The Kids Are Alright -- Jackson Has Come Far From The `Chocolate Factory'

PASADENA - He's not the designated heartthrob of "Dawson's Creek." In fact, he plays the guy who supposedly never gets the girl.

But 19-year-old Vancouver actor Joshua Jackson is at the center of the show's most provocative story line. He portrays Pacey Witter, the sophomore high school student destined for a very adult relationship with his English teacher. (It's a far cry from Jackson's earlier role in "The Mighty Ducks" movies.)

Some TV critics found the notion improbable. You might say we in Seattle know better. Truth outstripped fiction last year when teacher Mary Kay LeTourneau not only had an affair with, but had a child by, a 13-year-old student.

Jackson talked about Pacey, "Dawson's Creek" and his life in Vancouver and Seattle, where he was first discovered while playing Charlie in a musical version of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

Q: You were one of the more outspoken people at the press conference when critics asked, "Could this really happen?" What about your character and that situation?

A: I don't want to draw a parallel between what happened in Seattle and what happens on the show because that would be predatory. I saw that Seattle woman interviewed on TV and she's got a couple screws loose and the kid didn't know what he was doing.

My character is a little bit older. Pacey is the pursuer and instead of the teacher being all for, she's deadly against. She's having an obvious crisis of conscience and is aware of doing something she thinks is wrong but is unable to hold back.

Inevitably, she is punished for it.

Pacey doesn't think he's gonna get her. She flirts with him and he thinks it's cool. When it works out, he's not only trying to seduce her, he's in love. After that first kiss, it's all over.

Q: Years ago, some might have said Pacey is precocious.

A: Pacey is a 15-year-old who is possibly a little too self-aware for his own good, but he has all the feelings you have when you're 15. It's even more volatile because he's got the jargon down.

Q: Like that scene where he meets his teacher on the dock and delivers a devastating speech about her reluctance to face turning 40?

A: That speech is meant to be a coup de grace. It's what disarms her.

Q: You exhibit a great deal of self-awareness as well. Where does that come from in your background?

A: I was born in Vancouver, moved to Los Angeles and when my parents split up, gradually moved back up the West Coast. I was able to pack a lot of experiences into my 19 years.

My parents getting divorced as a kid was obviously a very traumatic experience. And then after, it was just me, my sister and my mother, and we went at it alone. I went from being a very well-off little kid to having a couple rough years, to rebuilding - my mother did that. She and I are very close.

Q: What was your schooling like?

A: Abbreviated and herky-jerky. I went to Kitsilano High School in Vancouver.

Q: Was there sex education there?

A: Ha, there is something very different up there. That's why it was so surprising when I came down here (for the press conference) and people were like, "Oh . . . sex! That's terrible!"

It's partially my mother being Irish. Europeans laugh at American attitudes toward sex. And then Kitsilano, it's an ex-hippie place. It's very liberal.

And I believe open communication is the best way to deal with sex. if you've a problem and you believe your children to be too young to enter into the sexual ballgame, talk to them.

My 14-year-old sister is getting into the dating game now and it's uncomfortable, but I do it.

Q: Do you have frank speaks with her?

A: Oh yes, and sometimes it's uncomfortable as hell. I'm the one who went with her when she went shopping for her first bra. She'll tell me about some boy she dated over the weekend and kissed and I'm like, Aisleigh, jeez!

Q: So how did you get from Kitsilano to here?

A: My mom is a casting director and she brought me in for a very small part in a movie. Then that movie's producer did a play in Seattle the next year. It was a musical version of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and I played Charlie. . . The play's casting director, Laura Kennedy, got me hooked up with William Morris as my agent and "Mighty Ducks" followed six months later.

There was a snowball effect after that.

Q: Where do you live now?

A: Actually, nowhere at present. Vancouver's my home, but I'm going to spend more time in Los Angeles for the next few months. Let's get optimistic and say the show gets picked up. (Knocks wood.) Now is the time to parlay on that.

Q: Any particular career desires?

A: Yes, I would love to do a guest appearance on "The X-Files." It's filmed right there in Vancouver, I've wanted to be on it for five years, I've tried to get on it, I've asked to get on it. But I think the effort is doomed.