Jackson Rathbone talks about his new AfterDark Horrorfest movie, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Last Airbender and more

For many actors, all it takes is a role in a prominent film to really propel your career to the next level, which rings true for Jackson Rathbone as well. After a string of guest-starring TV stints and smaller film roles, Rathbone found himself with a role in one of the hottest film franchises out there when he won the role of Jasper Hale in the blockbuster film Twilight. He reprised the role in last year's sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon and will play Jasper Hale again this summer when The Twilight Saga: Eclipse hits theaters on June 30.

Rathbone was able to parlay that blockbuster experience even further and the actor has quite a busy slate ahead of him with roles in upcoming films like M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender but earlier this year he also starred as the lead character Stephen Grace in the fantastic horror film Dread, which was one of the eight "films to die for" in the AfterDark Horrorfest 2010. The film just hit the DVD shelves this week on March 23 and I recently had a chance to chat with this up and coming actor about the film. Here's what he had to say.

You've done a few horror films in the past, so what was it like to get a script for a Clive Barker adaptation? What were your original thoughts on the script when you first read it?

Jackson Rathbone: Well, before I even read it, before I even knew it was a Clive Barker adaptation, I was really excited about it. Then I read it and I was blown away, to be honest. It's a much more humanized version of that kind of dark world that Clive is famous for creating. Once I read it, I was compelled to do the project, especially since I made a friend of mine read it, and the ending kind of made him a little bit sick, which is awesome, I think.

That's a nice test, yeah. I really loved the whole look of the film and I read that you guys shot in Boston and in England. Can you talk a bit about some of these locations you guys found in this film, like Quaid's house? I thought it was wonderful and added a really interesting element to the film.

Jackson Rathbone: Actually, we built that set. We had some incredible artists over there and set designers who built his house from scratch inside of a building. We were at this sort of abandoned campus. It used to be a college but it is no longer in operation. We pretty much filmed the entire movie, every scene, in different places around the campus. We were in basements if we needed it dark, we filmed the club scene there. It was pretty cool to be able to do a multi-locational film all in one place. Our production designers were able to figure it out and it was really cool, man. I was five minutes away from the set and it was no problem.

I read that you guys only had 28 days to shoot this. Was that kind of hectic at all or did it flow nicely?

Jackson Rathbone: I think so. It's kind of fun to be able to go balls to the wall and go for it, do as much as you can as quick as you can, because it helps you stay in that level. You need to really live in it, really be inside the character. I didn't have a single day off in that entire shoot. I was shooting every single day, so it was amazing to be able to be a part of that.

I was really kind of amazed that this is Anthony DiBlasi's writing and directing debut, even though he's produced some films for Clive before. Can you compare how it was to work with him, maybe compared to some of the other director's you've worked for?

Jackson Rathbone: Everybody has their own sense of direction to put their vision out there. I hit it off with Anthony from the very first time we met. We had a beer, some fish and chips over in London and we just hashed out what we were going to be doing over the next month there. His vision for the film was exactly what I had hoped for. We had a good time and I think that's paramount to make a good film is to be able to have a great time doing it.

Your character has quite a few interesting relationships in this film and it was really cool to see the whole thing play out. How did you get along with your supporting cast like Hanne Steen, Laura Donnelly and Shaun Evans, all who I really loved in the film?

Jackson Rathbone: Yeah, man. They're just incredible people. We would go out and I was the only American. They took me out in London and showed me the scene and it was so much fun. It's nice to have a good working chemistry, on screen and off screen. It's nice to be able to hang out with people you get to work with every day. It was a good fit. We had lots of fun.

I know your character doesn't have to deal with the makeup effects that much, although I was really blown away by the effects, with Abby's birthmark or Quaid's crazy dream sequences. What was it like to play against that kind of stuff?

Jackson Rathbone: When I first read the script, actually, I was kind of wondering how they were going to figure out how to do this. Right there, is why I love filmmaking. It's a collaboration between so many different artists and the makeup artists come in to paint, by hand, that birthmark all over Laura's character Abby. The set designers are able to create these streams of blood that form and in Quaid's dream sequences. These are all artists who were great at creating these images and creating this world and as an audience member you just sit back and go, 'Man, how did they do that?' That's what I love about film.

With this being picked up for the AfterDark Horrorfest, how familiar were you with this event and what's it like to be a part of this horror lineup?

