A talented Australian actress and author is building an amazing name for herself in Hollywood. Kym Jackson has an impressive list of TV and film credits under her belt. Over the past several years, she has become a familiar face to audiences through a plethora of diverse roles. In 2008, she booked a breakout role on “Criminal Minds” and continued to work consistently ever since.
Shortly after her debut, she found herself landing a recurring role on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and went on to perform in high profile feature films such as “Snitch” (Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sanrandon), “Iron Sky” (Udo Kier, Julia Dietz), “Dark Power” (Sean Patrick Flannery, Kristanna Loken), “Bordering On Bad Behavior” (Tom Sizemore, Bernard Curry), and the award winning AFI film “Starman,” which is smashing the festival circuit around the world. One of her biggest projects at the moment is a recurring role on Netflix’s “Real Rob,” starring Rob Schneider and Jamie Lissom. On the series, Jackson plays Margaret, who works as a counter girl at a weed dispensary and the girlfriend of Jamie (played by Jamie Lissou). A fan favorite, her character is already intended to return in Season 2 and will grow as the series moves forward.
With 2016 on the horizon, it seems it will be her most impressive year to date with upcoming releases that include “Cardboard Boxer” (Terrence Howard, Thomas Haden Church), “The Half Dead” (John Rhys Davies, Tasma Walton), “Worry Dolls” (Brea Grant, Chris Wiehl), and “Your Own Road” (Ashton Moio, Courtney Palm). It is important to remember that Kym Jackson’s talents are not limited to the screen. She is also an accomplished writer. Her book, the “Hollywood Survival Guide,” sold several thousand copies and is the top rated film business guide for actors in Los Angeles.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this star on the rise to discuss her blossoming career, creative evolution, role on Rob Schneider’s “Real Rob,” and what she has in store for us in 2016!
I want to give our readers a little background on you. What originally intrigued you about the world of acting and made you pursue it as a career?
I was around 5 when I was in the school play, “Peter Pan,” and I forgot my lines. As I desperately invented dialogue to entertain the audience, I discovered the adrenaline rush of being on stage. After that I told everyone I was going to be an actress. Ultimately, though, it has never felt like I chose to be an actor, it chose me and I’ve just gone along for the ride.
Did you have any reservations about taking the plunge?
Ha! I probably should have! No, I was so ballsy in my late teens and twenties. It was what I wanted to do and no one was going to stop me. I was so sure of it that I wrote in everyone’s high school yearbook that I would buy them a house when I made my first million dollars as a movie star. Lucky I was underage when I signed those notes.
Were there any influences or mentors who helped shape the artist we see today?
Absolutely. I am a huge fan of Alan Rickman, Cate Blanchet, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Colin Firth and so many others. It’s hard to even narrow down to less than 20, there are so many brilliant artists to observe and it’s such a fantastic time for wonderful content because viewers have so many options these days. It’s wonderful seeing impeccable actresses like Julianna Margulies and Toni Collette making such great strides in television, especially when in the past talent of their caliber may have restricted themselves to film.
You are very driven when it comes to your career. What kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
Telling stories. I feel one of the vital components of any society are its storytellers. I believe life is experiential. We are here to see different facets of life but most people will never get to truly experience first hand more than one or two socioeconomic or cultural perspectives.
People get to live vicariously through the characters actors play and the stories we tell. Through us, anyone can experience many lives, many memories, and learn from our characters mistakes and successes in the same way they learn from their own. This allows the viewer to grow as a person, and instills empathy within them for people who have lived a different life. Stories give us an understanding of how another person, who is perhaps nothing like we are, feels and thinks.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had gotten a memory confused with a scene from a movie you saw. I strongly feel that regarding lessons we learn from the past, there isn’t much difference between real memories and memories of dream experiences or stories told to us.
You star in “Real Rob,” starring Rob Schneider and Jamie Lissou. How did you get involved with the project?
