A tourist from Spain recognized her even in Mexico week before last.
“Why do you look so familiar?” the woman asked Columbus native Chaley Jackson, a former Columbus East High School gymnast, track athlete and homecoming queen.
Then it dawned on the questioner. Jackson was Zoey, a country vocalist and member of the band in the ABC drama “Nashville” in the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
“’Nashville’ is the gift that keeps on giving,” said Jackson with a laugh, speaking by phone from her Los Angeles apartment. “I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Zoey. The universe handed me that one.”
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Fans of the actress-singer, including those on a Facebook fan site, know her simply by her first and middle name of Chaley Rose. She took time recently for a brief chat to offer an update on her career. That includes a two-episode appearance as the nervous Dr. Pepper Russo beginning May 2 on CBS’ emergency room drama, “Code Black.”
When she filmed her scenes last year, a what-am-I-doing-here reality struck her when she found herself in shots with castmate doctors Rob Lowe, Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman.
“I just looked up at Rob Lowe and I thought, ‘Is this really my life?’” she said of her good fortune.
A bit of her life hangs in limbo on the show, just as it did with her Nashville character when she began with a week-by-week contract.
“You never really know if you’re going to be written into more episodes,” she said. “So, you just have to move on to the next thing.”
She has been to every possible audition in the past year or so, including one that included a callback and then an eight-minute session in front of famed director Spike Lee for his Netflix original series, “She’s Gotta Have It.”
“It was nice to at least be able to get adjustments from someone that big (in the business),” she said. “You have to get to the point where you know, ‘What roles meant for me are really for me, and all the auditioning in between is just preparing me for something.’”
She acknowledged upfront that there is no way to know where a music gig this week will lead amid the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. She, like a range of other live music acts, will perform at a well-known city nightspot for visitors at the same time the festival is going on. But one of her resolutions for the new year is to learn to take risks in a new way to see her acting/singing career further blossom.
“I’ve never been there (to Sundance),” she said. “But I feel like this a good time before the year really gets going.
“It can’t hurt (to be around directors and producers). And I get to mix these two worlds (of music and acting) once again.”
So her half-hour set of tunes, including some original material, at the O.P. Rockwell Cocktail Lounge & Music Hall will allow another element of the entertainment industry to see her talent.
She also just renewed a branding contract with athletic gear maker Under Armour. Posters of her wearing the company’s products have been featured in Kohl’s department stores nationwide. She finally visited the local Kohl’s for a playful shot in front of her poster at Thanksgiving.
Since last year, she has been featured in brief, workout-style clips for Under Armour. The company recently launched a youtube.com clip concept called “Earn the Burger,” with Jackson first offering workout wisdom and some demonstration before finishing with burger tasting at a favorite restaurant. They shot the first in New York City. Others are planned for Los Angeles and Nashville.
“It’s cute and it’s fun,” she said.
Dad Chuck Jackson of Annapolis, Maryland, salutes his daughter’s determination that has carried her through setbacks, including an original foray into pop music that ended in 2009 when she saw the industry’s underbelly.
“She’s driven, and she gets that from her mother (Cheryl Owsley Jackson),” her father said. “And I know absolutely that she will succeed at what she wants. If it were me, I might have given up.”
Her mother, living in Washington, D.C., mentioned that she has been most proud of her daughter to see that she let go of a lucrative project not long ago that involved artistic mandates that Jackson eventually disagreed with.
“She has shown me that the process of being an actor and the trials that come along with that are fertile ground for building strong character,” Owsley Jackson said. “I respect her choices.”
Role: Actress, singer.
Hometown: Columbus. Columbus East High School graduate.
Current residence: Los Angeles.
Current role: Guest slot as Dr. Pepper Russo in the CBS emergency room drama “Code Black” beginning at 10 p.m. May 2.
Parents: Cheryl Owsley Jackson of Washington, D.C., and Chuck Jackson of Annapolis, Maryland.
Down time: Hiking, getting certified as a personal trainer.