Rachel Jack­son’s messy love life

Dis­missed at drama school as ‘a wee, chavvy Scottish girl’, Rachel Jack­son is hav­ing the last laugh as a ris­ing star of stage and screen. And as Teddy Jamieson dis­cov­ers, she’s not afraid of min­ing her own dis­as­trous re­la­tion­ship history for gags

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RACHEL Jack­son is al­ready wait­ing for me in a Kelv­in­grove bar this Glasgow af­ter­noon. All Manga eyes, acrylic nails and tooth­paste ad smile, she’s trav­elled up from Salt­coats where she lives, dressed in Spice Girl-style face glit­ter and a grow­ing sense that things might just be about to hap­pen for her.

You don’t recog­nise the face? Well, that is about to change. She’s not long fin­ished shoot­ing a new film about Glasgow’s rave cul­ture (as was) made by Ken Loach’s pro­duc­tion com­pany. And then there’s her part in Karen Gil­lan’s di­rec­to­rial de­but, The Party’s Just Be­gin­ning.

Gil­lan and Jack­son, it turns out, have long been friends. They met at a wrap party in Lon­don, “two mad Scottish girls in the smok­ing area”, Jack­son re­calls. That was when they were both job­bing ac­tors in Lon­don, long be­fore Doc­tor Who came call­ing for Gil­lan.

And be­fore all that hits the screens, there is the Ed­in­burgh Fringe. This will be her third year.

This year’s show, Rachel Jack­son: Bunny Boiler is, as com­edy shows go, prob­a­bly not suit­able for Ra­dio 4. It is, says Jack­son, about look­ing for “the one”, and the messy, freaky and some­times down­right dis­turb­ing av­enues the heart can take you down. If noth­ing else, you will learn what “bag­pip­ing” is. (No. Don’t Google it. It’s very NSFW.)

The term “bunny boiler” is, of course, drawn from the 1987 film Fa­tal At­trac­tion in which mar­ried man Michael Dou­glas has a one-night stand with Glenn Close who turns out to be, well, not to­tally OK with Michael go­ing back to his wife.

At one point, fa­mously, Dou­glas walks in to find a pot boil­ing on the stove and … Well, you can pre­sum­ably guess what is in it.

Jack­son, so far as I know, has not boiled any lep­ori­dae. But she been called a bunny boiler. “A cou­ple of times.”

It is a term of abuse, right? “Yeah. It’s not meant nicely. I’m try­ing to turn it on its head and make it fun. Be­cause I’m not a psy­cho. I’m not go­ing to get locked up. But I have done ex­treme things when I’ve been in love. Like we all have.

“I think ev­ery­one is a bunny boiler. Men, women, teenagers. When you love some­one and it verges on the ob­ses­sive stage, love it­self is a madness. The things that you think about when you are in love and the things that you do. You’re a more ex­treme ver­sion of the per­son you are nor­mally.”

Ex­treme isn’t the word I’d use for Jack­son. In our time to­gether she comes across as a charm­ing, potty-mouthed mix­ture of vul­ner­a­bil­ity, maybe a lit­tle bit of naivety and a huge dose of am­bi­tion.

Her Fringe show Rachel Jack­son: Bunny Boiler is the third ver­sion of the story. She had a trial run two Fringes ago. “I was strictly just an ac­tress then. I didn’t consider my­self a stand-up at all. So it was more of a play. There was no in­ter­ac­tion with the au­di­ence. There was no mi­cro­phone. There was no ban­ter. It was just – here is my mono­logue about my s*** love life ba­si­cally.”

Still, it was good enough to in­ter­est the BBC. Ear­lier this year she ap­peared in a se­ries of short vlogs on BBC Three.

The new show is the most sus­tained take on the Bunny Boiler theme. It is a comic au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, drawing on Jack­son’s own love life. “I’ve changed the names of some guys,” she says.

It’s not all hearts and flow­ers, it has to be said. “Peo­ple come out say­ing, ‘The guys you were with are hor­rific,’” she ad­mits. “Not that I want peo­ple’s sym­pa­thy. I’m not cru­ci­fy­ing them or my­self. It’s all of us.”

Hmm, maybe. Frankly, it would ap­pear the men in Jack­son’s life in the past all seem to have a com­mon­al­ity of un­pleas­ant­ness. There’s the guy who broke her hand on a date (not one of her best nights out, she ad­mits), the “bag­pip­ing” in­ci­dent. (Same guy, ac­tu­ally. And what did I tell you about not look­ing it up?)

