5 Questions With... Shantol Jackson
Next month, actress Shantol Jackson will make her big screen debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Idris Elba's directorial debut, Yardie. The young starlet was also recently honoured with the Prime Minister's Youth Award in the category, Arts and Culture.
Did you always know you would be a thespian and where did the love of theatre/film begin?
Actually, no, I didnt. When I was younger, I would always tell my daddy that I want to become a veterinarian. We later found out that wouldn't work when he put me on the spot and asked me to dissect a frog ... which never happened. I fell in love with poetry and different folk forms from primary school.
My grades five and six teachers, Mr and Mrs Haughton at Southborough Primary, made it a point of duty to teach us folk songs and how to play instruments after lunch.
My first JCDC medal was a silver medal for an ensemble music piece in grade five. When I started Ardenne High School, I joined the Drama Club in grade seven. I believe there was always a little flame there, it just needed to be ignited into something bigger. That's where it all began, in the Ardenne Drama Room with Miss Beadle.
You have been cast in Idris Elba's directorial debut, Yardie. How did that opportunity manifest?
I was contacted by the casting agent here in Jamaica, who informed me of the project and expressed an interest in me auditioning for the part. I did a self tape here, which was sent to the casting agents in London. About two weeks later, I was contacted. "Shantol, are you sitting?" "Umm, no, mi a fold up clothes." "I think you should sit." I was informed that the director is coming in a week and would like to meet me and discuss the audition tape I did. Bear in mind at this point, I had no idea Idris was the director. I just thought he was associated with the film in some major way. So the meeting date came and to my surprise - but keeping very composed - it was Idris Elba. He was very down-to-earth and we had a nice chat about the film and his expectations. He requested another audition with him in the room along with Aml Ameen, the lead in the film, who also came with him. We said our goodbyes, and two weeks later I got a personal call from Idris offering me the role.
Is there anything at all you can reveal about that film's production - lessons learnt, significant encounters?
Definitely, a few lessons learnt. One to make mention of is learning to be comfortable vulnerable, realising and accepting that I have a duty to tell this story to the best of my ability and when it gets overwhelming or a bit uncomfortable, remember it's not you on camera, it's not your story. It's the character you're playing. Significant encounter? Hello!? Idris Elba and Aml Ameen! Listen, I met some really amazing people. But the producers and casting directors are some of the people I plan to keep a really lovely relationship with.
The aspiration to become a Hollywood actress may seem far-fetched to some young Jamaican girls. What advice would you give to a younger aspirant?
I would say continue to seek opportunities that contribute to your growth and development. Never limit yourself. The sky is no limit. You are your only limit. Surround yourself with positive people, positive energies. No matter how small the production, go on that set/stage with a good positive attitude, professionalism, and humility. You never know who is watching.
Who are the filmmakers, actors and actresses you would love to work with in the future?
Mi waa work wid Idris again! Putting it into the universe. I would love to work with Mel Gibson, Steven Spielberg, Lee Daniels, very impressed with Jordan Peele's work, just to name a few filmmakers. How much paper yuh have? Ha ha! Look here now, yuh si Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson! Mi waa inna one movie wid di two a dem one time! Love the work these women do! I admire Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, and mi love Will Smith and Kerry Washington, just to name a few.