Jonathan Jackson talks about his 'GH' return and his onscreen family

We talked to Jonathan Jackson the day after his big return to General Hospital in the role he originated 16 years ago. Read what he has to say about playing the now-adult Lucky, keeping the chemistry going, and his hopes for reconnecting with Genie Francis.

Were you prepared for the fanfare about your return?
The fans have been extremely gracious and kind over the years. I’m always shocked and amazed that 10 years off the show and I’ve still got people coming up and talking about it. So I knew there was a great deal of enthusiasm and support but I feel very grateful for all of that.

What’s it been like to be back on the show?
Having the 10 years off doing films and other things… it’s a really interesting feeling coming back and having that freshness about everything. There’s still a sense of  wonder and sense of mystery, which is great.

You’re playing Lucky as an adult with a lot of history now. How is that for you?
When it comes to Lucky, it’s very visceral for me and very instinctive. So much of the character was what he was – the offspring of Luke and Laura. So much of who he is was based on the seeds that were planted from his father and his mother. For me as an actor, I don’t get too caught up in the intellectual side of a story, so much as, when you play a character day in and day out for years like I did, it’s like a second skin almost. It’s very close to you. So walking back in, I just brought who I am now as an adult into it. And it just felt really smooth and comfortable.

I think that Lucky’s always been a paradox and a contradiction a little bit because he had the edge and the wildness and the rebellion of Luke but he also had the purity and the innocence of Laura. Even when he was helping Elizabeth through the rape and there was the purity and the romance, there was always this sort of con-man side of Lucky that came from his father that was always present. So I still feel like  the foundation of the character is working from the contradiction and tension of those two realities within. Another thing as an actor is that you can’t act information and you can’t act history. So in terms of drug addiction and all these other things, those are things that exist, whether I relate them or not because that’s just what happened. So unless it’s something specific in terms of dealing with the addiction. I just take that and say yeah, that’s what happened and that’s what he’s gone through, and that’s that. But he can’t really perform that reality.

Do you pay attention to the fan reactions? And are you concerned about winning over new fans who don’t know you as Lucky?
It’s a delicate balance. I’m very grateful and appreciative to the fans, and you want to stay connected. But at the same time you don’t want to get caught up in what other people are thinking or saying about it. I don’t really search it out for myself. I just want to focus on the work and what’s in front of me and just enjoy that.

I can’t really worry about [winning over new watchers] in a way because it’s totally out of my control … I’m coming with the strength of originating the character and working with Tony and Genie at a young age in sort of defining who Lucky was and is. I guess I’m more focused on the connection I do have with the character than the transitions that people might have to undergo to see me as the character.

What’s it been like working with Rebecca Herbst and Tony Geary again?
It’s been amazing. Working with Becky is incredible. She’s extremely gifted and she has a lot of depth. The chemistry that we have together is very strong and very good with the romance, the love story with Lucky and Elizabeth, so that’s always gonna be there. She’s a wonderful person as well. And working with Tony’s been incredible. It’s a blast. He’s one of the most enjoyable people I’ve ever worked with. When it comes to chemistry with actors, I always feel chemistry is not something that comes and goes. You either have it or you don’t. So I feel like I could have been away for 15 or 20 years and stepped on the stage and Tony and I would have been right there with each other.

[With Tony] there’s a very close relationship there that’s bigger than the show.

Are you hoping for a reunion with your onscreen mom Genie Francis?
I would absolutely love to work with Genie again. That would be a privilege and an honor. I think it would sort of complete the Spencer family dynamic. The actress playing Lulu (Julie Berman) is fantastic, Nathan (Parsons), who’s playing [Luke's newest other son] Ethan, is great as well. There’s a great dynamic with the Spencers. Having Genie come back would be incredible.

[Ethan's presence] opens up some interesting avenues in terms of where Lucky and Ethan will go as brothers. The relationship with Nicholas being his half-brother was a fascinating arc to play when I as younger and so seeing how they play this out with Ethan is really interesting. There’s a lot of potential there.

