'Flight 29 Down' actor eager to grow, but not to age
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By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
The Hawai'i-based TV series "Flight 29 Down" surprised even its producers by becoming Discovery Kids' No. 1 show midway through its first season. Now, a five- or six-year run — great for a teen show — is a possibility.
That might be a little awkward for actor Johnny Pacar, who plays the quietly strong "Jackson" on the ensemble show.
Pacar, 24, enjoys his role and hanging out with his mostly younger castmates, but he's not sure he wants to displace Dwayne "Dobie Gillis" Hickman as the world's most mature-looking high schooler.
Each episode of the show accounts for just one day in the life of a group of kids stranded on a desert island.
"I'd be 30 years old and still playing a teenager," said Pacar, 24. For now, however, Pacar has no problem spending three months a year working on the beach, whiling away off-hours with castmates and pondering next steps in his career.
Each of the cast members has a separate apartment in the show's North Shore "dorm." Pacar shares the third floor with Jeremy James Kissner and Kristy Wu. The floor is a frequent gathering place when shooting wraps for the day.
The complex's remote location agrees with Pacar, who spends his free time watching movies and playing his Ibanez guitar. Pacar, who played with several bands in high school, hopes to concentrate more on music once the season is over.
Pacar grew up in Wayne, Mich., where his first loves were hockey (he dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League) and the muscular, old-school punk of bands like Social Distortion.
His interest in film and TV was stoked when he took a high school vocational class in video production. Pacar initially wanted to pursue film editing or cinematography, but an instructor convinced him to give acting a try. That led to a series of high school and community theater roles, and a move to Los Angeles in 2001.
It didn't take long for Pacar to find work, first in a national commercial and soon after in the well-received indie film "Purgatory House." Since then, he has worked steadily.
Pacar's diverse interests come together in his portrayal of the enigmatic Jackson, blending the physicality of a hockey player with the ironic distance of a punk-rock aficionado.
Much of the first season was devoted to introducing the characters. As the show continues, co-creator and director DJ MacHale has allowed the characters to evolve into more complex realized figures. It can't happen soon enough for Pacar.
"You get a little tired of playing the same guy," he says. "I admit I'm a little bored with my character at times. ... I'm not unhappy by any means, but I do want to take it to a different level."
And that applies to Pacar's career in general.
"As actors, we all want something that will challenge us to learn and grow, make us work hard at it," Pacar says. "I'd love to do something like 'Brokeback Mountain' or 'The Aviator,' which in 50 years people will still want to see."
Pacar is also a realist when it comes to evaluating the Hollywood landscape. "It's such a delicate industry," he says. "You can do two big-budget movies and then suddenly tank."
But Pacar's ambitions are limited to life in front of the camera. He asks copious questions and carefully observes the way MacHale, first assistant director Matt Locey and the crew do their jobs, storing away what he learns for his own as-yet-undefined film projects.
"Whether it's music or movies, I'm just ready to get stuff going," he says.
Reach Michael Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.