Tim Jackson is a man of many talents. And many stories.
He sat behind the Nixon daughters when the Beatles appeared on “Ed Sullivan” in 1964 — an event that launched his musical career.
He got kicked out of the Staples High School orchestra for “not being serious.” His band, The Loved Ones, opened for the Rascals at Staples.
Jackson majored in drama at Ithaca College. He went on to play drums in several bands (and open for Bruce Springsteen).
He toured with Tom Rush and LaVern Baker, and recorded often. His ’60s band — The Band That Time Forgot — has performed for over 30 years.
Jackson earned a master’s in education, and taught film history and production. He’s making a film about Westport poet and author Joan Walsh Anglund.
He’s acted in enough plays, films and commercials to get — and keep — his SAG and AFTRA cards. “I’ve been in nothing you’ve ever heard of,” he says.
But you’ve heard of his latest gig. “Chappaquiddick” opened a couple of days ago. The movie explores the 1969 story of Ted Kennedy. The Massachusetts senator drove his car off a narrow bridge on an island off Martha’s Vineyard, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old former campaign worker of his slain brother Bobby, with whom he had been partying all night.
Jackson plays Kopechne’s father, Joe. He’s seen at her funeral; dismissing Kennedy’s cousin and confidante Joe Gargan, in order to talk to the senator; and watching Kennedy’s nationally televised speech a few days after the accident.
“I spent all day watching a fake TV, looking depressed with the woman who plays my wife,” Jackson says about that scene.
All afternoon he puffed on a cigarette that emitted plenty of smoke (but had no tobacco). He prepared by channeling his mother, a chain smoker. The cameraman wore a gas mask.
Director John Curran’s former art teacher was cast as Kopechne’s neighbor. He and his screen “wife” deliver a casserole to the Kopechnes, who shoo them away. The teacher was nervous, but Jackson — a longtime drama teacher — reassured him: “Don’t act. Just be the neighbors.”
Jackson calls the film “a dark comedy of manners. It’s not absolutely accusatory about Kennedy’s criminal act. It just shows him in a situation that raises a lot of questions, in a family with a lot of questionable dealings. It doesn’t go for the jugular. It’s ambivalent.”
One of Jackson’s previous roles was in “Unsolved Mysteries.”
Sounds like a perfect description of “Chappaquiddick” — the movie, and the real life story.
(Jackson shares many more insights about the film on the Arts Fuse blog. Hat tip: Peter Gambaccini)