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Headshot of Jackson Rathbone, best known for his role as Jasper Hale in the 'Twilight' saga. (Provided via Rathbone's Facebook page)

Q&A: Jackson Rathbone talks ‘Twilight,’ music and social anxiety

Jackson Rathbone is an actor, musician and producer most known for his role as Jasper Hale in the Twilight saga. He’s also well known for his performance in The Last Airbender and his performance/producing position for the show Aim High

Aside from acting, Rathbone has also focused his time on creating music, with his first single being released in 2016, followed by two more singles in 2018 and an EP in 2018. 

The Post sat down with Rathbone to discuss Twilight, Criminal Minds and more:

The Post: First off, how are you and your family doing with the quarantine? What are you doing to stay busy?

Rathbone: We have homeschool programs handed out by our children’s school. My son is seven so he’s been doing Zoom classrooms when the Internet’s working well enough. Otherwise we’re trying to make the most of it; have fun. We want to educate our kids, you know, my daughter’s three, my son is seven and my other son is a baby, so it’s really just the seven year old that we’re trying to instill a sense of what this means and how this is different, this period of our lives. 

P: Before the quarantine was issued, were you working on any projects?

Rathbone: Yeah, I was in the middle of filming a movie, the working title is War Hunt. I was filming with Robert Knepper, who’s an incredible actor… another actor Mickey Rourke, who’s one of my idols, like I love his work so much. And we’re doing this movie in Latvia… I actually brought the family with me, but then while we were up there we kept hearing that it (COVID-19) was moving and then moving to Europe and we started to get a little nervous. And then another two weeks went by and the U.S. Embassy actually called me and said, “Hey you guys, if you’re planning to stay in Latvia, no worries, but it might be for we don’t know how long,” so I was like, OK, I need to get my family back to Texas. And the producers decided to suspend productions. We only shot half of the movie, and we have to go back and shoot the other half, and I don’t know when that’s going to happen.

P: How did you initially get into acting?

Rathbone: I moved around a lot as a kid… on average every two years my family would pick up and move to a new city, new town, new state in the country for my dad’s work, he’s an engineer. We landed in Midland, Texas, when I was in sixth grade… and I was having trouble making friends. My sister was also kind of a bit of a thespian herself, and was involved in the local community theater, so my mom was like, you should go try it. So I went and worked behind the scenes building sets in like sixth, seventh and eighth grade. And then around that point I started really noticing that all the theater girls are really pretty, you know, pretty like someone who’s attractive physically and has an attractive personality and you’re always laughing with them. So I decided to quit all sports extracurricular activities and start doing theater. I started my first production in eighth grade or ninth grade and I’ve never looked back man, I just love it so much. As soon as I got on stage and I was able to make an audience laugh, I was like, this is it. This is all I want to do. And I proceeded like a bat out of hell.  

P: What led you to audition for Twilight? Did you go into it wanting to portray Jasper Hale?

Rathbone: I was originally reading for Edward and then I met Catherine Hardwicke in casting, and we just kind of vibed. I kept coming back to read, I met the heads of Summit, the producers and then she hit me up and was like, “Listen, there’s this young actor Robert Pattinson, and we’re going to give him the role of Edward. So here’s the deal, we want you to play Jasper,” and I was like, “OK… I have no idea who this character is.” So I passed. But Catherine called me again and said, “You should come to my office, I want to show you the plan that I have and you’ve got to read this third book and you’ll understand why you’re perfect to play Jasper and why you need to play it.” So I went to her office… I wasn’t sure what she was trying to make it at that point, and to play a character that only pays off in the third movie… I was like, “I don’t know about this.” But finally Catherine showed me her storyboards and art and everything she’d been working on, and it was incredible. It was beautiful. So I was like, “f--- it, let’s do it.” And then we went off to go make Twilight and it became crazy big, and we got to make the third movie and I got to have my moment with Jasper’s backstory, which is still to me the most fascinating aspect. Jasper and Alice’s backstory to me is the coolest part of the whole saga. And as an artist I like to live between the cracks of stories, you know, find the backstory that isn’t really obvious, and there’s some beautiful stuff there, in Jasper and Alice. 

P: When did you and the rest of the cast start to realize that Twilight was going to be such a huge success?

Rathbone: Man, I don’t know. I guess like at the premiere when everybody said it was going to be a huge success and it was a huge success. I think in this business, in the arts, especially, one of the things I learned early on is you never believe something is happening until it's happening. I can't tell you the amount of movies that just didn't get made… But then (Twilight) came out and it defied expectations. Catherine Hardwicke just poured her heart and soul into that franchise. And the reason it was successful is because of the way that she set it up, you know, she turned it in a way that, you know it could have been cheesy, or like real silly, but she made it, she put her heart into it, you know?

P: What was your most memorable experience from working on the Twilight films? Which was your favorite to film?

Rathbone: To me it’s not so much making the film like filming it, but hanging out with everybody, you know? All of us as young actors, we were filming in Portland, Oregon, and my main memories are hanging out like Nikki (Reed) and Peter (Facinelli) and Ashley (Greene) and Kellan (Lutz) and Rob (Pattinson) and Kris (Stewart). We’d just like, hang out in the hotel room and eat pizza and play guitar and play board games and things. It was like a college, like a Friday night on campus, that’s kind of how it felt. That’s the best memories of it. Favorite (to film) would definitely be getting to film Jasper's backstory, that was really fun.

