Jackson Douglas may not be the passionate-vegetable grower that his Gilmore Girls counterpart Jackson Belleville is, but when it comes down to it, the Gilmore-Jackson is a “hyperbolized version” of the man himself, just “a little bit crazier. A little bit bigger. A little bit zanier,” notes Jackson Douglas in speaking with me recently, “It’s kind of like if you have too much coffee, that’s the version of ‘Jackson’ on the show.”
As one of the “comic-relief people” on the show, we can thank Jackson for sleeping with the zucchini and carting many bags of “pickles” (code name) across the town square, but in real life, you can find Jackson Douglas happily raising a family and tending his Father’s Day bundle of herbs and vegetables, or working behind the camera, directing. Jackson Douglas recently talked with GilmoreNews about his insights on being a part of Gilmore Girls, what it was like to work with Melissa McCarthy, his worst memory on the show, and his desire to make fans happy with the Netflix revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.
Jackson Douglas originally came to his role on Gilmore Girls when his wife, Alex Borstein, was cast as the original Sookie in the Gilmore Girls pilot, later replaced by Melissa McCarthy due to scheduling conflicts.
“Originally, my wife, she was cast as Sookie, and was in the original pilot that we shot in Toronto,” Jackson shares. “Like we do, in most of our jobs that take us out of town, we travel together, and that’s where I first met Amy [Sherman-Palladino}. I had met Dan [Palladino] before, on Family Guy, but didn’t know him real well and didn’t know Amy,” Jackson continues, sharing the story of how they got to know each other over dinner, “I got to know her, and she got to know me, and we had a lot of fun together! It was, really, the easiest audition process ever! I didn’t know I was auditioning, and I don’t think she even know I was auditioning, either.”
“We got along, she liked me, I guess?” continues Jackson, “And she said ‘Oh, we had better write a part for you!’”
Jackson shares that his Gilmore Girls part was originally just a 3-story arc, but they kept him coming back again and again! Indeed, we came to know Jackson Belleville for a total of 57 episodes in the original series! And yes, he was temporarily “Jackson Melville,” the change which he shares may have been a nod to someone the Palladinos knew at the time, though he cannot recall perfectly.
Speaking of names, Jackson shares that he was almost called Christian, “I know that the name was originally supposed to be Christian, but that’s too close to Tristen, and people thought they’d get that screwed up so Amy was like ‘Just call him Jackson!’”
And so Jackson he became, a situation which created a lot of confusion on set! “People didn’t know what to call me!,” Jackson shares. “On set, out of courtesy and respect, you don’t want to call somebody by their character’s name. We all refer to each other by our real names on set. So people would ‘Hey…. You’ and they wouldn’t know that that was my real name. There were people for a couple of years who had no idea that was my real name!”
The similarities between Jackson Douglas and Jackson Belleville don’t end there, though the differences do exist. Jackson shares that the Gilmore-Jackson is an exaggerated version of himself, created by Amy:
“Amy liked to pull from real life, and real-life situations that she found amusing, at the time she was coming up with stories,” shares Jackson, relating a particular example that was woven into Gilmore Girls, “I was the President of the Homeowners Association at the condominium that we lived at, and we would go out to dinner, and I would grapple about the politics about the Homeowners Association and I think, though I never asked directly, that was right about the time that Jackson was running for Town Selectman and having everyone complain. I told her I was the President of the Homeowners Association and she looked at me and asked ‘Why?! Why would you do that?’ I think she takes ideas from people’s lives and then puts her spin on it. It’s certainly her viewpoint, not necessarily my viewpoint, on things. The character is her viewpoint on my life experience, maybe.”
Jackson later goes on to explain that Jackson Belleville is simply a “hyperbolized version of me,” one perhaps a little bit more zany and more obsessed with vegetables than he is. Jackson Douglas can’t claim the same love of vegetables, unless they are covered with cheese and butter or whizzed into a smoothie, “I don’t dislike them… well, I do, I dislike many of them!” Jackson does admit that growing your own food from seed is quite magical, as his Gilmore counterpart would wholeheartedly agree.
As for where we’ll see Jackson Belleville now in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the 4-part revival coming soon to Netflix, that question has been one of the most speculated questions of the show, particularly when it looked like Melissa McCarthy was not returning to Gilmore Girls to reprise her role as Sookie. As you know, Melissa was able to make it work, returning to film her scenes in a single day, but as the husband to her character, that left a lot up in the air.
“The first scene that I had coming back was with Lauren. And Melissa wasn’t there. And we didn’t know if Melissa was coming back or not. And so I kind of explain with a joke where she is. And it starts with me saying ‘Hi’ to her [Lauren]. But I didn’t know whether or not I should say… my question was, Did I see her yesterday, or did I see her five years ago? We didn’t see the whole script, we only got the pages we were in… so I don’t know what kind of ‘Hi’ it was… When you’re on the show, everyone is familiar with each other. And now we’re making this giant time jump and you don’t know. Have we seen each other? Have we not? So, that was a little odd, to ask that kind of question.”
