While Rob Pattinson and Taylor Lautner are wrapped up in the Twi-limelight, their co-star Jackson Rathbone is zooming along under the radar, carefully crafting his career as an actor, producer and musician. We sat down with the 25-year-old rising star to talk about his roles in not one but two of this summer’s biggest movies. First up, he reprises his role as Jasper Hale in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and then stars in M. Night Shyamalan’s fantasy adventure, The Last Airbender.
SNMag: Tell us about your role in The Last Airbender…
Jackson Rathbone: I play a young warrior named Sokka who, along with his sister, discovers a mysterious boy trapped in the ice; they free him and end up on a quest to save the world. It’s a very fantastical story that originated out of the Nickelodeon cartoon and now it’s a live action epic fantasy.
Rathbone as Sokka in Paramount Pictures’ adventure The Last Airbender
SNMag: Did you have to do any training or physical prep for the role?
JR: There was a good two months of kung fu training in LA and then continued training while we were filming. But it was really fun, I loved it. That’s one of the really cool things about being an actor: you get paid to learn kung fu!
SNMag: What kind of stunts did you have to do?
JR: Mostly it was hand to hand combat. My character doesn’t have any special abilities…so I’d do a lot of scenes where I fight off guys with swords and spears and all I had to fight with was the boomerang. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, even when it’s a plastic sword coming at you.
SNMag: How was your experience working with M. Night Shyamalan?
JR: It was amazing. The Sixth Sense is one of my favorite thrillers and I love Night’s other work. So it felt like great as an actor to be working with somebody I’ve respected and admired for years.
SNMag: What was your initial reaction when you were cast in Twilight?
JR: It’s a great book series and Jasper has such a lush backstory so I was just really excited. But then I started getting calls from my cousins and they were even more excited than me so that kind of upped the ante – playing a character that my family knows and are excited about seeing me portray on the big screen.
Photo by Elena Dorfman
SNMag: Did you realize then it would kick-start your career?
JR: I don’t think it really hit me until I walked the red carpet at the premiere of Twilight. That’s when it was first like, "Oh wow, this is going to be a new experience for me.”
SNMag: What’s one of the most memorable fan encounters you’ve had?
JR: We were filming up in Vancouver for New Moon and I was on my way to get Starbucks. A bunch of fans surrounded me and so I was taking pictures and signing autographs and this woman comes up to me with a 2-year-old child and, without saying a word, hands me her kid and steps back to take a picture. It was just kind of awkward because the kid’s looking at me like, “Who are you?” and I’m looking at the kid like, “I’m sorry, man, I have no idea what’s going on either.” So she snapped a photo, took her kid back and walked away. It’s kind of odd to have a stranger shove a child in your arms.
SNMag: Do we get to see a new side of Jasper in Eclipse?
JR: Yes, we get to see Jasper back when he was a human which was back in the Civil War. So I got to ride a horse again - I grew up riding so it was fun to get back to that.
Rathbone with co-stars Peter Facinelli and Robert Pattinson in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
SNMag: Were you at all into vampire movies before you were cast in Twilight?
JR: I’ve definitely been a fan of the vampire genre for a long time. Interview with the Vampire is an incredible film. I’ve always loved the Dracula films. And Nosferatu is a beautiful, well-crafted film from the 20s that still holds up today, in my opinion.
SNMag: What’s your relationship like with the rest of the cast? How do you spend your time on set?
JR: It’s fun because we play a family on screen and so getting to come back and do these sequels is like a family reunion. A lot of us are musicians as well as actors so we’d all get together in the rooms and we’d have jam sessions and make up songs. I’d play guitar and harmonica, Rob would play guitar and sing or Kristen would play guitar.
SNMag: Who are some of your favorite actors?
JR: I’m just finishing Johnny Depp’s catalogue. I love his style of acting, it’s very organic and down to earth and then it’s also very fantastical at the same time. Clint Eastwood’s the man. And Jack Nicholson, I love his style.
Photo by Elena Dorfman
SNMag: Tell us more about your band 100 Monkeys…
JR: We just did 61 shows out of a 100 city tour so we’re taking a small break. But it’s something that we love to do. I’ve been playing music as long as I’ve been acting and I feel so privileged to be able to have both those careers taking off at the same time. One of the things I’m trying to get into is integrating film and music - one of the band members and I produced a film that we both acted in called Girlfriend and 100 Monkeys composed the score for the film.
SNMag: We have to ask: Do you have a girlfriend?
JR: No, no, I am single. I got a lot of stuff going on so it’s hard to find time to even go on a date these days. But that doesn’t mean I’m not looking. So every once in a while I’ll get a day off and try to go on a date if I can…find a nice girl at a coffee shop or something.
SNMag: What can you tell us about your tattoos?
JR: I’ve got six tattoos total. I am planning on getting a couple more maybe within the next month or so. I think my next tattoo is going to be a line out of TS Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. It’s one of my favorite poems ever.
SNMag: What other movies or projects do you have coming up?
JR: Really excited about getting Girlfriend into the festival circuit and putting out my next couple of projects with my production company, Patchmo Entertainment. I’m really excited to get on the other side of the camera, producing and hopefully directing within the next year or two. It’s just a truly exciting time in my life and I don’t take it for granted. I’d rather be working than sleeping!
by Carla Thorpe