Jonathan Jackson is one of the most celebrated actors to ever star on General Hospital. By the time he eventually left daytime dramas behind, he took five Daytime Emmys with him (and another three nominations, as well). Jonathan also walked away arm in arm with a former GH co-star, Lisa Vultaggio, and the attractive couple married in 2002. They are now parents to three extraordinary children, Adora, Caleb, and Titus.
The family moved to Tennessee while Jonathan starred in the ABC-TV (and later CMT) primetime series Nashville, which ran from 2012 to 2018. This series about country music afforded Jonathan the chance to tour the world in concert.
During all this time, not only has Jonathan remained a working actor, but is quite an accomplished singer and musician, as well. As a solo artist, and most recently the lead singer, writer, and guitar player for the group Enation.
Earlier this year, Jonathan surprised friends by following through on a goal of his – moving to Ireland! That’s right folks, Jonathan Jackson and family are now shoulder to shoulder, planted firmly in a new home in the countryside outside Dublin.
In an exclusive interview for HollywoodHI, Jonathan tells us all about this shocking move away from the USA, and the chances of him catching up with famous TV dad Anthony Geary, another American transplant now making a home in Europe.
How does one go about moving a family of five from Nashville to somewhere beautiful in Ireland?
JJ: Our relocation to Ireland was over a year in the making. We traveled as a family last October and drove around much of the country looking for potential places to live. There is an incredible amount of planning and patience in a move like this. My wife Lisa is an Italian citizen and this opened up the EU to us as a family. Paperwork is not my strong suit. But, but I’ve done my best to roll up my sleeves and become a man of paperwork for this move!
This had nothing to do with the Coronavirus?
JJ: No, this move was in motion long before the pandemic took place.
Once the schedule was set, were you ever concerned that the worldwide shutdown would effect your plans?
JJ: Yes, absolutely. So man yes, absolutely. There were so many unknowns and potential things that could have stopped it from happening. But, somehow everything continue to work out step-by-step. There certainly was this feeling that if it wasn’t meant to be, there were plenty of opportunities for the move to be impeded. The fact that we were able to make this move in the midst of the pandemic, and do it safely was even more confirmation in our minds that it was meant to be.
You made the actual move right before things got bad again in most cities in the USA, and Americans were banned from traveling overseas?
JJ: Yes, this was another thing we could never have foreseen, but the window of opportunity was perfect in retrospect.
Are you in an area with little or no outbreak?
JJ: Yes, where we lived in Tennessee had little to no breakouts, (we lived outside Nashville) and where we live in Ireland is very similar. There have been almost no cases in months.
Many of us would love to pick up and move to another country, what went into you actually following through on your dream?
JJ: It was a complex series of thoughts, prayers and choices. I’ve been doing a lot more touring overseas the last 5 or six years and I’ve also wanted to pursue film and tv productions overseas. There’s also the element of the “way of life” in Europe and Ireland in particular that I’ve grown to love. American ambition has its good side, but it can also wear on one’s soul. I love being around history and beauty. As an artist, I need silence and a bit of stillness. All of these things are here in Ireland. That’s not to say they don’t exist in the States, but for some reason, I can grasp them more profoundly in Ireland.
Was your first trip to Ireland with your own band or with the Nashville cast tour?
JJ: I shot a film called On The Edge in Ireland in 1999, I think it was. I was in Dublin for about two months or a little longer. I absolutely loved it. After I got married, we honeymooned in Dublin and Wicklow. Ever since I was around eight or nine, I’ve felt a strong pull towards Ireland. The music, the landscapes, the Celtic crosses, their history. I don’t know why, it’s just always been there.
How many visits to Ireland before you knew you wanted to live there?
JJ: Even back in 1999 the thought was in my mind. But, it wasn’t until the recent Nashville tours when it started to come back to me as an actual possibility. At first we thought about a summer house but the more we thought about it, the more a relocation seemed right.
Do you miss anything about Nashville?
JJ: Our friends, for sure! We made so many wonderful friends over the eight years that we lived in Asheville. I will definitely miss performing at the Opry and the music community there. My kids school and our church community will definitely be missed as well. Nashville was an incredible place to raise a family. OK, I won’t miss the humidity.
When you moved to Nashville, you had been living Los Angeles, where you had taped General Hospital, are you going to miss any of that at some point?
JJ: We were in Los Angeles for the two years prior to us moving to Nashville. Prior to that, we had lived in Washington state for about six years. But, when I returned to General Hospital at the end of 2009, we moved back to Los Angeles for those two years. There are many things that I love about Los Angeles, I just can never remember them when someone asks me. That’s only partially a joke. I miss the people… I miss our friends the most. I love the restaurants in LA and there are certain spots that we loved to go to as a family. I have fond memories of LA. I kind of grew up there. Although whenever I think of my childhood, I always think of Washington state.
You’ll still be able to pursue acting, or you’ll be focusing on only music?
JJ: Music and acting. I’m excited about a new chapter with both of these mediums. The show Nashville was an incredible blessing, but it took its toll on a lot of us who worked on it. I know for myself, I needed a new beginning.
How is the rest of your family dealing with relocating?
JJ: Thank God, they’re all very positive about it. We have traveled overseas so much in the last six years as a family, it was some kind of preparation. It was a bit jarring at first for our children, when we first brought up the idea, but it took an entire year for things to come together and by the time we actually made the move they were ready and excited about it.
Is it only a coincidence that one of your favorite singers, Bono, is from Ireland?
JJ: As I said before, from a young age I was drawn to the music and films coming out of Ireland. In The Name Of The Father was my favorite film as a teenager and Bono and Gavin Friday did some incredible music for the soundtrack. U2, Sinead O’Conner, The Cranberries, The Frames, Gavin Friday, Van Morrison were all huge influences on me as a musician. Jim Sheridan had the same impact as a filmmaker.
What will you miss the most in the USA?
Being closer to my family and friends. Of course, there are many things we will have to get used to here in Ireland that are different then do US. But the world is much smaller now than it was and traveling to Ireland is not too crazy these days.
Now that you’re a two hour flight to Amsterdam, will you finally take a trip to reunite with your tv dad?
JJ: Absolutely! That is another thing I am really excited about. I couldn’t believe it’s only an hour and a half flight. Lisa has family in Italy and we also have very close friends in Greece and Russia. Ireland is located perfectly to reach all of these places with relative ease. I can’t wait to visit Tony in Amsterdam!
Any other cities you’ve toured that you’re looking forward to returning to?
JJ: Belfast, London… Cardiff. I hope to return to all of the cities that we’ve last few years and expand the tours to Germany and Holland and other places in Europe.
Will the rest of your band be making their way to Ireland often?
JJ: Richard and our bass player Moon will be flying overseas for the various tours that we do and we are continuing to record and make music together. So, The band is staying together even though we will be in a long-distance ‘rock ‘n’ roll relationship’ for the time being.
When will your first Irish homegrown CD be released?
JJ: We’ve recorded a lot of music over the last few years. We were going to release Ultraviolet Empire this fall but our tours were canceled due to the pandemic. Hopefully, we will be able to release this album spring of 2021 to coincide with touring.
Well, I’m sure the music video with a beautiful Ireland countryside will look amazing!
JJ: Yes, I’m excited about creating some music videos and possibly shooting some films here in Ireland.
- Jim Warren