Jonathan Jackson definitely knows what it's like to be in "The Deep End of the Ocean."
As a featured performer on "General Hospital," he's become a rising star on one of the most popular daytime soap operas. And as one of the stars of "The Deep End of the Ocean," a drama based on a best-selling novel, he was required to hold his own against the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams and Whoopi Goldberg."Whew! I really had my work cut out for me this time," he said during a telephone interview from New York, where Jackson was helping publicize the movie. "There's no way I could give a better performance than those guys. They're terrific."
("The Deep End of the Ocean" opened in theaters nationwide on Friday.)
In the film, he plays Vincent Cappadora, the troubled older son of Beth and Pat Cappadora (Pfeiffer and Williams), who are reunited with their missing younger son after nine years.
It's a major role for Jackson, who appeared in the movies "Free Willy" and "The New Kid" and whose most high-profile movie part to date has been in the 1994 comedy, "Camp Nowhere."
Despite his having become a television star (he
even has several fan clubs), the 16-year-old actor has been waiting for the right film project to come along.
"I've done four movies in five years, so you could say I'm being selective about them," Jackson said.
"And it's not as if I haven't been getting any movie offers. There just aren't that many good roles for actors my age," he continued. "The only ones we seem to get offered are in teen slasher movies and stuff like that. But I'm just not interested in being in those kinds of films. What would be the point in it?"
Instead, Jackson was looking for a more dramatic role to play -- and the part in the film was just what he was hoping for. "There is more than one layer to the character -- there's a reason for him acting the way he does, and he's got a tremendous back story. That made him interesting to play."
In fact, after landing the part, Jackson read the novel to get a better grip on what made the character tick. "Fortunately, the screenplay's pretty faithful to the book, and most of the big happenings are in it. So that was a great preparation tool. I really wanted to immerse myself and become my character."
However, Jackson said that playing a bad boy is a stretch for him and in real he is actually nothing like Vincent. "I was a little hesitant to say some of my lines because he swears a lot of the time. I try not to talk like that in real life, so it was a little embarrassing for me. And I'd certainly never act that way around my parents."
And both Williams and Pfeiffer were around on-set to make sure that didn't happen. "It was like having my parents around during the whole shoot. They were extremely supportive. And I was really surprised that they had seen my TV work -- at least they said they had."
Though some actors look down on daytime TV acting, several stars have received their breaks on soap operas, including Alec Baldwin, Robin Wright Penn, Meg Ryan -- and Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose star is definitely on the rise.
"(Sarah is) the obvious example that all the young actors have to look to right now. I know I'd be thrilled just to reach her level of stardom."
But for the time being, Jackson will remain on "General Hospital." Despite rumors about his impending departure, he recently signed a contract extension to with the ABC show. (He plays Lucky Spencer, the son of the arguably popular couple, Luke and Laura Spencer -- actors Anthony Geary and Genie Francis).
"It's great to be playing their son because, thanks to their popularity, I've gotten a lot of screen time -- I've even gotten my own storyline," he said. "But with some of the wild things going on with their characters, it also seems like I'm making a career out of being in dysfunctional families."
However, he emphasized that it is a stretch and nothing like his real life.
"My family gets along just fine," Jackson said. "I'm used to dealing with issues and actually talking about them with my family. So to be in these uncommunicative relationships and be interacting with such crazy characters is pretty weird."