Jacqui Jackson is about as genuine as they come in Hollywood. Maybe it's because she lives in Chicago. Or, quite possibly, it could have something to do with the fact that she is just like everyone else. When she picked up the phone for our interview, we chatted for a few moments about how she had basically just dumped her laptop off of the porch on accident while trying to move a towel or two that had been sitting on top of it. Laughing the entire time during her reenactment so that I could join her on the not-so-funny journey of the broken laptop, Jacqui remained positive, uplifted and as cool as a cucumber in a December snow. Her endearing charm won my heart on the phonejust as her character, Greta in Claudia Allen's Hannah Freewon the hearts of thousands around the globe.
Hannah Free has traveled to over 60 film festivals in the past year and has won numerous awards in cities such as Montreal, Philadelphia, Austin, Miami, St. Louis and right here in Chicago. Stars of the decorated film were on hand this past weekend for Chicago Pride to celebrate the DVD release of Hannah Free. Jacqui Jackson, Sharon Gless, Kelli Strickland and others were at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago on Saturday evening for a truly unforgettable DVD release party.
WCT: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me! How are you?
Jacqui Jackson: [ Laughs ] Well, I had just come outside to get some sun and I brought my laptop out with me and, guess what? I totally dropped it off the porch! I am using this as a reason to get an iPad. I wonder if I should call the Geek Squad?
WCT: Oh, no! Sorry to hear that! That really…well, it just plain sucks.
Jacqui Jackson: [ Laughs ] Oh, it's okay! I just wanted to give you a perspective on this interview. I've been literally just sitting here with a blank stare trying to figure out how it happened! It's been so traumatic. It all happened in slow motion. I guess it couldn't survive a seven-foot fall!
WCT: Are you excited for the DVD release?
Jacqui Jackson: Well, it's mostly exciting for me because a lot of my family and friends all across the country, since it's had festival and limited runs only, not everyone has been able to go to a limited run. It's been very exciting for me to finally be able to share the film with my family, friends and queer allies who maybe weren't part of the target audience where the film festivals played and might not have been able to see it otherwise. It is being distributed by Wolfe Video and will be available online via Netflix and in stores like Best Buy so it's definitely going to get a wider audience. People who might not have come out to gay and lesbian film festivals will now have a chance to see it.
WCT: Is it true that Hannah Free was your first film?
Jacqui Jackson: Yes, this was my first feature length film. I had done some student shorts previously, but this was my first feature length film.
WCT: Has your life changed at all since starring in this film?
Jacqui Jackson: Hugely. Immensely. I mean, part of that is just because I had to take a year off of acting to finish my degree from DePaul. That was a big thing, but it was very well-timed because in the same year that I was in school and unable to do shows or films and what have you, Hannah Free was also steadily growing in popularity and I was able to travel a little bit and follow the film around to a certain extent. I went to the San Francisco premiere, the L.A. premiere and the New York premiere. I also went to the Miami film festival and also had a chance to see it premiere at a theater in my hometown in St. Louis. It was an amazing turnout and a really wonderful experience.
WCT: Were you at all intimidated by your more experienced cast members?
Jacqui Jackson: I never knew what I was getting into when I auditioned! I can tell you that much. I think that at that point, I only had knowledge of Sharon because of her amazing work on Queer As Folk. I didn't have any knowledge of any of the other actors other than that. It was one of the first things that I really went out for and I got it! The timing of it all really just worked out.
WCT: Your character in the film is a bit of an activist. Are you like that yourself?
Jacqui Jackson: The film helped me to become an activist again. In high school I was an activist. Conservatory is a very busy, busy place and you don't have a lot of time to do different things so I feel like I kind of lost a bit of myself there. Working on Hannah Free and meeting all of the people around the world and seeing how the film impacted their lives really rekindled that flame in me and made me want to really go out and do more for my community. I identify as queer so that was definitely a really important part for me to get back during the process of this film.
WCT: What's up next for you, Ms. Jacqui?
Jacqui Jackson: I would love to do more queer cinema, queer film and theatre. Right before I did Hannah Free I was in a lesbian play here in Chicago. I am also planning a move to New York City soon! I'm excited, scared and nervous, but it'll be great! If there is a Hannah Free 2 in the works, I'm available!