From General Hospital to the Hospital of Souls: Interview with Jonathan Jackson

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The Obligatory Cellphone Shot

This morning, after Matins, I high-tailed it across New Jersey over to Newark Liberty International Airport, pulled up to the Departures area at Terminal A, and picked up a man holding a tray of coffee. We drove to the airport parking, picked a spot, and proceeded to chat for about ninety minutes, about sixty of which I caught on tape.

The man was (as you can see from the photo) Emmy award winning actor Jonathan Jackson, who is perhaps best known for his role as “Lucky Spencer” (son of the mighty super-couple Luke and Laura) on “General Hospital.” Jonathan and his family are currently catechumens of the Orthodox Church, preparing for baptism this coming Holy Saturday, the day before Pascha (Easter).

I’ll let you listen to the interview yourself for all the details of our chat, but I will say that it was a genuine pleasure to conduct. One occasionally finds people that convert to Orthodoxy for various reasons (many of which can, indeed, be good), but it’s always such a delight to find someone who is entering into the Church because of a diligent and earnest desire for the truth. Jonathan has that. But this post isn’t really about that. (But the interview is!)

What this weblog entry is actually about is how a lowly, no-account priest like me got to interview a Hollywood heartthrob, especially because, when his name first came to my attention, I had never heard of him. (He didn’t seem to mind.)

The story essentially goes like this: In the process of exploring the history of Christianity, Jonathan and his sister ended up coming across Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy (also on Amazon) and reading it together. Out of the blue, she contacted me this past November to ask if I’d be willing to send a couple signed copies out to them over on the West Coast, as a surprise Christmas gift. She also asked if I’d be willing to be introduced to her brother.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I often get people contacting me out of the blue and asking for things from me as a priest that are really properly asked of a priest who is local to them. So my first thought was to try to politely brush them off, because I essentially have a local-only policy about such things. But this wasn’t the same kind of request. She wanted to introduce us, because she thought we might get along, and she also let me know that he was already fully plugged-in with a priest and parish local to him. But I must admit that my first thought was, “What the heck will a soap opera star and I have in common?”

But there was just something about the request that kind of intrigued me, even though I am naturally wary of anyone with fame. (I was particularly amused to hear Jonathan say today, “Fame is ridiculous.” I agree.) So of course I sent the books, but instead of initiating the contact myself, I just put a couple of copies of my business card inside the books.

Sure enough, he contacted me sometime after Christmas. We corresponded a bit over email, and I was particularly amused at the (barely restrained) gushing of some of my female parishioners and friends when I happened to mention the whole thing to them. They couldn’t believe that this guy was really becoming Orthodox, and they also had a hard time believing that their priest (of all people) was somehow connecting with him.

Over the course of our correspondence, he told me that he was going to be on the East Coast with his band Enation to play some shows not terribly far away from Emmaus, all within a couple hours or so. So we decided to try to meet up.

Anyway, we eventually were able to work out a time when we could connect, and in the meantime, I suggested the idea of doing an interview for the Roads From Emmaus podcast. He graciously agreed, and now you can listen to much of our talk.

It was a wonderful encounter. I guess I should probably get familiar with his work, though I can’t say I’m likely to start watching “General Hospital” any time soon. (He’s off the show for the time being, anyway, so I guess that lets me off the hook. I should probably watch Tuck Everlasting at some point, though.)

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31 thoughts on “From General Hospital to the Hospital of Souls: Interview with Jonathan Jackson

    Laura said:
    February 27, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    ! I used to love GH, although I don’t watch anymore. Many years to Jonathan!

    Fr. Adam Sexton said:
    February 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    ‘Tuck Everlasting’ was a good movie, Abouna. I think it may have been Disney but not altogether in the Disney sort of way if that makes any sense. (I realize you are not accustomed to me making sense). Never heard of him either. But good stuff. Many years to the catechumen and his sister. May your Lent be blessed and productive.

