Courting Danger: Actress Christina Jackson

The Newark-born actress credits a teacher with showing her the possibilities of the acting world.

Christina Jackson credits a Newark teacher with opening her eyes to life's possibilities.
Christina Jackson credits a Newark teacher with opening her eyes to life's possibilities.
Photo courtesy of Public Relations

Christina Jackson needed a laugh. She had just finished playing Chalky White’s ill-fated daughter in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. “Being shot in the face is kind of intense,” she says. “I was like, ‘I want to do a comedy now.’”

Instead, she went from one dark series to another. As checkout girl Sally Ann in WGN’s gritty new drama Outsiders, Jackson can’t resist the allure of an Appalachian bad boy who comes down from his family’s isolated mountain to court her. He arrives practically flashing a danger sign. “Apparently, that’s my thing,” she giggles.

Born in Plainfield, Jackson, 28, moved to Newark when she was four. After her parents split up, she divided her time between the two cities. A turning point came in seventh grade at Newark’s Rafael Hernandez Middle School, when a teacher, Anita D. Bland, asked Jackson to join the drama club. “That was my saving grace,” Jackson says. “There were drug dealers in front of the Boys and Girls Club. I wasn’t into karate. I was too clumsy for ballet.”

Her teacher took the club to see Heather Headley in Aida on Broadway—and Jackson saw her own future on stage. “Heather was this beautiful black woman who could sing amazingly, and she was on Broadway,” says Jackson. “I hadn’t been exposed to that [possibility] before.” Jackson and Bland stayed in touch until the teacher’s passing last year. “She was my angel,” Jackson says. “When I first started auditioning, she’d send me a $20 check every two weeks so I could get coffee. I never cashed them.”

Jackson attended Arts High School in Newark (with Michael B. Jordan of Creed; he remains a good friend). Within three months of graduation, she landed her first national commercial. She progressed from TV parts like Girl Number 3 on Love Monkey to recurring roles on River Ridge and Deception.

Jackson recently moved back to Newark, where she lives with her boyfriend and her puppy, Langston. She’s thrilled by the changes in Newark. “People are willing to move here and make Newark home, which makes me really happy,” she says.

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