As Paramount mulls over a future version of Star Trek without Chris Pine, now is as good a time as any to revisit J.J. Abrams’s original shortlist — those who came so close to donning the captain’s shirt, but ultimately didn’t make it. Dawson’s Creek alum Joshua Jackson was one such hopeful. He auditioned for the role of James T. Kirk in 2007, along with future Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt and Cloverfield alum Mike Vogel, but ultimately lost to Chris Pine.
Like Pine, Jackson was something of a dark horse and an unlikely candidate for the part. Prior to auditioning for Trek, both men only had rom-com and dramatic credits to their names, and had never appeared in a fantasy or science fiction film before. Still, it was that unconventional acting experience that landed Pine the role. The future Wonder Woman star brought a different kind of humor into the set, injecting into the part a certain blend of arrogance and charisma that only a rom-com frequenter could achieve. If Pine could do it, why not Jackson?
The Vancouver native hasn’t appeared in any major blockbusters, which might just work in his favor. Unlike fellow Kirk hopeful Chris Pratt, Jackson is a fresh face and has yet to be typecast. Despite being widely known as Pacey Witter in Dawson’s Creek — having portrayed the character for over five years — astoundingly, Jackson’s acting choices remain as varied and versatile as ever.
This long-established level of adaptability would allow audiences to better connect with his version of Kirk, knowing he is, in many ways, still a clean slate. If Paramount were to recast the role with Pratt, viewers might have a difficult time separating the actor from his previous roles, like Star-Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy), Jim Preston (Passengers) or Owen Grady (Jurassic World), all characters who are very similar to one another.
It’s not difficult to see why Jackson’s then-girlfriend — actress Diane Kruger — thought her partner would make a good Kirk. Jackson shares William Shatner’s facial features and boyish good looks, and, like Pine, has the roguish playboy game down pat. Like the good Captain, Jackson’s characters are often cheeky and loud, magnetic and outgoing.
Pacey Witter was a lovable rogue. Charlie Conway (The Mighty Ducks) was a charismatic leader. He was Pacey for six seasons; Conway for at least four years. The rest of the time he has shone brilliantly in dramatic roles, achieving critical acclaim for his part as the cancer-ridden Ben Tyler in the Canadian indie One Week, and for playing depressed family man Cole Lockhart in Showtime’s The Affair. Jackson is fully capable of traversing the entire spectrum, and can play James Kirk through every milestone in his life, from his peak down to his eventual death.
The actor is currently in his early 40s, around the same age as Kirk from the construction of the USS Enterprise-A onward, and around this stage of the Kelvin timeline. He’s a few years older than Pine, but maybe that’s a good thing, considering Paramount seems to be veering toward an older depiction of Kirk, at least for future movies. Like Shatner’s Kirk, Jackson’s Pacey (a similarly structured character) started out with light blond hair, progressing to the actor’s natural dark brown in his mid-20s. Again, the profile strangely matches. Jackson might be the only other Kirk hopeful besides Chris Pratt and Chris Pine who shares similar exterior traits as William Shatner — which is excellent news for any Kirk-deprived Star Trek fan.
Despite this, Jackson claims he never made it to Abrams’ shortlist. The evidence begs to differ. Shortly after auditioning for Trek, Abrams cast Jackson in his science fiction TV series Fringe as the conflicted FBI consultant Peter Bishop. Clearly, Jackson made a good enough impression, just not enough to win the role of James Kirk over Chris Pine. But now that Pine may no longer be playing Kirk, and the studio is faced with the terrifying prospect of having to move forward without the character, perhaps it is time to look back and consider previous options. Joshua Jackson would easily be a good place to start.
Jackson has repeatedly asserted he is a die-hard Trekkie. He considers his Kirk audition to be his most important yet, and the one he’s actually disappointed to have lost. Apparently, the prime time actor is used to near-misses, particularly when it comes to high-profile, culturally relevant characters. He auditioned for the role of Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, but lost to Christian Bale. Coincidentally, Jackson’s Dawson’s Creek co-star and on-screen partner Katie Holmes won the role of Rachel Dawes, Wayne’s romantic interest.
Some time after that, he tried out for the iconic part of Irwin Fletcher in the much-anticipated sequel Fletch Won, but also dropped out. In addition, he read lines for one other Star Trek character — Dr. Leonard McCoy — but, of course, lost the part to Dredd actor Karl Urban. Since exiting Dawson’s Creek, Joshua Jackson has gone through a string of disappointing misses, but who knows? A spot on the Enterprise has finally opened. Maybe this year could finally be his moment.
Joshua Jackson currently stars as Cole Lockhart in the Showtime drama The Affair. The show is presently in its fourth season.