Actor Christopher Jackson Shares Inspiring Words With Creators

Devon Keeley's picture

photo courtesy Lesley University Office of Communications

CAMBRIDGE – Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson spoke at the Washburn Auditorium for the Lesley University Strauch-Mosse Spring 2018 Visiting Artist series.

Jackson made his Broadway debut in the original cast of ‘The Lion King’ in 1997 as an ensemble member at just 20 years old.

He went on to star in several more performances but derived the most pleasure and recognition from his roles as Benny from ‘In the Heights’ and George Washington from Broadway hit ‘Hamilton’.

Prior to his work with ‘In the Heights’ and ‘Hamilton’ Jackson discussed how he was just scraping by and waiting to make it big.

“I thought I was moving into some things, but Hollywood did not call,” he said.

However, Jackson realized that he had been missing one crucial detail.

“I forgot to cultivate the relational aspect of the business,” he said.

It was meeting Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail which changed his outlook and allowed Jackson to rekindle a lost flame of creativity and passion for theatre.

Jackson emphasized that his career was never about waiting for a “movie-star moment” but rather the constant grind and drive to pursue what you want and to never quit.

“Find what motivates your soul,” he continued, “and share it with the rest of the world.”

His work in ‘Hamilton’ as George Washington was morally conflicting, given that he was depicting a founding father who owned slaves and Jackson is African-American.

Jackson visited the slave quarters at Washington’s estate to pay honor to those who never had a name in history and dedicated his performance to those who were unable to have a voice and share their stories.

“There were moments in every performance [of Hamilton] that allowed me to honor the spirits in those slave quarters,” he said.

Following the 30-minute inspirational speech Jackson opened up the floor for questions and conversation where he was able to give words of encouragement to aspiring actors and speak to the difficult aspects of acting and social justice.

Jackson spoke to his starring role on CBS television series Bull and working in Hollywood during the current political climate.

“We have a unique opportunity to talk about the things we need to talk about,” he continued, “unfortunately Hollywood moves slow.”

He remained optimistic, saying that “every half a step is a step in the right direction.”

The visiting artist lecture series at Lesley University “serves as a catalyst for artistic and cultural inquiry. It reinforces arts integration … and best of all it’s free and open to the public.” It is an ongoing series with past speakers including Nick Cave and Carrie Mae Weems. The Fall 2018 Visiting Artist is Pulitzer Prize winning author Colson Whitehead who will speak at Lesley on Oct. 30.