And then there was the man she calls the cult leader. He wasn’t re­spon­si­ble for any mass sui­cides, she quickly points out. He was just a bad guy, she says. “I call him a cult leader be­cause he was a

hor­ri­ble per­son.” Jack­son was with him for four years; he was dom­i­neer­ing, she says, right down to try­ing to con­trol what she wore.

Com­pared to that, when she later dated a Ukip voter, that could be seen as a step up? “Any­thing’s a step up from the cult leader,” she laughs. “Most peo­ple who come to see it go: ‘What? Does that mean you are a Ukip voter?’ And then I ex­plain I was on a lot of co­caine at the time I was with that guy.”

Is she telling us that men are just fun­da­men­tally use­less? “Oh God, no. I’m not say­ing all men are d***heads. Be­cause at the end of the day I love men and that’s what’s got me into this mess.

“I think it’s only recently I’ve learnt re­spect. Bunny boil­ers in a way are so in­se­cure. They’re so des­per­ate for love that they’re search­ing for it from any­one, any­thing. I think I let that fol­low me a long time.”

How did she get past that? “My cur­rent boyfriend Michael. He’s an amaz­ing boyfriend, the best I’ve ever had.” Jack­son moved to Salt­coats to be with him and his chil­dren; they’ve been to­gether for 18 months.

Be­fore, she says: “He chased me. And I’ve never had that in my life. I was a bit thrown by it. It’s usu­ally me who’s do­ing all the work. And so at first I wasn’t that into him be­cause he al­ready likes me. That weird men­tal­ity. Kind of game­play­ing I guess. Adult games.

“I think that’s when I even­tu­ally got past it; when I re­alised: ‘Je­sus, some­one likes you. You shouldn’t need to do all that.’ But you have to be com­fort­able with yourself. And it took me a long time. A really long time. I’m 29 now.”

Still, on the up­side, she says: “I got a show out of it.”

Rachel Jack­son grew up in Baber­ton (or “BABE-er­ton” as she’s taken to call­ing it) on the out­skirts of Ed­in­burgh in a work­ing-class family who show­ered her in love and free­dom. Her mother works in Mother­care, her dad in an of­fice mail­room. Her brother was the “brain­box” and Jack­son, well, she al­ways wanted to be an ac­tor and was never checked for it. “I just re­mem­ber be­ing al­lowed to be con­fi­dent, to have dreams. I hear a lot of peo­ple don’t. They are forced to have Plan Bs and forced to pick cer­tain sub­jects at school, forced to train as a doc­tor and then they can go into act­ing. All th­ese crazy con­di­tions on their kid’s dreams. I’ve al­ways been al­lowed to go for it.”

She had – still has – supreme con­fi­dence in her­self. “Since I was lit­tle I al­ways thought I was go­ing to be a big deal.”

That con­fi­dence never wa­vered, even when she moved south and couldn’t get a sniff of an act­ing job. “I was liv­ing in Lon­don for seven years and even though I was push­ing really hard, no cast­ing di­rec­tors wanted to meet me. A few ad­verts and things like that. Just get­ting tiny parts.

“But I never stopped be­liev­ing. I don’t want to sound cringey when I say that, but I just know that th­ese things do take time. Not ev­ery­one comes out of drama school and gets Game Of Thrones straight away.”

Ac­tu­ally, Jack­son didn’t go to drama school un­til she was 25. “Most peo­ple go when they are 18 or 19. But I wasn’t in­ter­ested when I was that age. I moved to Lon­don when I was 20. I was just do­ing dead-end jobs and sneak­ing off to au­di­tions.”

But when the­atre jobs kept get­ting away from her be­cause she didn’t have drama school ex­pe­ri­ence – “I was get­ting looked down on in au­di­tions. The­atre can be really snobby” – she de­cided to go to drama school just to prove she could.

When she did: “I stood out like a sore thumb. There was only me and one other guy in the year who were work­ing-class. The rest were really quite priv­i­leged.”

JACK­SON did a com­edy au­di­tion speech at the au­di­tion. It got her a place. But then she spent three years play­ing what she calls “Keira Knight­ley” parts.

Per­haps the teach­ers knew there were only jobs for Keira Knight­ley types out there, Rachel? “Maybe it was that. But it just made all the other girls in my year hate me be­cause they were Keira Knight­ley. They could see what they thought was a wee, chavvy Scottish girl with my gold hoops. And I’d see them f*** up com­edy parts.”