    Genevieve said:
    February 28, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Well, I for one, and a pretty big fan of JJ. He is a FANTASTIC actor. Its pretty clear from this interview that he is a very thoughtful man and takes his craft seriously on a spiritual and philosophical level. I think that kind of sophistication totally shines through in his performance. I knew he was a Christian, but this totally threw me for a FABULOUS loop. The interview totally brightened by my rainy afternoon.

    Xronia Polla Jonathan and family!

    Michael Astley said:
    February 28, 2012 at 6:42 am

    Fascinating!

    Looking at his IMDB entry, I see that he was born one year, one month, one week, and one day before I was. I don’t know why that’s significant – it’s just one of those patterns that my brain notices.

    Now at least your readers know when it’s time to send my presents. :-)

    WRVinovskis said:
    February 28, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Nice. Congratulations on your new friend.

      Fr. Andrew responded:
      February 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

      Congratulations seems kind of an odd word for this sentiment, but I can’t really think of one better at the moment. Either way, I cheerfully accept it in the spirit it was no doubt intended.

    Ana said:
    February 28, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Profound ideas during the interview. I am an Orthodox writer/artist and what Jon was saying about his art form as a spiritual process resonated with me. It echos another AF podcast from a few weeks back, about the experiential nature of Orthodoxy and how art – the experiential exploration of truth – can, at its best, do something similar.
    http://ancientfaith.com/announcements/vocation_poetry_and_prayer_ways_of_knowing.
    “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” Those were the words that brought me back into the church after a few years disillusioned in Protestantism, just out of college. I was no Orthodox scholar, avoided stuffy religious books, but I remembered what it felt like, especially during Lent and Pascha. I hungered for it, and eventually, I binged. My husband and I roasted a whole lamb for the entire parish that first Pascha back; we were so excited to be home.

    But actually, I was intrigued by something you said during the interview, about an atheist who reacted violently against his first Orthodox service. What happened to him?

      Fr. Andrew responded:
      February 28, 2012 at 9:56 am

      We never saw him again, I’m afraid. (And the girl in question ended up marrying a faithful man of the parish.)

    Petros H Thorp said:
    February 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Great headline… :-)

    Jim marks said:
    February 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Thank you so much for this interview. The mirror to my own journey out of Protestantism is just astounding.

    The quote you both agreed on is the key: to study history is to cease to be Protestant.

    The only people I know who can know history and remain Protestant are those who rewrite it to support their presuppositions.

    There are so many who are lost in the crowd.

      Judy Moore said:
      April 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      I hope we are not bashing protestants. that history is tied to martin luther with the protestant reformation which led to the various denominations. i am a history person. i study it immensely. i am baptist and proud to be one. at my church we worship God in spirit and in truth. i also have worship in other churches who are not baptist. if we are studying the Bible and worshipping one God why can’t come together as one. if you know history african americans had to start their own churches so they could worship freely. i could go all day on this. i love jonathan jackson by the way and am inspired by his faith. you can be christian-no matter the way you go about it and still work in hollywood. just think a long time ago anyone tied to the theatre was considered in league with the devil. some folks feel that way now. thank God i don’t.

        Fr. Andrew S. Damick responded:
        April 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

        Judy, did you listen to the interview? There really isn’t any bashing of any sort going on there.

    George said:
    February 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Great Interview Father! I want to say that Jonathan uses the same words I use “It was like lightening”. I share nearly the same path he took as many of us do. What a beautiful work God is doing to draw more and more people to His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Indeed… Many Years Jonathan! May you be richly blessed.

    -g-

    Matushka Anna said:
    February 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this interview (which you know, since you found my post!) even though I knew nothing about Jonathan Jackson. What he said about praying for a “third door to open” really resonated with me because I did the same thing. I just couldn’t be Anglican and I couldn’t be Catholic. I was in complete misery until my husband-to-be found the Orthodox Church. Even with that similarity, as I noted in my post, I think in general men and women journey to Orthodoxy differently. I felt a strong kinship with Jackson’s wife!

    Thank you for interviewing Mr. Jackson. A real treat.