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  • anon

    i kinda love how much ew is covering this. different, but good.

    • stacy E

      Me too!! I mean soaps are pretty dorky I admit but I have always loved Liz & Lucky too much to care lol I’m so happy JJ returned because the role was never the same without him.

    • Debaloo

      I agree. I love that EW is covering this. I haven’t watched GH in many years but when I saw on EW that JJ was coming back I had to tune it. If EW hadn’t covered it, I would never had known.

      • P

        I too appreciate EW’s coverage of a soap, esp. GH! Glad it’s getting some mainstream recognition.

      • kristine

        Same here! If EW had not covered this story, I would have never tuned back into GH. GH and the character of Lucky was never the same after JJ left and I lost interest eons ago. Having him back is so amazing!

  • Angela

    Love him!

  • shig

    i totally agree ew covering this is different but amazing thanx ew……luv the interview and luv u jj ur an amazin lucky spencer!!!!!!

  • Keri

    Happy to see this interview! Thanks, EW. BTW, I’ve been loving JJ’s Lucky all over again… even better than I had hoped for!

  • Lisa

    Well I am not impressed with his version of Lucky at all. He hasn’t won me over. I heard so much about how great his version is and well I just don’t see it. Greg Vaughan is Lucky in my book and always will be. I refused to watch this show anymore.

    • Sina

      Bye.

      Right now the Spencer are it! Lulu actually has a male lead she has chemistry with, Lucky/Liz/Nik triangle is getting good and Luke/Lucky scenes are amazing. Now we just need to get rid of Ethan and bring back Laura. Also bring on more family for Robin and make her like a CSI tech or something. More Spencers/Scorpios.

      • just sayin

        I agree. more families and less mob. can’t believe they got rid of a lot of the Q’s

  • Julie

    He has not won me over either Lisa. I am a new viewer who loved Greg in the role of Lucky and I dont’ like what I see so far. I could care less if Tony Geary and others are happy about the original lucky’s return. I think this whole thing sucks big time. They need to bring Greg back ASAP!

    • Dee

      For what? So he can bore us to sleep? He never had any moxie as Lucky and we all know it! GV as Lucky was a chump. Better that he move on to bigger and better things elsewhere and leave the role of Lucky Spencer to the person it belongs to: Jonathan Jackson.

      • Angela

        Jonathan Jackson is Lucky. GV is a cute guy and will do good on another soap. But Lucky was always about being sort of a sensitive soul and GV just played the character as macho. Woo Woo for JJ being back.

      • Sina

        exactly Dee and Angela. Could GV actually do this scene?

      • Debbie

        I have been hoping JJ would come back for years. Why can’t they bring Genie back???? They could promote the heck out of a Luke & Laura redux. Plus how awesome would a Luke/Laura/Tracy Triangle be?

  • zandme@sbcglobal.net

    Thank you EW for doing this interview. I absolutley love Jonathan Jackson as Lucky Spencer. To me he was always the real Lucky and when he left the following actors didn’t have the depth to portray Lucky as he should be, so he was more of a backburner. But the real Lucky is back and it’s great to see Elizabeth and Lucky again. It was all wrong before, there was no chemistry between her and the last Lucky. Elizabeth was better with Jason than with the last Lucky. Thanks again and I love that he’s back. Yay!

    • kristine

      That’s what I’ve read from other posters.. that the way Lucky was portrayed prior to JJ’s return made viewers want Liz to be with someone else. Watching JJ these last 2 days has just been phenomenal! Tuesday was good but yesterday… wow… he was FANTASTIC! He had me in tears with that perfection speech. It was just like the Lucky of old.

  • Yesenia

    He’s been back for less than a week. Sheesh…he has been gone for 10 years. I think he’s great but i do remember him from before and i am a fan. I believe he will continue to improve and the role will really become his again.

