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Joshua Jackson Learns a New Language for ‘Children of a Lesser God’

April 2, 2018 by Suzy Evans
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(Photographed by Nathan Johnson)

When Joshua Jackson started working on “Children of a Lesser God,” he was like “a barely verbal child.” The Tony-winning play follows the love story between a speech therapist and his Deaf student, and Jackson had to learn American Sign Language for the part.

The show premiered at Berkshire Theatre Group last summer and opens on Broadway on April 11. His co-star Lauren Ridloff recalls working with Jackson on the language for an hour before rehearsals every day.

“He came in ready and open,” Ridloff says.” He works so hard. When I see the amount of effort he puts into the show, I can’t help but do the same thing.”

Director Kenny Leon asked Jackson if he would join the project after they worked together on “Smart People” off Broadway, and Jackson was eager to collaborate again and make his Broadway debut. While Jackson has spent much of his career on screen in series like “Dawson’s Creek” and “The Affair,” he’s always had Broadway on his bucket list.

“When you are onstage as an actor, you are in totality responsible for your performance,” Jackson says of the difference between the mediums. “It’s one of those things that you don’t get in television, because ultimately your performance is in the hands of editors, directors, and writers. Whereas after I’m finished with the rehearsal process and I’m standing on stage, that’s my performance time.”

Jackson plays James Leeds, a man “blinded by his own abilities,” and he admits that like his character, he is “guilty of mansplaining, as is every man.” But he hopes what audiences take away from the story’s message is to be open and listen to each other in times of turmoil and disagreement.

“We live in this cultural moment where we are talking at each other and not to each other, and not really trying to empathetically understand the how and why of the other side of the argument,” he says. “As much as this show is set in a very specific world, the core of it is universal and it’s something that I think we’re all struggling with right now. How do we truly come to an understanding with somebody who is different than us?”

Styled by Julianna Alabado
Grooming by Jennifer Brent

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