Call it what you will — fate, serendipity, kharma — but many artists have found themselves in a role based on timing.
Essentially, they were in the right spot at the right time.
Kim Jackson has had several such moments. She is starring as Maggie in the Chattanooga Theatre Centre’s production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” The road she took to get there started in Atlanta and went through Los Angeles.
Growing up in Woodstock, Ga., near Atlanta, she knew she wanted to study classical theater, reasoning that all other acting would come easy after that. Though she hadn’t planned her career in detail, she did have a plan, and things fell into place.
“I figured if I could connect with an audience as Juliet and get them to really get that story, then I could do a Crest commercial,” she said. “... It turns out it would be a Hot Pockets commercial. That was my first national commercial.”
After getting her fine arts associates degree from Young Harris College, she enrolled in Kennesaw State, which offered a degree in classical theater. She soon landed the lead in “Romeo & Juliet.” She was seen by someone with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company and was offered a job as a professional actor with the company while still in college.
This was in the mid-’90s, and Atlanta was a good place to be for a film actress. She soon landed a part in a made-for-TV movie called “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,” starring Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland.
Then she got a part in “Scream 2” as an extra and was soon bumped up to stand-in for Courteney Cox and Neve Campbell (“I had to stand on my tippy-toes to be Neve.”).
Q: You’ve talked about getting experience by being an extra or just being on set. What are some things that can be learned through that?
A: The world of live theater and the world of film and television are utterly and completely different. You don’t get a second chance on stage. The people that have come together for that experience are the only ones that will ever have it. That is one of the reasons I’ve always come back to live theater.
Film, for those that are technically minded, it is such a fascinating process. There is so much going on to bring the story to the audience. While I’m doing my thing, there is all these other people doing their thing. That took some getting used to.
Q: When did you go to Los Angeles?
Q: Why not New York?
A: I always thought it would be New York, but the women who was the resident ingenue at the Shakespeare Company moved to LA and had a baby. She invited me out to visit. I flew out for a two-week period to visit and while I was there I auditioned for and ended up getting the lead in a film called “Reckoning.” I got the lead and as all brunettes will do, I went home, packed my car and drove out there and stayed. I ended up living with that family and helping with the baby. That helped me survive. It was one of those right place, right time things.
Q: Was it one of those good news, bad news things that you got the role so quickly? Did you get the false sense that it was always this easy?
A: No, it was exciting. I tell people all the time to take every opportunity. Everyone, I mean everyone, told me, “You know this doesn’t happen.” And, it was an independent and not a big studio project. It ended up taking about a year. I was working on that which allowed me to go to other auditions.
Q: Did you wait tables?
A: I didn’t, funny enough. I sort of wish I had because it would have made a great story.
Q: How long were you out there?
A: Almost 10 years.
Q: You did Shakespeare out there?
A: I did. I did a lot of contemporary theater, lots of independent films, which no one has seen unless they are real film buffs. I think “Reckoning” is the only thing you can get on Netflix or whatever. I met some great friends and fell in love with my high school best friend who was out there working in television behind the scenes.
Q: You had to go to Los Angeles to marry your high school friend from Georgia?
A: That is another story.
Q: How did you guys end up here?
A: We had come here to take my parents on a trip for their wedding anniversary so we spent the day here a few years before we moved back [from LA], and we thought what a cool town.
(Former Chattanooga mayor Bob) Corker had done his magic and all that, but we never thought we’d leave LA. You can wear sandals in January. Will was working with Dennis Miller. We never saw ourselves leaving, but the family thing, just one day, we thought it’s just not enough.
Then ... Dennis’ show was cancelled and the housing market was at an all-time high so we though we’d better take advantage. Atlanta just didn’t feel right, so we drove up here and made an offer on the first house we looked at that day.
Q: Tell me about “Cat.”
A: It is PHENOMENAL. I am so very proud to be a part of it.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...