  • Kelly

    JJ is the original and only Lucky Spencer. The other actors and writers took Lucky to a place that he should never have goneand that wouldn’t have happened if JJ was still there. I mean I’ve never accepted Lucky as a cop. Hopefully JJ can bring the real Lucky back

    • Meg

      I agree! Making Lucky a cop was one of the dumbest and most unrealistic moves they have made. It never fit nor felt genuine.

      • They made Emily a doctor in one year…

        THAT was unbelivable!

      • Paula

        Me too. Lucky was a rebel and a muscian and the cop angle never worked for me. I think that JJ will be amazing. The role was awlays him and was never them same when he left. GV just bored us for six years. With JJ Back I actually have a reason to watch.

    • kristine

      Having just tuned back into GH in the last 2 days and catching up via recaps I was shocked at what they had done to Lucky’s character. The whole brainwashing storyline and forgetting he ever loved Liz was probably because it was tough for Jacob Young and RH to have the same chemistry as JJ did with her. With GV my guess is because he was so much older the storylines changed as well. I could have never seen the original Lucky as a cop. He was a child that grew up on the run and always had this rebellious edgy side to him just like what JJ said in his interview. I agree that it probably would have been different if JJ was still in the role.

    • Debbie

      My fantasy story would be the following: we find out the reason Lucky became a cop ( and such a tool the past few years) is due to Helena’s brainwashing when she kidnapped him. One day he hits his head, drops the sanctimonious attitude, and becomes the Lucky we once knew.

  • Gigi

    Thanks so much for this interview. Sigh, poor JJ, I wonder how long it will be before he figures out that Ethan sucks.

  • mallen

    I think it is great that EW is covering the soaps. About a year ago, I finally stopped watching GH after watching it forever. Jonathan Jackson’s return prompted me to return too!

  • sam

    As soon as he walked into the room, GH improved so much. He is an incredible actor and he has always been the only Lucky for me. Now bring back Laura, tone down the mobsters and bring back the GH that we all knew and loved.

  • Melissa

    Love JJ! He will always be Lucky to me. Might have to start watching again. I loved the storyline when Emily, Nicholas, Lucky and Liz were teens. Greg was good but JJ left some pretty big shoes to fill and no one could ever quite do it. So happy!

    • Mary Q. Contrary

      Me too!!! Now if only they hadn’t killed Emily off, they could somehow lure Amber Tamblyn back and……… guess I better give up on that dream, huh? Of course, I distinctly remember thinking no more than two years ago how badly I wished Jonathan Jackson would return, and resigning myself to the fact that it would never happen. And now look. I guess there is hope after all.

      • Jason

        I just re-started watching at the beginning of this year and all I could think was that I couln’t take this guy seriously as lucky. First off he looks like neither Luke or Laura or JJ. Typical pretyy boy soap opera actor and kept thinking if only they could get JJ back. Really cool to see him back in the part. And Geary has to bring up his level of acting to compete with Jackson’s intensity. A win-win .

    • kristine

      I know- that was the best teen storyline I’ve ever seen with the four of them together. It was just so different, especially the way the writers first developed the romance between lucky and liz. Lucky helping Liz recover from the rape, Liz helping Lucky come to grips with the truth about his own parents, how the friendship turned into love… it was so well done and really stuck with me over the years.

  • Alida

    I cannot get over how hot he grew up to be!

  • Jennifer

    I think the division in opinion about JJ comes down to how long you’ve watched the show. Having JJ back in Lucky’s shoes is a big deal, especially for those that remember when he was on before. There’s history there, memories. (I have no shame in saying I feel like a middle school teeny-bopper again) ;) I liked Greg’s portrayal, and while I don’t like how the switcheroo was handled, I’m giddy to see JJ as Lucky again. It just fits. (It’s also an extra dose of awesome having Becky still be there … a reprise of “Elizabeth” anyone?) <3 (And doesn't hearing Luke call him "cowboy" sound the best?)

    Thanks EW for the interview!

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