P: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Twilight castmates?

Rathbone: Yeah, I do. I think mainly, probably more like Nikki and Kellan and Peter once in awhile. We all have had a big text chain recently because of everything happening in the world, you know, seeing if we can kind of pull together and help out in some way. They’re just good people man, I mean, they really are. We’re all just a bunch of artists at heart, and we’re all just trying, like anybody else, and they’re really some of the sweetest people. I’m glad I went through this crazy phenomenon thing with them.

P: Tell me about your experience on Criminal Minds. What was it like playing Adam/Amanda and being directed by Jason Alexander?

Rathbone: So my first introduction with Jason Alexander was in the Amanda outfit, in the costume. So I got the hair and makeup and I got the wig. And they were like, “Oh Jason, Jason come meet Amanda” and he’s like “oh great, where’s Jackson” and I was like “yo, it’s me I’m Jackson” and he was like “Oh s---!” And he was funny, he’s so sweet and hilarious from the get go, and he really let me take my time to get into the character, and those transitions to go from Adam to Amanda, go from the kind of sweet, confused boy to this really dominant, powerful woman who was just so angry. It was a lot of fun for me as an actor. It's really hard, and at the end of the night you kind of have to work to shake it off, but because it's so hard it's just so easy to focus on and stay with those characters. I always wish we could have done more, like a follow up episode. But it was so much fun to film. I really liked that one. And once again, I got to work with Matthew Grey Gubler, every day on that one pretty much and he's just a delight, a sweet, sweet human being he is. Really talented artist too. 

P: What other film or television roles have you been really proud of?

Rathbone: That’s always the hardest question you know because it kind of implies like, I’m not proud of that one or that I didn’t like that one, so it’s always a hard thing to answer. But I always say the next one, you know? I’m really stoked for hopefully finishing War Hunt and I’ve really been having good fun with the character we put together for this movie and I can’t wait to do that. 

There’s this little show where I did my first producing and acting, this show called Aim High. We did two seasons of it. The first season aired on Facebook, we were Facebook’s first show, years ago, and then we went to crackle for the second season and that was a lot of fun. It was hard, we were on this really thin budget, we had three different units happening so that’s three different stations with three different cameras working, and it was me and the producer Lance Sloane running from set to set, like literally we didn't stop to eat lunch, we were just eating between scenes and eating on the run and just making it, you know and like that was, that was a lot of fun. So I think that definitely holds a special place in my heart.

P: Tell me about your personal music, and also how the idea arose to start a band with your son? 

Rathbone: I'm just a weirdo, I guess. You know, I picked up a guitar that was left around the house… I would take it and go into my room, I didn't know what I was playing so I was kind of playing like singular notes at a time and coming up with songs on one string. And then I was like, “I got to learn how to play guitar.” So I got a book on how to play Paul Simon songs. And then I learned chords that way and then I started writing tunes. I also was the kid in middle school, I was a weirdo that wrote poetry, so I was turning my poems into songs.

My seven year old would come into my studio back when he was around like four or five, and he really wanted to make a song and I was like, “Listen, you need to write lyrics.” And so he went in, he wrote lyrics and he came back, had the lyrics I was like, “no way.” And so we started playing guitar. And I went in the studio, and I recorded it, and it's just him singing and me playing guitar. And I was like, “He's really good.” And so then I went and I overdubbed drums and overdubbed piano. But he sings and plays harmonica on that record, and he named the band The Yes No’s. That was a couple of years ago when we put that one out. You know to give him something of a legacy, at a young age, that’s pretty cool. 

P: What’s something about you that no one would expect?

Rathbone: I have massive social anxiety. It’s funny because as an actor people are like, “Oh, you must be comfortable in big crowds.” I’m comfortable having a purpose in a big crowd. But it’s like, these social distancing measures in some ways are really good for it because I’m like, “Oh good, we can take a break from each other,” but at the same time it’s also really bad to reinforce it. I have to make sure that I get out into the world and see people. Big crowds for me always freaked me out, so this is a weird moment to have social anxiety, let me tell you, in terms of the world, but it’s something that I think is important to talk about, and I think mental health, we’re finally getting beyond the stigma of it all, but yeah. That’s something I don’t really talk about a lot. 

P: What advice would you give to your fans trying to make it in the entertainment industry?

Rathbone: You’ve got to start early. Start as early as you can, and create, create, create. Create as much as you can. Use this time when you’re younger and have so much energy, take full advantage of that. Don’t sit idle, pursue it, endlessly. It’s really tricky, and it’s hard, but if you actively go after it and start making it — you don’t have to wait for someone to write a script, write one. You don’t have to wait for someone to cast you in a play, make a sketch with your friends. It sounds so easy, but it’s not, because in actuality those are really hard things to do. So once you accept the fact that it’s going to be hard, I think then it makes it easier. Pursue it, because it’s awesome. 


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