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The 'Everlasting' Jonathan Jackson

By Meriah Doty

Jackson plays the youthful-yet-wise Jesse Tuck in "Tuck Everlasting."

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(CNN) -- He plays a wise young man who has lived over 100 years. In real life, that might be stretching it, but the description is not far from the truth.

Twenty-year-old Jonathan Jackson, who stars in Disney's "Tuck Everlasting," has been in the acting business for close to half his life. He was only 11 when he started appearing in commercials, and spent five of his teen-age years playing Lucky Spencer on the ABC soap "General Hospital."

"It's been helpful in a lot of ways in terms of fans because I developed a strong fan base," he says of his experience working on the popular daytime show.

Of course, that was four years ago. For an actor, that's a lifetime.

A 'Peter Pan character'

In "Tuck Everlasting," Jackson plays Jesse Tuck -- a teenage boy with a carefree and fun-loving attitude. The catch about Tuck and his family is that they have not aged for almost 100 years, thanks to a fountain of youth from which they drank.

Jackson, Spacek
Jackson, left, on the set of "Tuck" with Sissy Spacek.

"He's basically a very optimistic, joyful type of guy who really wants to enjoy life," Jackson says of Tuck, whom he compares to a "Peter Pan character."

He plays opposite Alexis Bledel (from WB's "Gilmore Girls") in her big screen debut. "She was soaking a lot in. She was excited and in awe of the other actors," Jackson says. "Since it was her first movie I tried to encourage her... and make it fun."

The film is based on the popular 1975 Natalie Babbitt children's novel with the same name. "The main difference was in the book Winnie was 10 and in the movie she's 15," Jackson says of the screenplay's version of "Tuck." "Part of the movie is the romance between Jesse and Winnie. In the book there is no romance," he adds.

Other than that, Jackson says the script stuck closely to the book.

The story takes place in 1914 but its themes are timeless, he says. "The movie deals with things like death and aging. I hope people walk away asking questions," he says. "We don't have a lot of years to live so whatever we have we should enjoy it."

Making a transition

Jackson, right, says he tried to make Alexis Bledel's first film experience a fun one.

Since then Jackson has been busy writing scripts and directing, as well as trying his hand at roles on the big screen. Besides "Tuck," he recently appeared in the critically acclaimed film "Insomnia" as a murder suspect.

"Working with Al Pacino was probably one of the coolest things," he says. "He's a really nice guy."

He says he also appreciated working with the ensemble of veteran actors -- Sissy Spacek, William Hurt, Amy Irving and Ben Kingsley -- who all appear in "Tuck." "It was really exciting. Table reading was a lot of fun. They all kind of know each other," Jackson says. "They have a natural chemistry."

In addition to working with Hollywood's elite players, Jackson -- along with his brother Richard -- runs his own production company.

The siblings' first film, which they co-wrote and co-directed, won two awards at the Brooklyn Film Festival, including the Coen Brothers Directors Award for Duo Filmmakers. "We're now at a place where we're working with producers and developing specific projects," Jackson says.

In addition, Jackson says he is in initial negotiations to appear in "three or four" movies. But for now, he adds, "I'm writing a screenplay."

The Tuck family has infinite time on Earth. Eternal life has no draw for Jackson, however. "No, I don't think I would in the context of the movie," he says. Besides, he adds, the movie portrays living forever as not too enviable.

But there is another kind of eternal life -- the fame that comes with a well-known soap opera character. Would Jackson ever consider returning to that world?

He demurs.

"They cast someone else... I don't think I'll be back anytime soon."

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