    Sylvia said:
    February 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Excellent post, as usual, Father. His interview was beautiful and very, very moving. Thank you so much for sharing this experience.

    Coleen said:
    March 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Saw this on the Orthodox Mom blog and hopped over. I’m leaving the same comment I left there…this was just beautiful.

    We who were blessed to be born into the Orthodox faith need to listen to this interview. As I sat back and listened to him I realized how much we take our Orthodox faith for granted and how much more knowledgable and humble he is than we are. I will be reading some of the books he has recommended and strive to learn and understand our beautiful faith.

    matushka constantina said:
    March 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Father, I’m not sure if I missed it in the interview, but you mention here that his sister contacted you. So, are his siblings and/or parents also converting, or just his immediate family (for now anyway)?

    I also loved the interview by the way. It was great!

      Fr. Andrew responded:
      March 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      I think if he’d wanted to talk about that, he would have. So I don’t really have anything for you there.

    Octavian said:
    March 8, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Amazing story! To see a man searching all those years for the truth, studying and fighting with his soul it’s inspiring. I felt humiliated because I was thinking about myself in parallel. I am from Romania, coming from generations of pure orthodox ancestors and don’t feel those emotions Jonathan talks about when participating in the Liturgy. Probably I take the gift of being orthodox for granted. I should think about that more deeply. Anyway, congratulations Jonathan for the upcoming baptism.

    Things to Listen to « Roads from Emmaus said:
    March 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    [...] you probably saw (but I think is worth highlighting again) is my hour-long, airport parking lot interview with [...]

    Bright Week Debrief « Roads from Emmaus said:
    April 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    [...] was wonderful to have a chrismation on Holy Saturday this year, and those who remember my interview with actor and musician Jonathan Jackson should be glad to hear that he and his family were all [...]

    Dorothy said:
    May 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Hi, Father Andrew. I listened to your interview with Jonathan back when it first appeared on AFR. I truly enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much, I must have listened to it at least 4 times, and had passed it on to some of my friends to listen as well, and many did!

    I recognized Jonathan’s name because I did see a little of GH back years and years ago, actually before I was a practicing Orthodox Christian. I also saw the movie Tuck Everlasting probably 6 or 7 years ago. It was all right. Kind of a strange movie, but touching in a way. :) I’d always liked him, and I caught a minute of the Emmys the year that Jonathan won for his role on GH, and it’s funny because I do distinctly remembering his thanking Jesus Christ, and was a bit surprised but pleasantly surprised. He seemed genuine. Now, having heard the podcast, I am happy to see my thoughts on his being genuine were true!

    Thanks for an excellent interview and for your great podcasts on AFR!

    ~Dorothy

    [...] [...]

    Orthodoxy at the Emmys « Roads from Emmaus said:
    June 25, 2012 at 8:30 am

    [...] may recall my interview with Mr. Jackson shortly before he and his family were baptized into the Orthodox Church earlier [...]

    Dorothy said:
    June 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Father, are you planning to do a followup interview with Jonathan, now that he’s an Orthodox Christian?

      Fr. Andrew S. Damick responded:
      June 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

      I hadn’t really given it any thought. That would be up to him, I suppose.

    [...] an episode of Roads From Emmaus, which can be heard here. For background on the interview, read here. Source Be Sociable, Share! Tweet Cancel [...]

    Parish Life Conference Talks Now Online said:
    July 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    […] and listen to an interview our pastor Fr. Andrew did with Jonathan on his conversion to Orthodoxy here). Jonathan played a “coffee house” concert for us as well as spoke about his journey […]

    […] Jonathan Jackson is a five-time Emmy Award winning actor and musician. Among many roles in both film and television, he has starred as “Lucky Spencer” in General Hospital (1993-1999, 2009-2011) as well as “Avery Barkley” on Nashville (2012-present), and he is the lead singer of the independent rock band Enation (2004-present). In 2012, Jonathan and his family were baptized into the Orthodox Church (read about and listen to an interview our pastor Fr. Andrew did with Jonathan on his conversion to Orthodoxy here). […]

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