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‘Bobby’s Joshua Jackson Gets Political

In an exclusive conversation with Hollywood.com, Joshua Jackson—one of the A-list cast members assembled for writer-director Emilio Estevez’s film Bobby—revealed just how passionate about politics he really is.

Hollywood.com: Is this the direction that you’re really hoping to go with your career, finding material of this quality and of this level?
Joshua Jackson:
Yeah, absolutely. If I could spend the rest of my life working on high quality material I would be perfectly happy. I don’t think that I’m going to make my living out of making particularly political movies, but there is definitely something to be said for this movies social message and it’s political message, frankly, that I find personally very enticing. Then also as a young actor, as a guy trying to prove myself in this business, to be surrounded by a group like this is frankly a dream come true.

HW: How did you get involved with this? Is this a job that you went after? Did Emilio [Estevez] call and invite you to read for it?
JJ: A little bit of both. Round one was years ago when there was a different incarnation of the financing and the script really, and then flash forward many years later and I had actually grown up enough to step into the role that I ultimately got, and then it was campaign, audition, do—by any means necessary, just get this job.

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HW: What did you learn from watching Emilio at work, a guy who’s known for being an actor and knows how actors thing, and then seeing him get behind the camera?
I mean, I’d actually worked with him years ago. So I guess I had a personal relationship with him, and he had been so instrumental and instructive to me at a very formative time in my life both as an actor and as a man. So I wasn’t surprised by the grace and the passion and the humility that he brought to directing, and then as an actor he speaks the language, our language. Sometimes there is a breakdown in communication between the language of the director and the language of an actor, and he was able to translate the passion that he felt as a director with this movie in his head into the language of an actor. Then at the same time he understands and he has enough confidence and enough trust in the process of an actor to sort of build a box and let you play in it.

HW: What was the best part of working with the all-star cast?
Everyone came to the movie with such humility, which is to be expected from the younger generation, but was surprising in someone of her stature or to hear how excited Anthony Hopkins was to work with Harry Belafonte and how excited Bill Macy was to work with Anthony Hopkins and vice versa. So it was a little surprising to see that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling that I know I always gets when I’m on set, particularly on the first day, survive and continue even though these are people who have absolutely nothing left to prove. They’re still so passionate about what they do for a living. Acting is a funny sort of job. You can make an argument that it’s worth and it’s value and you can make an argument in the exact opposite direction, but for those of who do it and do it passionately and kind of by compulsion, because we have to because there is nothing else to do. So to work on and around something of this caliber, with people of this caliber is as good as it ever gets for us.

HW: Where do you see your career going ideally, and what are you kind of shooting for in the next couple of years?
Well, if I was to write myself the perfect future I would populate it with movies like this, but around a wide variety of subjects. I am a very politically minded person, but I don’t have a desire to solely make politically minded movies. What I do have a desire to do is work with excellent, high quality people on things that I’m passionate about, things that I find personally moving, that I can sit here and have this conversation with you and not be at a loss for words because there is no end to the things that I’d be willing to say about this film.

HW: There are probably two things that inevitably go through an actor’s mind. One is getting behind the camera—do you think that you’ll ever direct? And two, politics—do you think you’d ever get involved in politics?
[Laughs] I don’t think that I am politically correct enough for modern political life, and as far as getting behind the camera yes. I don’t feel that I’m at the point yet where I have the language, where I would be ready, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out.

