If you are an avid Stargate
watcher you may think you haven't seen this face since SG-1
In fact, he has grazed your television screen quite recently!Neil Jackson
, originally known to fans as Khalek,
returned late in Season Five
for the nonspeaking role of Sheppard's adversary Wraith in "Vegas,"
the breakout penultimate episode of Atlantis
GateWorld got the chance to catch up with Neil, talking about both his Stargate
guest spots, his weird path into the acting world, and his writing career. He reveals his high praise for the Bridge Studios team, his charity of choice, and his eagerness to return in Stargate Universe
GateWorld's interview with Neil Jackson runs 26 minutes. Listen online at your leisure, download it to your MP3 player, or subscribe now to the iTunes podcast
! The full interview is also transcribed below.
GateWorld: You have a pretty interesting story. You kind of started off as a boxer, big into sports, and somehow that spinned into acting. Tell us about that.
Neil Jackson: Well I was in university in Cardiff, which is the capital of Wales, and I was studying sport. I was doing my masters in Sports Science. I was a boxer, so I was fighting for my country. I was working in clubs as a doorman.
None of it was really what I wanted to do. The boxing I loved but it had reached a point where I needed to make a decision whether I wanted to be punched in the head for the rest of my life. My coach was talking about turning pro. I'd already won the British title and defended it successfully.
They were talking about turning pro, and I was working the door, which was a seedy world to be working in. I just wasn't particularly happy. I had six months left to go on my Masters degree. I thought to myself, "When was I happiest?"
From about the age of 14 to 18 I used to do school plays back where I grew up, and played the lead in several of them. People always said I should go into acting. I decided to go the other road and go the sports route.
Jackson as a boxer in Red Cap.
So I decided I would try to get back into that. I didn't know how to. I had just done five years of university study and didn't have the time or the money to go into an acting school. So I decided to write a play that I would then put on in the West End in London, finance it myself, and very naively thought then, of course, agents would see it and fall in love with me and my career would take off from there.
Instead of writing a play I teamed up with a friend of mine from school who was an incredible musician. We wrote a musical together.
GW: OK I was going to ask, "Did you write the music?" So I guess not.
NJ: I wrote the lyrics and the melodies, and I play guitar, so I wrote a rudimentary music bit and he did all the arrangements and everything. But I wrote the book, and we entered it into a competition called the Woolly Mammoth competition which is for unsolicited musicals, new musical writers, and we came third which was startling.
And from that a producer heard it and wanted to do a prepared read-through. We did a read-through for him to see if his company wanted to produce it. He said it was out of their budget but had I ever acted before. I said, "Only as a kid but never studied." He ran an acting course and offered to put me on the acting course for two years for free if I came and wrote for his company.
GW: Oh, wow. This is Michael Armstrong, right?
NJ: This is Michael Armstrong, yeah. For two years I wrote for his company. I wrote two plays for that company and also wrote a monthly newsletter that ended up becoming a national magazine on theater and film. Every Sunday for seven hours we studied acting in his class. After two years graduated and that was eight years ago now?
I did theater for the first year. I toyed around with various plays and then came into the West End with a production of Strindberg's Miss Julie. And then after that did my first TV show which was Heartbeat back in Britain, which would've been around about 2002.
I actually wanted to become a Royal Marine. You go to Career Advice when you're 17. It was mandatory. You sit down with this very stuffy-nosed woman. You say what you want to be in life and then she laughs at you and tells you what you should be.
I remember sitting there at 17 saying, "I want to be an actor" because I loved doing the school productions. I was in National Youth Theatre. And when her giggles subsided we looked at a more realistic career choice for me. My older brother is actually a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force.
GW: Oh wow! OK.
NJ: Yeah, he flies Tornadoes and is actually becoming an instructor on Tornadoes. Another friend of mine was in the Army, so I didn't want to follow them. I decided to go Navy and decided to become a royal Marine, and went to Lympstone which is the British Royal Marine headquarters. [I] did a weekend course there. There's a Potential Officers course to see who they want to select to become officers. They loved me but I was 17 and they only take people to officers who have a degree.
They suggested get a degree, which is when I went on to do sports, because it's the easiest thing that came to me. I'd done sport my entire life.
Jackson as Perdiccas on the set of Oliver Stone's "Alexander."
GW: So this old career woman that told her the true odds -- you should send her your résumé now.
NJ: Yeah! It was just one of those things. I had a passion for acting and I instantly saw in her face, and my family was very supportive, but I never knew any actors.
None of my family are in the arts. None of my friends were ever in the arts. It was an absolute dream to try to get into acting and try to see some sort of path in this industry. And I knew nobody that could guide me and tell me a way of doing it. It was very much a pipe dream.
So I think that it was very easily beaten out of me. It wasn't much of a struggle. "Yeah, you're right. I'm delusional." And it wasn't until six years later when I almost completed my Masters I thought, "I'll give it a stab." And came at it from a very bizarre angle. But I wouldn't change anything now.
GW: Is it harder to get into the industry in Great Britain than it is in LA?
NJ: I imagine it's about the same. There are massively less jobs, and vastly less opportunities, but comparatively there are vastly less people trying for it. It's a far more poroquial industry over there. There's not much money. There's not much funding. There's not much opportunity. There's not much work, but then there's a smaller group of people who are actually scrubbling for it.
So it becomes more of a cottage village industry. You get to know everybody very quickly. And if you happen to get in and are lucky enough to get jobs and successful then you can keep working very successfully. Because once you get within the inner core you stay there. A lot like LA. Once you get in with the casting directors and in with the employed sector it seems to perpetuate.
GW: You're much better off. Now your big break was Alexander. Tell us about that!
NJ: Yeah! I met Lucinda Syson, the casting director back in Britain. I read for Hephaestion, which was Jared Leto's part. She showed the tape to Oliver Stone, and two weeks later I got a phone call saying that Oliver wanted to meet me to read for the part.
Two days before I had been out drinking with a couple of friends and a young man in a pub was very, very rude to a girl that I was with, which lead to an altercation. And I had a black eye and three stitches in my eyebrow.
So I got this call from my agent. I hadn't told him I got the black eye. I was just hoping nothing would come in. I heal fairly quickly. I was hoping by two weeks the black eye will be gone and the stitches will be out.
GW: Oh, but Murphy's Law!
NJ: Yeah, exactly! I got this call to days later saying Oliver Stone's in town for one day, wants to meet me the following day. I was like, "Is there any way you can make it another time? [Laughter] I've kind of got a big black eye right now."
My agent very appropriately said, "Well, that's your problem. You have to go and deal with it." [Laughter] So I turned up for this audition very sheepish. I was actually doing a TV show at the time called Red Cap, ironically playing a boxer.
"Oliver Stone's in town for one day, wants to meet me the following day. I was like ... 'I've kind of got a big black eye right now.'"
When I went to the read-through for that they were very pleased I had the black eye because at least I looked authentic. I turned up to meet Oliver Stone. He never mentioned the eye at all, and to this day I think the reason I got Alexander was because of the black eye.
Because a few of the comments that he made was that he wanted people who looked warrior-like. People who looked like they could take a beating and would get involved. The way that he shot it and the way that we did boot camp, he made sure we all got down and dirty.
There [were] 12 of us who were in the main core of actors. he cast guys who were very rough and ready. Some guys from the streets of Dublin, and us guys from London. We were all very happy to mix it up. So I think that the black eye ended up helping me get the role, ironically. So I guess I should find that guy in that bar and in some way thank him for getting this stage of my career kick-started.