From General Hospital to the Hospital of Souls: Interview with Jonathan Jackson

The Obligatory Cellphone Shot

This morning, after Matins, I high-tailed it across New Jersey over to Newark Liberty International Airport, pulled up to the Departures area at Terminal A, and picked up a man holding a tray of coffee. We drove to the airport parking, picked a spot, and proceeded to chat for about ninety minutes, about sixty of which I caught on tape.

The man was (as you can see from the photo) Emmy award winning actor Jonathan Jackson, who is perhaps best known for his role as “Lucky Spencer” (son of the mighty super-couple Luke and Laura) on “General Hospital.” Jonathan and his family are currently catechumens of the Orthodox Church, preparing for baptism this coming Holy Saturday, the day before Pascha (Easter).

I’ll let you listen to the interview yourself for all the details of our chat, but I will say that it was a genuine pleasure to conduct. One occasionally finds people that convert to Orthodoxy for various reasons (many of which can, indeed, be good), but it’s always such a delight to find someone who is entering into the Church because of a diligent and earnest desire for the truth. Jonathan has that. But this post isn’t really about that. (But the interview is!)

What this weblog entry is actually about is how a lowly, no-account priest like me got to interview a Hollywood heartthrob, especially because, when his name first came to my attention, I had never heard of him. (He didn’t seem to mind.)

The story essentially goes like this: In the process of exploring the history of Christianity, Jonathan and his sister ended up coming across Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy (also on Amazon) and reading it together. Out of the blue, she contacted me this past November to ask if I’d be willing to send a couple signed copies out to them over on the West Coast, as a surprise Christmas gift. She also asked if I’d be willing to be introduced to her brother.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I often get people contacting me out of the blue and asking for things from me as a priest that are really properly asked of a priest who is local to them. So my first thought was to try to politely brush them off, because I essentially have a local-only policy about such things. But this wasn’t the same kind of request. She wanted to introduce us, because she thought we might get along, and she also let me know that he was already fully plugged-in with a priest and parish local to him. But I must admit that my first thought was, “What the heck will a soap opera star and I have in common?”

But there was just something about the request that kind of intrigued me, even though I am naturally wary of anyone with fame. (I was particularly amused to hear Jonathan say today, “Fame is ridiculous.” I agree.) So of course I sent the books, but instead of initiating the contact myself, I just put a couple of copies of my business card inside the books.

Sure enough, he contacted me sometime after Christmas. We corresponded a bit over email, and I was particularly amused at the (barely restrained) gushing of some of my female parishioners and friends when I happened to mention the whole thing to them. They couldn’t believe that this guy was really becoming Orthodox, and they also had a hard time believing that their priest (of all people) was somehow connecting with him.

Over the course of our correspondence, he told me that he was going to be on the East Coast with his band Enation to play some shows not terribly far away from Emmaus, all within a couple hours or so. So we decided to try to meet up.

Anyway, we eventually were able to work out a time when we could connect, and in the meantime, I suggested the idea of doing an interview for the Roads From Emmaus podcast. He graciously agreed, and now you can listen to much of our talk.

It was a wonderful encounter. I guess I should probably get familiar with his work, though I can’t say I’m likely to start watching “General Hospital” any time soon. (He’s off the show for the time being, anyway, so I guess that lets me off the hook. I should probably watch Tuck Everlasting at some point, though.)

Comments

  1. says

    ‘Tuck Everlasting’ was a good movie, Abouna. I think it may have been Disney but not altogether in the Disney sort of way if that makes any sense. (I realize you are not accustomed to me making sense). Never heard of him either. But good stuff. Many years to the catechumen and his sister. May your Lent be blessed and productive.

  2. says

    Well, I for one, and a pretty big fan of JJ. He is a FANTASTIC actor. Its pretty clear from this interview that he is a very thoughtful man and takes his craft seriously on a spiritual and philosophical level. I think that kind of sophistication totally shines through in his performance. I knew he was a Christian, but this totally threw me for a FABULOUS loop. The interview totally brightened by my rainy afternoon.

    Xronia Polla Jonathan and family!

  3. says

    Fascinating!

    Looking at his IMDB entry, I see that he was born one year, one month, one week, and one day before I was. I don’t know why that’s significant – it’s just one of those patterns that my brain notices.

    Now at least your readers know when it’s time to send my presents. :-)

    • says

      Congratulations seems kind of an odd word for this sentiment, but I can’t really think of one better at the moment. Either way, I cheerfully accept it in the spirit it was no doubt intended.

  4. says

    Profound ideas during the interview. I am an Orthodox writer/artist and what Jon was saying about his art form as a spiritual process resonated with me. It echos another AF podcast from a few weeks back, about the experiential nature of Orthodoxy and how art – the experiential exploration of truth – can, at its best, do something similar.
    http://ancientfaith.com/announcements/vocation_poetry_and_prayer_ways_of_knowing.
    “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Those were the words that brought me back into the church after a few years disillusioned in Protestantism, just out of college. I was no Orthodox scholar, avoided stuffy religious books, but I remembered what it felt like, especially during Lent and Pascha. I hungered for it, and eventually, I binged. My husband and I roasted a whole lamb for the entire parish that first Pascha back; we were so excited to be home.

    But actually, I was intrigued by something you said during the interview, about an atheist who reacted violently against his first Orthodox service. What happened to him?