HW: You’re young enough to only know Robert Kennedy as a name in a history book, but did this open a whole new world to learn about his place in history and him as a man?
JJ: Sure. Well, you know, I found actually the second part of that more interesting than the first because I guess that we all have a general cultural understanding of his place in history, of who he was and what he represented and what he meant at that time, but I found the process of education about him as a man and about his growth to be so interesting and what surprised me the most. It’s an unfortunate testament to where we are politically today that I found it so shocking, and what surprised me the most was that this man grew on the campaign trail. He went through what seems like a pretty fundamental transition when he went to the Appalachians and was confronted, physically confronted with the destitution and desolations that his fellow Americans, some of his fellow Americans were living in. To me, I found it so engaging and inspiring that here was a man who had formed opinions and had been in a position of power—he had already been a senator and an attorney general, and of course his brother had been the president and he lived in the public eye. He had every reason to just become another sound byte, poll-driven politician, and here he was actually still learning and growing and trying to figure out how to make the country that he loved so dearly better. I found that so inspiring.

HW: We’re in a political climate now that could be compared to 1968 with the need for change and divisions among Americans. Do you think that we’re ready for a Robert Kennedy type to emerge and sort of give us the kind of hope and rallying point that he gave to people of that era?
Well, yeah. I think that there is a dearth of inspiring political leadership at this moment in time. I do feel that nature abhors a vacuum. The political system abhors a vacuum. I do feel like the stage is set for someone to come along who can capture the popular imagination and inspire us to find the things that we have in common rather than only examine the things that we have separating us. I do feel like we’re at the vanguard now of another age of political activism because things are out of whack and deeply troubling. I fall into the liberal end of the spectrum politically, but I also would imagine if you are conservative or particularly a fiscal conservative you are also deeply troubled by the way that this nation has gone. You have been sold out by your own people. We on the left—frankly, our worst nightmares have been realized. I would also imagine that there is a pain in the soul of the conservative movement in America that is truly, deeply fundamentally troubling to people who used to believe in conservative values.

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HW: What do you think of the example of someone like George Clooney who seems to have successfully maintained his Hollywood career while being outspoken politically?
JJ: I think and I would hope that that serves as a template for conscious political activism, and not only from the entertainment industry, but just because you’re in a position of visibility you shouldn’t feel the need to censor yourself. I think that one of things that he’s always been able to do is to speak eloquently and forcefully about what it is that he believes, but without it getting caught in the tit for tat that seems to stain so much of the political discourse in America. Frankly, just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean that I think they’re an idiot. I think that for him it’s much the same way. You can have differing opinions, but I have to respect him or any man or any woman or any person who is willing to stand up for what they believe. And the drive and the desire to censor actors or entertainers or whatever it is or anyone, I’ve never really understood it and frankly, it puts my nose out of joint because I think that it’s so insulting to the collective intelligence of the American populous. If you don’t agree change the channel, close the book.

HW: It’s just really contrary to the argument of freedom of speech.
JJ: It’s not by accident that they put that first. It was the first thing that crossed their minds, that you should have the freedom to express yourself in any form and to organize and I find it bewildering, frankly, that there would be any force in America to quiet anyone’s voice. That’s why I’m willing to abide by what I think is the horrible speech of groups like the Klu Klux Klan because I as an American would not want to censor or denigrate their ability to express themselves even though I fundamentally disagree with everything it is that they have to say. I find it especially worrisome during wartime when conscientious people are standing up and saying, “Things need to change.” It’s changing now, but particularly a couple of years ago when the war was starting there was either an inference or an explicit statement that anyone who would question the policies of the current administration was somehow unpatriotic or sympathetic towards terrorist groups. I mean, that to me is much more terrifying than anything that anyone would have to say pro or against war.

HW: Are you just amazed at the success at the kids who have started out on Dawson’s Creek and did you ever worry that the Creek might be it for you?
Well, yeah, certainly. I think that every actor thinks that. There is paranoid part of every actor that assumes every job is their last one and then on top of that it’s making the transition from a child to a man which is hard just as a human, but it’s particularly as a performer. You have to find a new voice and a new way to communicate and I think that out of all of us really, Michelle [Williams] has found a way, has blazed our path. But we’re doing all right. The kids are all right.

HW: Do you think that you’ll all see each other at the wedding coming up? Will you all get together again?
JJ: Oddly, I think that my invitation was lost in the mail.

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