Actor Jonathan Jackson discusses A Little Things Called Murder
The former soap star opens up about playing a villain on Lifetime, sharing the screen with an acting icon and hitting the stage — as a rock musician.
What attracted you to this script?
Jonathan Jackson: I was looking for a really good role. It had been a while since I'd had a part like this one that I could really get into and push myself. Also, my manager said to me, "You don't want to pass up the opportunity to work with Judy Davis."
How did you prepare for playing the part of convicted killer Kenny Kimes?
Jonathan Jackson: My main sources of research were biographies and interviews. There's nothing better than actually getting to watch the person and see his or her mannerisms. Looking at the footage, I got an idea of the difference between Kenny's public persona and what he was like when the cameras weren't rolling. Kenny and his mom, Sante, come off as extremely charming, charismatic people.
Was it challenging to take on the role of someone with a split personality?
Jonathan Jackson: Definitely. There are a lot of levels and transitions as the script moves along. It takes Kenny from being a semi-tortured teenager who had a combative relationship with his mom to somehow committing these murders with her — and that's such a bizarre thing.
Do you like stepping into the shoes of the bad guy?
Jonathan Jackson: Well, I've played quite a few of them: a serial killer, an abusive boyfriend, a heroine addict. But this was a different kind of bad guy, because he was extremely charming. I enjoyed this role because it was both disturbing and fascinating. Often times, if a character is pretty straightforward, he or she is not as interesting to portray.
What about playing the nice guys?
Jonathan Jackson: I would rather portray the hero, if it's a really great film. All my favorite fictional film characters are heroes, such as in "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Robin Hood."
What was it like to work opposite Judy Davis?
Jonathan Jackson: It was awesome. She was a very giving actress and a lot of fun to work with. I felt like we had really good chemistry. And she gave an incredible performance. It's pretty phenomenal how much she comes off as Sante.
What did you learn about parent-child relationships from the twisted bond between Kenny and Sante?
Jonathan Jackson: I walked away from this movie thinking how important it is to have a genuine selfless love for your children. You can really mess kids up if you don't have the right kind of love for them. The movie also had a lesson about the importance of being honest; once the truth becomes relative, a lot of dangerous things can start happening.
You spent many years as Lucky on the soap "General Hospital." Do people still associate you with that role?
Jonathan Jackson: I've been off the show for almost seven years now, but people still come up to me, remembering me from GH. It's funny, since it was such a long time ago; but it doesn't bother me. My experience on GH was incredible and I owe so much to the people whom I worked with there.
What else are you up to besides acting?
Jonathan Jackson: Right now I'm focusing on music. My brother, Richard, and I have a band called Enation and we play rock. Our Web site is enationmusic.com. I play guitar and piano and I also sing, and my brother plays the drums. We put out a record last year
My attraction to playing Kenny [were] the different levels--every actor says that, but this role has a lot of levels I haven't really played before as an actor. And it was interesting to me the kind of brainwashing his mother puts on him throughout his life. So to play a character that is battling between making his own choices, being his own man, and ultimately giving away to his mother in everything, was just a unique thing.
The main research I did was based on the script. I mean, as an actor, that's always the best thing: what is in the script? There is a lot more to this story that isn't in the script that you can't fit in an hour and a half or two hours. But I watched a lot of footage that they gave me, a lot of television footage, different programs and interviews, and that gave me a good insight as to the public face that Sante and Kenny would give to people, which is another interesting facet to me as an actor because they were extremely charismatic and charming. Their ability to convince people pretty of much of anything was amazing, and I got to see that first hand in the interviews.
I think Kenny absolutely resented his mother, and they do touch on that in the script, which I thought was great. There are some scenes when Sante was in prison for a few years, and he was functioning as a fairly normal, healthy teenager, and when she comes back there is this absolute rage and anger towards his mother. That's the tipping point right there, because that kind of teenage rebellion, in a sense, is kind of healthy, and when she comes back, it's in him. There's this independence, but she ultimately conquers him, and he ends up being her hands and feet and her mouthpiece.
I think the main problem for Kenny is that he never grew up, really. He never left his mother. He never became his own person. He tried when he was a young teenager, but I think something in him had to die and just surrender to her because she was such a dominant force. He didn't have the strength to say no. I really have no idea, but my guess is that he had very conflicted feelings about committing those murders. I don't think he wanted to, but I just think he had to find a way to justify it in his own mind, in order to please his mom.
I've taken a heightened appreciation for the truth, and just a reinforcement of how unnecessary and what a dead-end it is to manipulate and lie and cheat. This is a kind of extreme example of what happens if you live life like that, but it just gives me an appreciation for being honest.