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Jackson Challinor

A science whiz, a professional ballet dancer, a born storyteller, a basketball star, and four others talk about their lives and their hopes for the future

by Cassie Walker

Jackson Challinor

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.
30 Rock. 
7-11 Slurpee.  WORD/PHRASE OF THE MOMENT: “Fantastic.” 

WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT? Family support. “I couldn’t get driven anywhere.”

AGE: 15

Actors always talk about their motivation, but Jackson Challinor’s reasons for getting into theatre weren’t exactly artistic. “My mom asked me if I wanted to do theatre camp. I wasn’t listening, so I said yes,” he says, remembering how he was tuned into his iPod and headphones—and not his mom—at the time. He was nine then; now, six years later, he is coming off a starring role in Profiles Theatre’s Graceland, a darkly funny play by Ellen Fairey that was a surprise summer hit. In the play, Challinor stalked the stage as a love-struck and lonely teen who falls for the same woman as his father. It’s a role that the Chicago Tribune said he played “pitch perfectly.”

What happened between theatre camp and the Off-Off-Loop? Lots of little acting jobs—starting with an opera at Roosevelt University in which he played a child who sees ghosts (Turn of the Screw). After that, he says, “I decided I actually liked acting, so I went to the library every day to look at the auditions in PerformInk,” the trade paper for Chicago’s entertainment business. Next came roles with Halcyon Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre, and A Red Orchid. He landed the Red Orchid job right around football season, so Challinor, who attends New Trier High School, went from daily practice to daily rehearsal. He didn’t mind. “I’m horrible at football. As sad as it sounds, I was afraid to tackle. But I was the hardest-working water boy the coach had ever seen.”


Photograph by Ryan Robinson