Her own shift from act­ing to stand-up was un­planned. Be­fore drama school she had ap­peared at a mono­logue slam event and won with what she thought was a se­ri­ous piece. “But the au­di­ence were p***ing them­selves. My agent said: ‘You’re funny. You should try stand-up.’

She did, a cou­ple of times, but it’s only been in the last few years that she has taken it se­ri­ously.

Here’s the ques­tion. Who’s need­ier – ac­tors or co­me­di­ans? “I think they’re both to­tally f***ing dam­aged in dif­fer­ent ways,” she says. “Ac­tors are very in­se­cure and des­per­ate. But they’re gen­er­ally warmer be­cause with act­ing you’re with others so you have to be more em­pa­thetic. Whereas co­me­di­ans are all for them­selves. Ac­tors are a bit warmer, but co­me­di­ans are a bit smarter, quicker. That can be more danger­ous in a way.”

I have to say I like this funny, feisty woman in front of me. She is un­fail­ingly hon­est. “I would be ly­ing if I said money wasn’t a mo­ti­va­tor be­cause I do want to have a nice life. All my life I’ve been poor so the idea that more and more money can come from it is ex­cit­ing. I love hol­i­days and trav­el­ling and go­ing to nice restau­rants. That would be a per­fect day if money was not an is­sue.”

She points to the cup of tea in front of her. “Even there I had to ask how much for a tea. To get to a point where you don’t even think about it would be lovely. But how many peo­ple have that? Hardly any.”

Per­haps it’s no sur­prise then that she is fiercely am­bi­tious. “Oh God, yeah. Like Lady Mac­beth am­bi­tious. But I say: ‘Act one, act two. Not act five.’”

So you’re not am­bi­tious to the point of madness? “I’m still to­gether. If things don’t work out I would be Lady Mac­beth, act five. At the mo­ment it’s a good am­bi­tious.”

Since she was lit­tle, Rachel Jack­son has wanted to win an Os­car. Oh and she’d like to ap­pear on Satur­day Night Live. “Be­cause Jim Carey, Will Fer­rell, a lot of my favourite com­edy peo­ple come from that. And when I tell peo­ple that they laugh. All my life they laugh in my face. ‘That’s nice Rachel, it’s not go­ing to hap­pen.’

“And I think: ‘How not? Be­cause I’m Scottish?’ With the right amount of work you can get the green card and the visa and you’re there … I’m sick of peo­ple laugh­ing at me for that. Now I have to do it. It’s fuel.

“Maybe,” she smiles, “that makes me a lit­tle bit crazy.”

The thing is, I say, it’s hard to square this steel-core self-be­lief with the girl who at 18 spent four years with the “cult leader”.

“I think that was more of a con­fi­dence thing. ‘Oh, this is maybe what I de­serve.’ Which is really sad when you look back on it. But when you’re so young you don’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence of how men or women are meant to treat you.

“When I came out of that aw­ful re­la­tion­ship I felt free again. I was re­born. I was only 22 and I was act­ing like a 40-year-old di­vorcee.”

At what point did her self-con­fi­dence ar­rive then? “It’s some­thing I’ve been bat­tling with my whole life. My boyfriend and my friends say this about me. I’m very hard on my­self. Al­though I ap­pear very con­fi­dent and out­go­ing and pas­sion­ate, I am very self-crit­i­cal and I am very down on my­self. No mat­ter what I achieve it’s not good enough.”

She doesn’t see this as a neg­a­tive though. “I see that the peo­ple who reach the top all have a bit of that in them. You need to have that. Never get com­pla­cent, never rest on your lau­rels.”

Rachel Jack­son is some­where be­tween in­se­cu­rity and self-be­lief, and be­tween be­ing able to af­ford a cup of tea and win­ning an Os­car. How­ever far along that jour­ney she gets, it will be fun watch­ing her.

I think ac­tors and co­me­di­ans are dam­aged in dif­fer­ent ways. Ac­tors are very in­se­cure and des­per­ate but they’re gen­er­ally warmer, whereas co­me­di­ans are a bit smarter, quicker. That can be more danger­ous

Rachel Jack­son: Bunny Boiler opens this Wed­nes­day at the Plea­sance Court­yard, Ed­in­burgh and runs un­til Au­gust 28 (ex­cept Au­gust 16)

Rachel Jack­son talks about her messy love life in her new show Bunny Boiler

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