I had only just decided I wanted to try comedy a few months before the audition. It came to me between takes as I stood in a field’ full of dead bodies crying my eyes out on set for “Jonestown,” yet another, albeit absolutely phenomenal, drama. I realized I wanted to make people laugh. I signed up for groundlings improvisation classes and a comedic scene study course at John Rosenfeld.
Because I was new to comedy, I never thought I’d book one of my first sitcom auditions, so I just got silly with it. One of my classmates, Tim, and I taped this ridiculous, dirty, insane audition and somehow Rob and Patricia thought it was just disturbing enough to give me the job. Oh, the things I mimed on that audition tape. Pretty much the whole fiasco ended up on screen in the show and then some.
What can you tell us about the character you play?
Margaret is the morally impaired counter girl at the local weed dispensary and girlfriend of Jamie – Rob’s assistant in the show. She loves to love everyone, which includes her co-workers in that way, and has a filthy sense of humor, which she is happy to apply to taunting her naïve, unappreciated boyfriend.
What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the written page?
Haha, oh dear. Well, frankly, a blowjob scene. Her introduction scene was meant to be Earl [Skakel] standing with lipstick on his face when Jamie came in. With Rob being such an open and collaborative director, I joked about how funny it would be if I was actually on my knees behind the counter when Jamie walked in instead. Rob immediately said, “Let’s do it!” Hence, the scene as it stands today. That’s the beauty of working with a director who is not only a comic genius but a really smart filmmaker. He’s not married to things simply because they’re on the page, which creates an open environment in which ideas are able to flow and actors feel free to suggest things in the moment.
Do you and the character you play have similarities? Did you draw from any personal experiences to aid in bringing her to life?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I have a pretty well calibrated moral compass, I don’t sell weed, and I don’t lie or cheat. In saying that, you do always bring a part of yourself to each character. The chill, hippie, love vibe she has is somewhat reflective of the beach lifestyle we live in Australia. And if my boyfriend was sucking up to his boss like Jamie does in one, particularly nasty, scene, I’d for sure pull out a few of the mimes Margaret does to toy with him while he’s on the phone.
Be it this character or any other, do you have a process you undergo when taking on a new role?
It varies from role to role. With some roles I get the character straight away. I read the script, it resonates with me and I immediately know who they are and where they’re coming from. With others, however, the character has opinions or perspectives that contradict how I personally think, behave and feel. That’s when I delve into their history and figure out why they feel their words and actions are justified.
For example, bad guys always think they’re justified in what they’re doing so you have to figure out how to truly believe in their choices to the point that they feel true for you. I start by developing the character’s backstory, breaking down what’s revealed in the script, chatting with the writer and director, etc.
If I’m struggling, I’ll imagine myself as them in their childhood and just sit there for a minute observing their life when they were young. I dig quite deeply, really feeling the thoughts and beliefs of the character and taking on a few of their traits, eventually finding the walk, body language, posture and voice. Once you find the character, though, it’s like winning the lottery.
What have been the biggest challenges you faced on the series?
We are only eight episodes in, but I would say mostly hand-eye coordination. There’s so much glass in dispensaries, I don’t know how people spend all day in there high! My first day on set, I knocked over and smashed what had to be at least a hundred dollar bong – it was massive!
You have a ton of great projects slated for a 2016 release. What has you most excited for audiences to see?
Other than “Real Rob,” I’m really excited about “Worry Dolls” for many reasons. The screenplay is fantastic, the cast and crew were amazing, and the production value is phenomenal. Padraig Reynolds, Danny Kolker, Chris Wiehl and Greg Haggart put their hearts and souls into this film, fought for it every step of the way, and they’ve created a riveting thriller that absolutely delivers on its promises. I also have a sweet spot for Worry Dolls because the producers chose to cast me as their second lead character, when they had many higher profile actresses vying for the part.
Other projects I’m excited about include the Aussie sci-fi film “The Half Dead” with John Rhys Davies, a wonderful dramatic piece called “Cardboard Boxer” with Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Wakefield, and two lovely indies dear to my heart, “Their Own Road” with Ashton Moio and “Ribbons” with Brian Krause.