Although Jackson could not reveal where his character is now, in his life, he does reveal that he imagined the Jackson Belleville of 9-years-into-the-future going through life as he did, bringing to the table all that he had experienced in his own past. Despite that, Jackson Douglas wanted the on-screen Jackson to remain a constant, “For me, consistency of the show and I wanted it to feel as if there wasn’t a break,” notes Jackson. “So, I wanted it to be nice and cohesive. I wanted him to be, in a general way, just how everyone imagined it. It was just more of the same: the kids are growing up; they had their normal crazy problems. Things would happen, but nothing traumatic that would affect the way today was. Every day was just dealt with and put to bed. That seemed to be the way that character was anyway; we had the start of something and the finish of something within the same episode.”
Of the revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Jackson Douglas shares that he did not need to fill in too much of his own back story, since “everything that needed to be explained was always very well done in the writing,” and that includes the inclusion of Melissa McCarthy back onto the series, albeit in a smaller capacity. Just like us fans, Jackson had a lot of questions about how it would all play out:
“I can totally understand and see how her schedule would be so difficult to make it happen,” shares Jackson. “So, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she couldn’t have made it, but I’m glad she did. It would have been an awkward missing piece, and I think it probably is going to be somewhat awkward because she won’t be as present as she was, when she was on the show in the series.”
Although we won’t know how the writers addressed the return of Melissa McCarthy, whose part as Sookie had already been mostly eliminated from the scripts, we do know that Amy Sherman-Palladino was open to writing her into the revival in some capacity. Though we don’t know yet what to expect from the Sookie / Jackson dynamic in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume we would continue to count on Jackson as “one of the comic relief people,” who, although you don’t know intimately, you can count on him to be a part of the fabric of Stars Hollow.
Jackson shares that one of his scenes on the returning series, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, includes a Stars Hollow event: “The scene that I did in Stars Hollow… it was a big festival again. So that was a very familiar feeling; it just being a huge set, just filled to the brim with stuff. That’s always how Stars Hollow did it. It felt very familiar.” Indeed, Jackson notes that being back on Gilmore Girls was just like getting on a bicycle, “you just automatically remember how to do it.” Indeed, given that his character is not ‘somebody else,’ he didn’t need to go through a major transformation for his return: “ I think the Gilmore Jackson vs me is just a hyperbolized version of myself. A little bit crazier. A little bit bigger. A little bit zanier. It’s kind of like if you have too much coffee, that’s the version of ‘Jackson’ on the show.”
Jackson describes the experience of returning to Gilmore Girls as “a lot of fun,” and he’s so happy the revival happened – despite his initial skepticism! “Even in Austin of last year, there were constantly people talking about ‘Is it going to come back?’,” reveals Jackson. “And Amy put it best, when she said, ‘Everybody here would love to do it, but it’s just seems impossible.’ Nobody ever said no. You never say never. I was surprised when I heard that it was coming back. But it made perfect sense! If everybody was available, and the schedule could go right. The most difficult one was Melissa, she’s so busy. But… everybody was available! And it just worked! It’s great, I was very happy. I was excited to be able to do that again.”
Being at the ATX Festival gave Jackson an opportunity to connect with fans of Gilmore Girls, which has been amazing for him. Indeed, it was the continued requests by fans and the presence of other Gilmore Girls actors engaging with the fans on social media that encouraged Jackson to start @JacksonVeggies on Twitter (although he wishes his kids were older, to truly manage it for him!). “I started doing it as a way to do it [continue the conversation]. I have a very small following of loyal people and cool people and it’s people who I would have no problem talking to, so I don’t mind having that kind of direct connection with them.”
Jackson Douglas shares that he always enjoyed going to work on Gilmore Girls, “I always had a smile on my face. I always had fun with Melissa [McCarthy]. It was always a joy,” though Season 2’s ‘Bracebridge Dinner’ was a favourite of his: “I remember the Bracebridge Dinner as having a lot of fun, even though I was wearing 42,000 layers of clothing and sweating like a madman, it was a lot of fun because it was just so silly. The scenes where you can tell I’m having fun are when I get really carried away and animated. I know that’s with all of them, but that’s all of them!” Another favourite scene was the deep fried turkey (and shoe!), and of course the wide variety of amazing actors he worked with:
“I’ve always worked opposite Melissa [McCarthy], 99% of the time, and we always had a blast. And then whenever I would work with Yanic [Truesdale], we would always give each other a really hard time. I don’t know why, but we really enjoyed doing that. And it was fun,” shares Jackson, continuing that working with Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel was equally great, though they often had to be more serious, with their huge work loads: “Lauren was good; she was a lot of fun to work with, and she was enjoyable, but she had such a huge amount of work that she couldn’t be as playful. She is, she was, but there were times when she was just overwhelmed: she had to learn 80 pages in 8 days! So there’s times she’d be occupied with that, whereas Melissa and I? Well, ‘We got one scene!’ so we come in with a casual, playful attitude, and it can almost be disrespectful to Lauren and Alexis who had a ton of stuff to do that day and we’re off goofing off and they’re trying to conserve energy.”