Jackson Rathbone: Oh, I'm stoked to be a part of it. I have actually yet to receive the whole lineup. I've been doing a lot of other projects right now and I'm actually in a band and on tour right now. We're called 100 Monkeys and I'm just kind of traveling around right now. Tomorrow is our 40th show and we're on a 100-city tour.

I hear you're directing music videos now as well

Jackson Rathbone: Yeah. I directed this video for a friend of mine's song, Beautiful, More So, by Spencer Bell. He was a dear friend of mine who died four years ago from adrenal cancer. It's a tribute to him, to his music and it's also it's kind of an ad for this Spencer Bell Legacy Concert, which is sponsored by the ASCC Now, which is Artists Supporting a Cure for Cancer Now. The idea is that hopefully it will raise more awareness, raise more money to fund this. It's a show in Dallas on April 24th. If you want to check that out, we're trying to get the word out.

That's great. Is there a website for that?

Jackson Rathbone: Yeah. It's ASCCNow.com and then there's SpencerBellMemorial.com.

You have quite a year ahead of you on the silver screen as well. I'm not that familiar with the books, but I hear its Jasper Hale's big showcase in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Can you talk a bit about getting ready for that and all the action scenes you did in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse?

Jackson Rathbone: Oh yeah. Well, we get to delve into my character's backstory, it's his origin of being turned into a vampire. Jasper was turned into a vampire back in the Civil War, so I had to get into all the Civil War regalia, I get to ride a horse and then I turn into a vampire. It's like a vicious side of the vampire that I play, which is kind of hidden in the books and in the other movies. It brings out my character a lot more and it's a lot of fun.

Was that part of the appeal to playing him? Just to know that you'll have this big showcase in the third film?

Jackson Rathbone: Oh yeah. I love playing characters that have development. Twilight was my first time being part of a franchise. The development is a lot slower, over the course of three or four films, but that's always what I love to do in acting roles. Like (Dread's) Stephen Grace, where he starts off as this kind of shy guy and has to face his demons, much like the character of Jasper. This character is very uncomfortable with this new life and he's getting more and more adjusted to it as time goes by. His adopted brother, Edward, falls in love with a human and he has to face this demon, which is not being able to kill her (Laughs).

Have you been hearing anything about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn? There has been word about possible directors popping up and I hear you are supposed to start shooting in the fall. Is there anything that you've been privy to that you can talk about?

Jackson Rathbone: Oh man. Not really, honestly. They don't really tell us actors too much (Laughs) until things are really set in stone and we're going. Even if I did know anything, I'd get in trouble for saying anything (Laughs).

You also have The Last Airbender coming out this summer. What was it like to work with Shyamalan and get into that much different mode for a movie like that?

Jackson Rathbone: That was actually really fun to do because I got to go up there for about three or four months for kung fu training. It was fun. I had a great time doing it and I learned a new set of skills that I never really thought I'd do. It actually worked out really well because I filmed The Last Airbender and then I filmed The Twilight Saga: Eclipse so I got to have that fight training going from Airbender that I got to use in Eclipse, which was really handy.

We talked a bit about the music video you directed. Is that maybe a stepping stone into feature directing for you then?

Jackson Rathbone: Oh, definitely. I'm actually adapting a couple of short stories right now, not for full-length but for short films, so hopefully I can start kind of slowly, get my feet wet, starting to inch my way to that big feature directing, producing and writing. I want to start off adapting and directing those short films and then, hopefully, write and original full-length film and direct it. That's kind of my plans for next year or the year after. It's definitely going to happen within the next few years.

Are these short stories anything we might be familiar with?

Jackson Rathbone: Well, right now, I'm kind of in the middle of the option agreements and all that. I can't really talk about it too much, I don't want to jinx it. I want to make sure it goes through and get the option, because I've already kind of written it (Laughs). Now I'm just waiting to make sure that's legal.

Finally, what would you like to say to any fans of the horror genre or maybe your Twilight fans about why they should pick up Dread on DVD?

Jackson Rathbone: Well, I think if you want to have a good time with a nice psychological thriller, get a little scared, I think it's a good movie for your girlfriend too (Laughs). Make her hold you close, that's always right with a horror film. It's a great film. If people are interested in checking it out, I'd love it.

Excellent. Well that's about all I have for you. Thanks so much for your time, Jackson and best of luck with your many projects.

Jackson Rathbone: All right. Thank you. I appreciate it.

You can watch Jackson Rathbone in this fantastic horror film Dread, which is available on DVD shelves now along with the rest of the titles from the AfterDark HorrorFest 2010.