You worked with some amazing people in your career both in front of and behind the camera. What’s the biggest thing you learned about your craft along the way from these gifted individuals?
Less is more. Every time I work with an actor at the top of their game, they do so little, yet communicate so much. They don’t try to make something out of nothing or push anything they’re just present listening. When you first start acting, it’s easy to feel a need to show everything the character is going through but in film and TV, the plot, music, other characters, dialogue and action all give the audience what they need to project their feelings onto even the tiniest facial expression an actor makes. My biggest lesson has been once you know the character back to front, sit in that, down to your core, listen, react, and trust that the audience is with you every step of the journey.
Is there a project you were a part of in the past you felt had a big impact on you and your craft?
There have been a few, but the one that comes to mind is “Knifepoint.” I played a woman who was part of a gang and she watched as her fellow gang members did some pretty horrible stuff to two girls in a home invasion. She ends up taking over the gang and things get pretty dark.
It was hard to find that character because she was so filled with hate and self-loathing. I did a lot of searching, took on a lot of anger, did a lot of research and movie watching of almost caricature bad guys, and really had an amazing shoot once I finally found her. It was hard to shake though. Each day was like energetically driving into a dark tunnel and just hoping there was gonna be a light at the other end.
The roles you have taken on as an actor have been very diverse, which is terrific. Any genre or material you are anxious to tackle?
I’m eager to find a project that successfully gives people a real empathy for and understanding of minority groups and groups who don’t have a voice. Our power as storytellers is to be a voice for those people and I feel disappointed that I haven’t made it more of a priority to seek out or create projects of that type.
Looking back on your career to date, what is your biggest evolution as a performer?
In the feature “Ribbons,” I play a role that was written for a tattooed Mexican crooked cop. When the director, Elias Matar, offered me the straight-laced female cop role, I read the script and said, “Nah, I wanna play the bad guy.” He cast me in the part and immediately said, “You have six weeks, I want muscles on you. No more Runyon hikes, and you gotta eat a lot.” I went immediately to the protein store then the gym, and added almost nine pounds of pure muscle on my 120 pound frame in six weeks. It was insane. I was constantly eating and constantly hungry.
The evolutionary part of it, however, was that in preparation for the strength of the role, I had to find a great deal of power, like chi type power. Aldo Gonzalez, who had originally been cast as the Latino gangster, played my good cop partner, and he too was thrilled with the opportunity to play against type. Now, here’s a guy who is the real deal. He has legitimately been in prison and spent years in the gang life in Los Angeles, and my character had to come across stronger than him, energetically, in each scene.
Initially, to get there, I had stopped wearing dresses, started wearing masculine clothing, walking like a man, dropping my voice a little, really tapping into the male side of me to find my power. After a couple weeks of doing this, however, I still hadn’t quite locked into that strength, not to the extent the role called for.
Then, one day it hit me. I needed the power of a woman. A woman who is strong in her core and unshakable yet vulnerable in that way only a woman can be. That feminine strength is as powerful as any man could ever be. In that instant, it clicked, and I found the character. I probably found quite a bit of myself in that moment too.
You can serve as an inspiration to young creatives. What is the best lesson we can learn from your journey so far?
Learn the business side of any creative industry of which you want to be a part. I wrote a business book for actors, “The Hollywood Survival Guide,” and strongly feel there are few things more important than understanding how an industry works as a whole if you want to be a part of it. It’s available at www.HollywoodSGuide.com.
Are you involved with any charities we could help shine a light on and help bring awareness to? How did you get involved?
The Animal Welfare Institute is a wonderful animal charity that works to reduce animal suffering in all industries, including farming, scientific research and in homes. They have open financials available on their site, and if you haven’t heard of them, it’s because 92% of funds raised go directly to their animal programs, rather than marketing companies and administration fees. They’re top rated on Charity Watch and have a four star rating on Charity Navigator. Anyone interested can find more information on the AWI at www.awionline.org.