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‘Devotion’ Star Christina Jackson on Playing “the Heart” of the War Drama

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From Christina Jackson’s perspective, acting chose her — not the other way around. “I was always very animated, and my parents thought I was [might become] a lawyer,” recalls Jackson, 35, of her formative years in Plainfield, New Jersey. The vocation she would make her career as an adult first presented itself when Jackson was in seventh grade. “There wasn’t a lot available — like, I wasn’t taking karate classes, I wasn’t doing ballet,” she says of the moment a teacher in her middle school suggested she join the drama club.

The connection was immediate. “I love reading, I love storytelling — I love turning the page and being transported back in time or to another world,” says Jackson. Discovering a talent for performing led her to an arts-focused high school, where she majored in drama. “It wasn’t a game anymore. This was real work.”

Jackson found a manager before graduating from high school, and shortly thereafter began auditioning for commercials. “There was never a point where I was like, ‘This is what I want to do,'” she says. “I was cute, I was fun, I took direction well, and I made a lot of money doing commercials.” It was a good career and reiterated that acting wasn’t just a creative pursuit — it was also a job. “I wasn’t a starving artist,” she says. “But with time, I got better and more confident, and more jobs came along.”

The role that changed her career was Maybelle White on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, which suddenly took her to table reads with the likes of Steve Buscemi and Michael K. Williams, the latter playing her character’s husband. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘How the fuck did I get here?’ Not that I didn’t deserve to be, but it was the turning point in my head. They’re trusting me to bring something to this collective.”

She also learned that trust works both ways. When she first received the call from director JD Dillard about playing Daisy Brown, the dutiful wife to Jonathan Majors’ aviator Jesse in Sony’s Devotion, she was unsure about the small role. “Very quickly, JD was like, ‘Daisy is the heart of the film. If she’s not played by a strong actress, it doesn’t come together,’” she recalls. In her first meeting with Majors, the actor put it a similar way. “He said that Daisy is a sanctuary for Jesse,” she says. “I know how deep and encompassing and tethered that word is. It’s worship. It’s ethereal, it’s godly.”

Jackson and Jonathan Majors, as Daisy and Jesse Brown, in Sony's Devotion

Jackson and Jonathan Majors, as Daisy and Jesse Brown, in Sony’s Devotion

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/SONY PICTURES

What sealed the deal was reading a letter that the real Jesse sent to Daisy. “It was four pages of this man telling this woman that no one has ever loved anyone as much as he loved her,” says Jackson, who remembers staying up all night crying over the letter and then emailing Dillard in the morning. “I was like, ‘I get it.’ That thing I couldn’t understand about Daisy on the page — it was these three men showing me what she means to them.”

Making Devotion has also changed Jackson’s perspective as an actress. “I had a lot more freedom in ways that I haven’t on other projects,” she says. “The thing about freedom is that you want to hold on to it. I’m taking the trying aspect even further than I have before, because there are so many stories out there that need to be told.”

This story first appeared in a December stand-alone issue of The News84Media magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.



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