Chaley Rose Jackson had lived on little more than peanut butter for days as a sacrificial move to save money pursuing her acting dream in New York City. Finally, with only $10 in her coat pocket, she doggedly decided to treat herself to ice cream.
As she got to the store, she reached into her pocket to find nothing more than a hole. The $10 had fallen through and disappeared.
“I started crying,” she said, now laughing at the memory as she spoke by phone. “I was broke.”
Jackson, a Columbus native, can afford to chuckle a bit these days at her self denial from 18 months ago. Now living in Los Angeles, she recently landed a role in a lighthearted, national commercial for Jack in the Box’s chicken nuggets.
And that 30 seconds of fame has snagged her a manager — that puts her in the minority among some 300,000 actors in Hollywood — and a variety of other entertainment possibilities.
“I really want a comic acting career,” she said.
Her manager, Tanith Hanson, and others believe she may have taken the first step.
In the spot, she plays alongside another girl trying to convince their boyfriends, who left their table only for a moment, that they just had been victims of a “nugging” — an act where someone had forced them to give up the nuggets they had ordered for everyone.
Only they’re lying, covering the fact that they ate the entire order.
The actors ad-libbed nearly the whole scene, just as the director requested. Jackson’s silliness includes pantomiming the thief rapidly scarfing all the food.
Friends across the country are loving it.
“They’re excited for me,” said Jackson, a 2004 graduate of Columbus East High School, where she was known for her track and gymnastics successes.
Jackson figures part of her recent progress lies in what industry leaders call her “look.” They see her light-toned brown skin, sometimes-straight and sometimes-curly hair and distinctive eyes as “ethnically ambiguous,” meaning she could be pegged as black (which she is), white (which her grandmother is) or even Latino (which she is not, but probably could pass for).
On audition cards she completes, she also checks a box that she is Asian, because her features give a slight suggestion of that, too.
“One of the very good things about Chaley is that she can play a variety of types (of roles),” Hanson said. “She can do comedy, but she can do drama as well, if you see her work in short films.”
This month, she begins a three-month round of auditions for television pilots with the support of boyfriend E.J. Bonilla, who has roles in the ABC series “Revenge” and the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.”
“He’s been my go-to person,” Jackson said.
Same for people such as New York City acting coach Anthony Abeson, who taught her plenty.
“You’ve got to be willing to work your butt off or go home,” she said.
This is to report that she came home recently only for Christmas.
“I’ve always told her that if you do all the work all the time, you’ll find success,” said mom Cheryl Jackson, a former Republic reporter now freelancing for CNN in Chicago.
Her daughter currently appears in a promotional, in-store video for Sony and in photos for Adidas’ new Neo European line on the company’s website. Plus, she plays opposite “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander in a promo for The Original Soup Man soups.
When she first auditioned in New York three years ago, casting directors and others paid her little attention. After all, she spent recent years singing professionally in pop music and appearing in a few short, independent films. They felt she needed more experience.
“They would look at my resume and stop listening,” she said.
She expects that to be different now.
She laughed about celebrating the recent commercial with Bonilla. Since they had never actually been to a Jack in the Box, they went and ordered the nuggets.
“He ended up telling the manager that I was in one of their commercials, and he said they should give them to me for free,” she said. “And they gave us a 10 percent discount.”
Oh, well. At least that puts money back in her pocket — something she must remember from previous days as a pretty good feeling.
A look at Chaley Rose Jackson
- Hometown: Columbus.
- Family: Mom Cheryl Jackson of Chicago; dad Chuck Jackson of Maryland; brother Chase Jackson of New York City.
- Education: 2004 graduate of Columbus East High School. 2008 graduate of Indiana University.
- Here and now: Pursuing a comic acting career in Los Angeles through a TV pilot. Currently appearing in a Jack in the Box commercial that can be seen on youtube.com.
- In the arts earlier: Previously pursued a pop music career after college during recording work in Atlanta. “But that was horrible,” she said.