Although he has many favourite scenes, Jackson also shares he has one least favourite scene as well, which occurred in Season 5’s “We Got Us a Pippi Virgin,” where he struggled with a tongue-twister of a scene: “I had to say a huge mouthful of stuff about a springy-bouncy-toy at the playground… It was about half a page of dialogue and it was all tongue twister and literally impossible for me to get out. I remember looking around the room at everybody getting frustrated at having to do take 15 or something just because I could not get it out of my mouth. And the humour and comedy of the bit was that I would go on this diatribe and get it all in one take, and I just couldn’t do it. I think we had to cut it into three sections, and I remember being disappointed that day. I think it sacrificed the joke, in having to do that, as well. That was my worst day at work.”
In the scene, Jackson was acting as Town Selectman in responding to a woman whose daughter fell of a “piggy” and hurt her arm on the “ducky”, to which Jackson replied, “So you say your granddaughter fell off the ducky? Oh, she fell off the piggy and she whacked her arm on the ducky. Uh-huh. I see. Well, the first thing I would do is question the horsey, ’cause he’s right next to the piggy and is our most reliable witness. No, there’s nothing funny about that, Mrs. Cassini. Nothing whatsoever. No, a little girl being thrown from a pink, spring-loaded, bobbling piggy toy is very serious business. Yes, Mrs. Cassini.”
Thanks to the fans for tracking this one down, and can’t you just see what a tongue-twister that one would have been, to deliver quickly? On Gilmore Girls, explains Jackson, scenes are typically shot beginning-to-end as one shot, what they called a “oner,” with no cuts: “Those aren’t so bad, if you can break up the dialogue, but my brain doesn’t work as fast as we’re supposed to talk on the show. So I can’t really think about it. If I think about it, it gets in the way. So I have to think about it a lot, in order to prepare; find out what my feeling is, what my action is, what I’m trying to accomplish, and memorize the text, and then just repeat. It’s all in prep. Once you get the text down, you can start to play with it a little more. It’s really fast, especially that one where it had to all come out and it just didn’t work. But it’s still fun.”
Jackson joins with fans in sharing how Season 7 was a “difficult season for everybody,” without Amy and Dan on hand, and it’s possible that lasting disappointment is driving extra anticipating toward this new revival. As the time goes on, Jackson shares that he’s becoming more nervous of the revival living up to everyone’s inflated expectations, noting that fans are still in the “Oh My GOD, it’s going to be the greatest show on television ever made and ever will be made. FOREVER” stage, which is hard to live up to: “So much expectation and desire has been built up in the years that we’ve been gone that I fear that nothing anybody could do could live up to that expectation and my biggest fear is that people will be disappointed, and it has nothing to do with the caliber of the show or the performers or the creative that went into it. That’s all on par and on point. We’re all as good as we ever were. The writing, the performances. Everybody’s spot on. But it’s the expectation that I have some concern about.”
In the end, Jackson hopes there are more happy fans than disappointed ones, and I truly believe there will be. Although we’ve had some clues about the revival, we’ve mostly been kept in the dark, and Jackson believes that’s a good thing: “I think the fans are smart enough to know that they don’t want to know, until they see it the way they’re supposed to. There’s that normal curiosity. I think people want to be teased to something, but nobody wants their experience to be compromised.”
Jackson also gives credits to fans for wanting a true Gilmore Girls experience: “People respect and appreciate the show for the way it is and they want to see it unfold the way they are used to. And what they love about it; they love the long journey to the answer. That’s what Gilmore so fun: it was a long journey to an answer. And sometimes you get there, and sometimes you never would, but it was the journey that was the enjoying part.
Jackson shares that they were so worried about leaks, that they shot ‘red herring’ scenes that won’t be used: “They shot red herring scenes. The shot stuff that isn’t going to make it, as a misdirect in case of leaks. Whole scenes or ending of scenes… there are very select people that know the whole story. I’m not one of those people!” Indeed, the security applied to every stage of the filming, including restricting which pages you could see and the watermarking of each script with each actors’ name. With a project as large as this one (have you see the number of actors returning?), that’s a safe measure. Jackson mentioned that his script listed him at #147 or something, showing the long line of actors, new and returning, who are involved in the show.
As I ask all who I interview here at GilmoreNews, I asked Jackson if he was Team Dean, Team Jess or Team Logan: “Team Dean! Jared was always so sweet and genuine. Not that Milo or Matt are not cool, but I got to know Jared more. Milo and Matt are cool people, I just have the most chemistry with Jared. He was sweet and I feel bad for him because he [as Dean] got hurt. I can empathize. Plus, there’s all that nostalgia for that first love.”
Since the original run of Gilmore Girls ended, Jackson Douglas shares that “life’s been good,” and that his life truly imitated art, as he had his own kids after the show ended, though perhaps not quite as prolifically as Jackson & Sookie did. “I love being a Dad!” shares Jackson, whose eldest son is now 7. Aside from his family life, Jackson shares that he spends more time behind the camera now, than in front of it; “It’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make movies and tell stories,” notes Jackson, whose directing credits include three episodes of the original Gilmore Girls series as well as two in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Bunheads.