BY BETH DEDMAN
DC’s “Stargirl,” the latest installment in the “Arrowverse,” premieres its pilot at 8 p.m. Tuesday on the CW. The show stars include the talents of Brec Bressinger, Luke Wilson, Joel McHale and Neil Jackson, who plays the season one villain, Icicle.
But while Jackson, who was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, always wanted to be an actor, he walked a winding road to become one.
“It’s crazy,” Jackson said. “I think deep down in my core, I am still an 8-year-old who used to beg his dad to take him to the cinema. I miss going to the cinema. If anything that’s my church.”
From the age of 14, he started doing school plays but did not know anybody in the industry. When he went to a career adviser at his school at 17 and said he wanted to be an actor, the adviser said, “let’s choose a proper career.”
So, instead, Jackson began to train to be in the Royal Marines, before he realized that was not actually something he wanted. He became an amateur boxer and won a couple of British titles, some medals for his university and earning a scholarship for two years of his degree. On the side, Jackson worked as a bouncer at a nightclub in a tough part of Cardiff.
But Jackson wasn’t happy, he said. He realized that the last time he had been happy was when he was doing school plays. He decided to try to return to the stage by auditioning for a play, but the judges cut him off a minute into his monologue. They told him he had no technique and would never act.
“I decided to prove them wrong,” Jackson said.
He contacted a friend in London and asked if they wanted to write a musical together. For six months, he wrote the story and lyrics and would take the train from Cardiff to London to write the music. He sang the lyrics to himself as he continued to work as a bouncer.
A producer took Jackson under his wing and helped him develop the play as he attended his acting classes and worked at his company two days a week. Eventually he won the William Ellis award for the musical.
“It’s been a dream for as long as I can remember; dreaming to be in this world,” Jackson said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Since he graduated from that program 20 years ago, Jackson has worked on projects like “Westworld,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Welcome to Marwen.” In the next year, Jackson will be featured in the prequel to the Kingsman series, “The King’s Man,” season three of “Absentia” and “New Year.”
Jackson signed on to play the role of Jordan Mahkent, or Icicle, because he knew producer Geoff Johns and saw how important the project was to him.
“What I search for and love are multilayered characters,” Jackson said. “Even though Jordan is ‘the villain,’ the reason behind what he’s doing makes complete sense.”
In the show, Mahkent’s wife is a teacher who gets cancer from the school that was built on top of the toxic waste of a pharmaceutical company. Stricken with grief and anger, he decides to make sure that would never happen to anyone else ever again. The means by which he does it are not always the most savory, Jackson said.
“I read the pilot script and it was so beautifully written,” Jackson said. “It balanced the tone so beautifully. It has the balance of “Back to the Future” and high school stuff, but balances that with the darker tone of the villain.”
Jackson enjoyed working with Johns and the whole cast to bring this character to life.
“It was a lot of fun,” Jackson said. “When you’ve got a wonderful boss who is happy to be there and humble and grateful, that trickles down through the cast. Geoff Johns is amazing. He is an amazing collaborator. He could say no when it doesn’t work but is very quick to say yes to good ideas.”
The trailer for “Stargirl” is available on the CW website.