album, there's a particular track Jackson wrote for his lovely wife, Sheila, who he says literally saved his life and weathered the occasional storms of his artistic depression. Rathbone often calls his wife his 'best friend.' The track is called "Beauty/Vain". Sheila also sings backup on the album as well, who Jackson admits is the "better singer."
PARTY OF FIVE
These days Jackson openly and honestly shares a window into his world on his social media accounts. There, we can see the day to day adventures of the Rathbone family of five who reside in Texas. Short but sweet glimpses into Jackson and Sheila's little slice of heaven where there never seems a dull moment. The couple just recently sold their home, bought a new one off of Instagram and with their three children, moved right smack, dab in the middle of this pandemic. This family knows how to get things done. Jackson has said he is very excited for their next chapter.
We were quite lucky to be able to catch up with this extraordinarily talented man for an exclusive interview recently.
Jackson is a remarkably cool guy and we would like to thank him for allowing us the opportunity to talk with him about his family, his brand new film that was just released, "The Wall of Mexico" and of course, "Twilight."
Photo: Megan Allen
You have such a lovely family. We see how close you all are from your social media posts. How does it feel to be a dad to three beautiful children? And what's some of the best 'fatherly' advice you have given to one of your kids?
"Being a dad is the best. My family is my best friend. Sorry other friends!
Best advice: I apologize to my children whenever I lose my temper, or make a mistake. After I calm down, I accept responsibility for my actions, own up to my faults, and apologize to the kiddos. I believe in teaching them through practice. If they see their father apologizing and owning mistakes, perhaps it will be easier for them to acknowledge their own faults, and, by not being embarrassed by them, LEARN from mistakes instead."
We have to ask you one of the most obvious questions that most people must be asking you these days - How have you and your family been dealing with this Coronavirus pandemic? And do you think it will have a long term effect on your work as an actor?
"This has been a very odd, very strange, new world... and it happened quite quickly. My family and I are still adjusting. We might become vagabonds, or troubadours, or perhaps we always were... I’ve been stripping away my possessions of late, I have like 15 guitars, time to shed some weight. Downsizing our house for something cozier as well.
As an actor? I’m not sure much will change. Maybe less films for a bit? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll try to do more television work... although I’d rather create and star in a show of my own design. Or a show by a good friend. Since Coronavirus, I’m much pickier on what I work on, especially WHO I work with."
We just saw your new film "The Wall Of Mexico" which has just been released On Demand - We think you played this role so cool and laid back which was very interesting to watch considering the crazy circumstances your character had to deal with. What can you tell our readers about this film and the character you play in it?
"The film is about a young handy man who is seduced by two rich sisters, into a psychosexual game of humiliation and objectification. I play the young handyman, Don, who is pushed and pushed throughout the film... until he gets to his breaking point. Also... something’s definitely in the water."
Was there a certain actor or movie that gave you that fire of inspiration to become an actor yourself? And what would be your dream role to play - past or present?
"RDJ in Hearts and Souls! I must’ve seen that movie twenty times in one week. Loved that performance. Love his versatility and intensity in that film. Dream role... Plastic Man in the DC universe. But only if it was Adi Shankar’s take on the character. I could have fuuuuun with that one!"
Photos: Jackson Rathbone Instagram
Having followed your career throughout the years, there was this one very unique role that always stood out to us - when you played Adam/Amanda the schizophrenic in an episode of Criminal Minds. We must have watched it about 100 times! Did you have to do any research on schizophrenia, or any preparation on playing a female persona?
"Truth be told, I’m not sure I would accept that role in the current climate, what we’re learning as a society about trans identification and the negative depictions of trans people in film and TV. I don’t believe Adam/Amanda was trans, but rather two separate identities sharing a singular male body. Adam was male, Amanda was female. However, I have been made aware by some in the trans community that they saw my character as problematic, so I must respect that first and foremost.
As per your question, I mainly focused on playing Amanda as a strong southern woman, basing her on a famous actress. Only a few have ever been able to figure out who..."
We were extremely fortunate to have had the chance to see you when you played with your band 100 Monkeys multiple times back in 2009. The total experience that you guys created, the diversity of song styles, the humor, the "improv" songs were definitely an exciting highlight for us, were all so full of amazing talent, creativity and energy. It was definitely a thrill to have witnessed it. Also, it was where we were first introduced to the name and story of Spencer Bell. We know he was a good friend of yours and his story, though very tragic, touched our hearts. We know he was a gifted poet, a musician with his own band that left this world way too soon. In your own words could you tell us if you think that knowing Spencer changed the course of your life in some way? And if so, how?
"Spencer was an inspiration, always. He also taught me how to play ukulele my junior year of high school. After he passed, I was given his uke, the one he taught me with, as well as his sitar. He was the main reason I became a multi-instrumentalist. He also taught me a strong respect for lyricism.
Since his passing, we’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for orphan-cancer research with the Spencer Bell Memorial Fund. Great strides towards finding a cure are being made in his name."
Listening to your solo album American Spirit Blues, we can tell that music has your heart. Also, we have to mention that we felt a deep comradery with your song "Heavy Road" after hearing the lyrics and learning the meaning behind them. You said it feels like 'death seems to be chasing you' because you lost too many close and important people in your life along the way. We share that very same road and totally get it. So, our question is, you look like a guy who has really got it all together. What keeps you 'keepin 'on" through those heavy times in particular?
"Y’all don’t get to see the day to day struggles! It’s the main problem with social media. We only let others see the good times. Plus, I guess my southern blood insists are putting only my best face forward.
I use my art, music, acting, to release or exorcise my personal demons. My lyrics are always very, very honest."
Ok, let's talk about Twilight, but of course! Take us back to the basics. After knowing and confirming you definitely got the part of Jasper Hale, what was the first thing you did to celebrate?
"Catherine Hardwicke had to convince me to play the role. I initially turned it down, twice. But Catherine called me into the office and explained her vision of the series. We were gonna go deep in the third film, and really develop Jasper as more than a background character. I’m glad she did. I loved bringing Jasper to life. Truly. "
So much work and heart seemed to go into converting the Twilight book series into 4 uber-successful movies - We would love to know - What was 'your' method in bringing Jasper off the pages and onto the screen? And how much creative control or input did you have over the character?
"As an actor, my style is fairly balanced between Alexander Technique, the Method, and Meisner: blending them into something I like to coin “method-in-the-moment”. Between action and cut, I exist only as the character, hoping to react in the moment to whatever is thrown at me.
I really wanted to play up Jasper’s uncomfortable feelings of Bella and Edwards romance, as well as his powers as an empath. I also asked Melissa and Catherine to cut out a fair amount of my lines in the first film, as I felt I would better convey myself with looks rather than words."
Photo: Megan Allen
So, all in all - What's a typical day like for Jackson Rathbone?
"I’m not typical and neither are my days."
What's next for you now? Any projects or ideas in the works?
"Yup yup! Always writing. New music, a film, and a couple of potential series. In terms of film, I’m really getting into sci fi and horror, not extreme bloody horror, but fantasy for sure. Most of my writings are based around the duality of nature and life."
And finally - What's your definition of cool?
"Cool is a vibration. Either you are in rhythm, or you’re out of it. Don’t worry. It’s always there, waiting for you to move with it. The eternal vibration. Let’s boogie."
Photo: Roav Eyewear
So, you see, the world needs people like Rathbone to keep art alive and stay interesting, especially now, in these uncertain times. In the end we can only come to this final conclusion, If art is the cure to all the madness, then Jackson Rathbone is saving the world.
Photo: Leonidas Jaramillo