Sneak peek: An exclusive look at "The Last Airbender"

The name Jackson Rathbone isn't one many are familiar with, which is shocking considering Rathbone plays Jasper in the "Twilight" saga, is a member of the band100 Monkeys, and is an indie producer and director.

Rathbone recently finished filming the "The Last Airbender" with director M. Night Shyamalan. The film, based on the Nickelodeon animated TV series, ties the four elements (air, water, earth and fire) together after a brutal war is launched. A century has passed since the destruction began and little has been done to change the situation. Rathbone's character, Sokka, works alongside the four elements to reestablish peace in the world.

Following is an excerpt of a conference call interview that Rathbone had with nine colleges across the country in regards to the film.

Santa Monica College: How did you prepare for your role as Sokka?

JR: There were two months or so of intense Kung Fu training in Los Angeles for three hours a day. We had two weeks of rehearsals in Philadelphia where we ran through the scenes and the process was very natural. Shyamalan is a very natural director; it was very easy to work with him.

Northwestern University: Since you were so busy filming, what did you do when you had free time?

I never really like to have free time. While I wasn't filming the movie, I was also performing with my band, as well as starting to produce a film with a bandmate, Jared Anderson. I was also busy getting the trailer ready for that project as well as new songs with the band when I got home at night. I don't really tend to have much "off time."

DePaul University: Did you watch the original show?

I was always aware of the show but didn't watch it as much during the audition process. But during the actual film, I wanted to step away from it a bit and kind of make it as natural and realistic as possible. That is one of the difficulties with an animated character show, trying to condense it into a two-hour movie. With the extreme martial arts and elements bending, it was far more serious. Although I was a fan, I tried to stay away from the show, but my friends were excited as all hell when they found out I was playing the character.

Hillsborough Community College: What would draw a college audience to enjoy a Nickelodeon show?

At the end of the day, the subject matter that appeals to everyone is in the story: discovering yourself. It's a coming of age story. The idea of manipulating the elements has always been a wonder, so the ability to work with them or against them and what that means should attract audiences.

University of Arizona: Was it fair that you couldn't bend the elements? Do you still get the chance to fight?

It is funny since I was working with Noah Ringer [whose character can manipulate all four elements] and Nicola Peltz (who plays his sister, the Waterbender) and they could bend elements, they joshed me for not being able to bend anything. I would say my super power is my sharp wit.

SMC: If you were able to bend the elements, which element would it be and why?

I think it would have to water. It is one of the most abundant resources we have and the human body is made up of 80 percent water and the earth about the same. I've always been a fan of Bruce Lee and his writings and he talks a lot about what it means to be like water.

Northwestern: What was that experience like on the set?

It was a pleasure and joy. We had lot of martial arts training and the best people training us. We actually filmed the first two weeks in Greenland, which was extremely cold, and I don't think I would have any other reason to go there but to film. It was like a big family. Shyamalan likes to have the same actors and crew working on his films and it creates this family element. While you're filming, it's not like you're working; it's like play time.

Rathbone's colorful persona emerged throughout the interview, proving he is far more than the character that made his face so well known. He hopes to eventually work his way around the camera, but until then, you can see both "The Last Airbender" and "Eclipse" in theaters this summer.

 

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