Why Joshua Jackson's Bucket List Is Getting Shorter

The actor will soon head to New York to begin rehearsals for the off-Broadway Second Stage production of "Smart People."
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Joshua Jackson is breaking out his bucket list, checking it twice and looking ahead to 2016 when he will mark another milestone with a stint on stage in New York. And it couldn't come at a better time, he says.

The actor, who currently stars on Showtime's The Affair, will tackle Smart People, which examines the role of race in the quest for love, achievement and identity. Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon is directing the production based on Lydia R. Diamond's four-character play.

The gig marks Jackson's New York stage debut (he acted opposite Patrick Stewart in London in 2005 for the West End play A Life in the Theatre), and he'll step out alongside Mahershala Ali, Anne Son and Tessa Thompson. Previews begin Jan. 26 at Second Stage Theatre with an official opening set for Feb. 11. The play centers on Harvard intellectuals who are drawn into a web of social and sexual politics on the eve of President Obama's first election. 

"I read the script and I thought to myself that I'm grappling with this right now as we're trying to figure this out as a society," he tells THR. "The play is — if there is such a thing — a lightly comedic meditation on race relations and the dynamic of privilege in America. It's challenging and smart and it approaches the subject with enough humor because it could get maudlin very fast. I want to know what the answers are to these questions, if there are any answers. It just feels like the right thing right now."

The right now is now because the U.S. continues to grapple with issues of discrimination and police violence. Most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has moved its attention toward the Midwest, where tensions remain high after a white Minneapolis police officer fatally shot unarmed black man Jamar Clark on Nov. 15, and newly released dashboard camera footage shows the moment when Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014.

 
It might go without saying, but it's still interesting to hear what an actor has to say about the lure of the New York stage. Jackson's answer doesn't disappoint. So, here goes: Why New York? 
 
"There’s a romance and power to live theater. I don’t play music, but there’s power that is not recreatable in any other way than I can express myself artistically. We've all had that moment, the first time you're exposed to live theater, and it's shocking in the best possible way. You see something and say to yourself, 'I didn't know this could exist.' I’ve been an actor for a very long time and I’ve had the opportunity to do theater a couple of times. I ticked London off the bucket list a decade ago and there is something about performing in New York — the center of American theater with its history — that just doesn’t compare. So here I am."
 
Here he is, even if his emotions are all over the place. 
 
"Doing a play in New York is ticking off a major, major bucket list thing for me. So, I’m going to try and not have a nervous breakdown before then," he laughs.
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