If you go to the theatre or watch an Australian movie this year, there is a good chance you’ll be seeing Joel Jackson at work. The Fremantle-based NIDA graduate not only appears in three movies hitting screens in 2024, but is treading the boards in two Black Swan Theatre Company Productions; The Pool, which is being staged as part of Perth Festival and opens next weekend, and Barracking For The Umpire, which opens in April and is touring throughout the State. Is it shaping up to be the year of Jackson? “I really hope so,” he says modestly, before outlining even more projects he has on the boil: he’s written a children’s book and he has a few TV show ideas he wants to develop. “I’m looking forward to all the challenges and the new doors that hopefully we get to knock on with these opportunities,” Jackson says. The upcoming movies are Just A Farmer, Kangaroo Island and Runt, the last being an adaptation of the novel of the same name by WA writer Craig Silvey. For Jackson, who recently took to Instagram to reflect on 10 years working as an actor, describing it as “working inside of one of the must ludicrous professions with absolute gems of human beings,” it feels like he has finally regained his momentum after a tough couple of years. In 2020, Jackson was in Queensland working on “a dream film on a dream job with a dream cast and crew,” namely, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. And then … it all went away. “I had been doing that for about two and a half months, then COVID hit, production stopped indefinitely and I just kind of waited,” Jackson explains. “It clashed with another TV series that I had coming up and sadly I had to pick one or the other. I chose to support the local Australian industry and I didn’t receive any pay for working for two and a half months on my dream job at a film that goes on to gross tens of millions of dollars and it was heartbreaking,” he says. “It makes you really reflect on what you do as a profession and it makes you ask these questions like ‘am I being valued where I am? Am I doing enough to provide myself with something that is going to be here forever?’ And so coming out of COVID, I just worked harder than I ever have before and harder than I thought was possible. And that’s all paid off in the year that was last year with three feature films and major theatre shows. “And you go: well great. Now that we’ve gotten through that, and now that I’ve proven to myself that I am valued, and I am capable. Let’s see what else we can do. And I think it’s a simple reminder of when it’s good, it’s good. So don’t take it for granted, be humbled by this opportunity and do work that you’d be really, really proud of.” Jackson is chatting to PLAY ahead of diving in — literally — to rehearsals for The Pool, which is being staged not in a theatre, but at Bold Park Aquatic Centre. “You’ll be essentially watching the show as though you would watch a swimming carnival from the stands,” Jackson explains. “But because of the way it’s structured, you’ll be listening via hidden microphones with headphones on. And then there are moments where the audience will be immersed inside of the play and they too can become characters. Join us in the pool and have a splash and get wet in what is going to be really memorable theatre.” For Jackson, who grew up in Albany and Karratha before heading to Sydney to train at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, the daily going-ons of a community swimming pool — and the themes of small town sporting dramas that are explored in Barracking For The Umpire — are issues he feels more than comfortable with. “My entire childhood was spent either with a sporting ball in my hand, or totally drenched by chlorine and saltwater,” he jokes. “There’s so many elements of my family, myself and my personality (in these plays) and also the way I see the world and how Western Australia has impacted me, because we’re such a sporting State,” he says. “West Australians are built by sporting communities … we’re really competitive people. And so it’s great to infuse these characters with those flavours and share it for an audience who can see themselves inside of those characters.” Jackson relocated to Fremantle in 2022, a move he says has been “fantastic” as the WA film industry is on the cusp of a boom. “The west coast will be busier than the east coast this year for the first couple of months with film because we have a whole slate of projects coming over here,” Jackson says, adding that new film studios being built is also a source of excitement in the industry. “It’s really important to me, as a proud West Aussie but also someone who is an advocate for the arts and for the future of our industry, that I can be on the ground while these things are occurring and have my foot in the door to help shape the next generation and what is (happening) in the next decade or two decades for our State.” Whatever happens, Jackson plans on being centre stage, ready for his close up or fully submerged — whatever the part calls for as he makes the most of each opportunity that comes his way. The Pool opens on Friday and runs until February 25 at the Bold Park Aquatic Centre. Tickets from blackswantheatre.com.au.