First, the good news. They're not replacing him. Now, the bad. Four-time Emmy winner Jonathan Jackson, citing physical and emotional exhaustion, will exit ABC's General Hospital the week of December 19 when his character, Lucky Spencer, leaves Port Charles for yet another trip to Ireland. In recent months, Lucky has been hit by one shattering tragedy after another — the hit-and-run death of his little boy Jake, the disgusting downfall of his drunken dad Luke, and the death of his wife Siobhan, all of which led to the character's own descent into drugs and hallucinogenic madness. It's highly likely all this sturm und drang will bring the brilliant Jackson a fifth Emmy award next year, but right now it's taking a big toll on the guy. TV Guide Magazine had an exclusive chat with Jackson to find out why he said, "Enough already!"
TV Guide Magazine: Your fans are upset. Your costars are upset. What happened here? Couldn't this have been avoided?
Jackson: It's just one of those circumstantial things, I guess. There certainly wasn't anything negative or contentious about the way it happened. I have a really good relationship with everyone at the show.
TV Guide Magazine: So, word is, you went to the execs and asked to have your workload lightened and they said they couldn't do it. There was no wiggle room? No compromise?
Jackson: I don't think my dilemma completely fell on deaf ears. I think there were logistics that made it difficult for them to keep me around if I wasn't in a big story.
TV Guide Magazine: What specifically were you asking for? Less workdays per week? No big stories for a while? No more tragedy?
Jackson: All of that was discussed. I think — though I don't know for sure — that they were genuinely interested in figuring out a way to make this situation workable. But ultimately it was decided that, if I was to remain on the show, Lucky is too important of a character to be put on the back burner. The writers have so much to accomplish on a weekly basis that it just wasn't going to be possible to make a significant change like this.
TV Guide Magazine: But isn't there a happy medium between tearing your guts out every day on air and being on the back burner? And if Lucky's so important, how can the writers so easily do without him? Sounds weird.
Jackson: I know.
TV Guide Magazine: What brought you to the decision not to renew your contract? How was your exhaustion manifesting itself?
Jackson: It's an interesting paradox. The storylines don't stay with me in the sense that I feel personally tormented by what my character is going through, but it does take its toll on me physically and emotionally. It's a real energy zapper and there are days when I feel like I have nothing left to give. And in this medium where you're dealing with a pretty insane amount of dialogue, day in, day out, the collision of a heavy workload and increasing exhaustion can make you a little crazy. I love to work hard but I've been at maximum capacity in terms of mental and emotional output for months on end and it has become too difficult. I am extremely thankful that they wanted to give me all those storylines with so much depth, but there's just no balance. Usually, you might get one or maybe two really good and intense story arcs per year. There's usually a cycle to this stuff on soaps. But this has been nonstop. There was just no reprieve. I have a wife and three kids and other things in life I have to think about. I just knew I couldn't sustain the schedule at GH and that kind of emotion for much longer. It was just too intense.
TV Guide Magazine: I hear you also asked for a Lucky and Elizabeth [Rebecca Herbst] reunion and got a no on that. Did you see that as a way to regain some balance and bring Lucky some happiness?
Jackson: Absolutely. And I think the fans want that, too. I was away from GH for 10 years and came back [in 2009] specifically to work with certain people. Tony Geary [Luke] was a huge reason for me to come back and so was Becky. I absolutely love working with her and love it when our characters are together romantically. Even though things have gotten crazy between Liz and Lucky over the years, there's still a deep potential for something powerful and redemptive there. So it seemed like a real no-brainer to me. From my perspective, I just assumed they'd get back together. Maybe it's a timing problem. There have been big changes in the writing team at GH and that may have shifted the timeline for Lucky and Elizabeth to reunite. Or maybe it just wasn't ever going to happen at all. I don't know.
TV Guide Magazine: Did it surprise you that things turned out this way? Or did you know, going into your meetings with the brass, that this might not end well?
Jackson: I can't say I'm surprised. I'm one of those people who try to live day to day, moment to moment, so I never had a real vision of the way this would work out. I was very much open to staying if we could have figured out how to make it doable for me.
TV Guide Magazine: I'm hearing there are no big goodbye scenes written for Lucky. He just sort of heads back to Ireland. Is this a sign you may be back to finish things off at some point, especially if GH is cancelled?
Jackson: That's the one upside to all this. Lucky's not dying and they are not recasting. There is an absolute possibility that he'll return. We'll see what happens.
TV Guide Magazine: Hey, don't you have one of your real-life kids on GH? Are two Jacksons taking a hike here?
Jackson: Yeah, I have my littlest one, Titus, playing Lucky's son Aiden. That will continue. He's a little baby so we're taking it a week at a time right now. So far so good. [Laughs] Unlike his father, he's handling it very well!