The Weekly Review finds out what it takes for Kym Jackson, making her living as an Aussie actress in Los Angeles, to pay the bills.

Surviving Hollywood

11:59:AM 09/11/2012
Sarah Marinos

Kym Jackson
Kym Jackson
Kym Jackson might be one of a rare breed in Tinseltown. She’s one of thousands of hopeful actors making a career out of the film and TV industry. And she’s a member of Mensa, the IQ society that only accepts people who score in the 98th percentile or higher of a demanding intelligence test.

“I only did the test because I didn’t go to college or university and a friend of mine pulled his master’s degree out of his arse every time we had an argument!” says Jackson, 29.

“I got tired of this guy so I snuck off and did the Mensa test. When I got the results I did call them and ask them if they were sure. But the next time that guy and I had an argument, I was like, ‘Boom! You can’t argue with me as much now’. Although I don’t think he believed me initially …”

Jackson moves regularly between Australia and Los Angeles, her home since June 2004. She is in Tasmania this month filming a relationship drama called Breeding in Captivity. She plays a lead role opposite Melbourne Theatre Company actor and VCA graduate Christopher Brown (Rush, City Homicide, Blue Heelers).

By the time she moved to the US, Jackson had been acting for years, although her stage debut at the age of five at Kimberley Park State School in Brisbane didn’t go as she’d planned.

“I was the narrator in Peter Pan and I thought I knew all my lines. But there was one point when I didn’t know what I had to say next, and as I ran across the stage to pick up a script I made a bunch of stupid jokes to fill in time,” Jackson says, laughing.

“The audience died laughing and that was probably the moment when I became addicted to the stage.”

Jackson, who was born in Bath in England but migrated to Queensland with her parents and younger sister when she was four, acted in school and community theatre and studied with acting coaches.

At 17, she moved to the Gold Coast and spent three years as a tour guide at Warner Bros. Movie World.

“I was very unreliable because every time I got an acting job I bailed,” she says.

“Everything was unpaid until finally, in 2000, I did my first paid movie – Scooby-Doo. I got a one-line role – and my line got cut – but they still paid me a fortune. I remember the line,” she says, demonstrating her best teenage American accent. “It was, ‘Freddie, Freddie, over here, can you sign an autograph?’.”

Determined to meet the right people and learn as much as she could about the movie industry, in early 2004 Jackson went to the Cannes Film Festival.

“I happened to be walking along a street when an awesome car drove past. I commented on the car to nobody in particular and a guy joked back to me. We got talking and I discovered he ran a film production company in LA.

“I said I wanted to work in Hollywood and he suggested I work for him,” says Jackson.

“But when I returned to Australia, he wouldn’t take my calls. So I rang one day and pretended to be a distributor interested in distributing one of his films. I got through to him and said, ‘Actually it’s Kym Jackson and you promised me a job in Hollywood’.”

He told Jackson to write a proposal about why he should hire her. That night, in between working a shift as a “door bitch” at a hotel in Sydney, she wrote up a six-page proposal. By the following week she was in LA.

The job came with an apartment and Jackson spent six months as a production assistant at the company before moving on to another production firm.

“During that job I lived in the storage room. It was pretty creepy and I shared my home with stacks of paper, green tea and office supplies,” she says, laughing.

“I was strapped for cash for a few months until I got a job with another production company working in purchasing and payroll.”

Jackson also got a job assisting the casting director on the sequel to Raging Bull and now gets regular casting work, reading for actors auditioning for film and TV roles. She’s since made a point of meeting about 200 casting directors.

In 2008 she made her US TV debut in an episode of the crime drama, Criminal Minds.

“I was only there for four hours but it was a big step for me. Once you get that first network TV credit, agents and managers take you a lot more seriously. Matthew Gray Gubler made the most ridiculous jokes and he and Shemar Moore are besties and the mischief-makers on set.”

The Hollywood lifestyle has brought Jackson into close contact with a raft of well-known names and faces.

When a friend invited her to the wrap party for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at a Sunset Boulevard club, Jackson was introduced to Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart and Shia LaBeouf.

“Then my friend said, ‘I want you to meet Steven’,” recalls Jackson.

“On the way across the room I was chatting to a little girl who was one of the producer’s daughters. My friend was standing there with Steven but I said, ‘Could you just give me a second?’ because I didn’t want to be rude to that little girl. And then I turned round and said, ‘Hi, nice to meet you … Steven Spielberg’. But I haven’t met Meryl Streep, Alan Rickman or Michael Caine yet. I’d flip out if I met those guys.”

Among the celebrity moments, Jackson has sometimes felt far from home. “There are times when you aren’t getting auditions, but everyone has slow patches – it’s the way the industry is,” she says.

“You have to know every pilot that is being shot, read those pilot scripts to see what roles you can push for, and you have to stay in touch with everyone you know in the industry so when a project comes along, you are fresh in their mind.”

Jackson has survived solely on acting since late 2007 and LA will remain home for another five or six years.

She rents an eighth-floor apartment with views of the Capitol Records Building and Griffith Park Observatory.

“I have a huge balcony and a couch out there. It’s where I chill out,” she says. She also loves hiking and go-karting and has just enrolled in graffiti classes.

“I went on a date the other day and we went zip-lining in Catalina Island – riding a flying fox through the trees,” she says.

Later this year Jackson is casting a film in Toronto and, based on her experience in LA, she’s written The Hollywood Survival Guide For Aussie Actors.

“I think Aussie actors do well because they work hard and people know they are getting someone who won’t be high maintenance and who won’t moan about the size of their trailer,” says Jackson.

She puts her own survival down to working hard and persistence. And has that Mensa membership helped?

“It has planted that idea that a lot of the time you can say something is too hard or you can’t do this and that,” she muses. “But now I question that and think, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ I have no excuses now.”

Read: The Hollywood Survival Guide For Aussie Actors by Kym Jackson, Perfect Books, $39.95.

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