DALLAS — We don't need to have our emotions influenced to know that Jasper Hale Whitlock is one of Stephenie Meyer's greatest creations. A 166-year-old Civil War veteran whose transformation and redemption is a key theme in the later "Twilight" novels, the character has long been a fan favorite. Which made it all the more appropriate when the franchise landed Jackson Rathbone, a 24-year-old actor/musician whose affable, easygoing charm has made him equally popular in Twilight Nation.
Recently, we caught up with Jackson as he was preparing to begin work on "Eclipse," the currently filming third chapter in the blockbuster saga. What follows are some major plot revelations from the next two films — including his fight scene with Kellan Lutz, exposing Japer's powers earlier than you might think and how to kill one of David Slade's newborn vampires.
MTV: Jackson, what are you most looking forward to shooting in the next film?
Jackson Rathbone: I'm really excited to start filming "Eclipse." I got a chance to read the script, and we get to go back into Jasper's backstory. They actually had to ask me about my equestrian experience. I told them I can gallop and trot and all that. I used to ride. It's been two or three years since I've been on a horse, but I'm excited to get back up on the saddle.
MTV: So we're going to get to Jasper's Civil War backstory?
Rathbone: Yes, I get to shoot some Civil War stuff, and I'm also going to shoot a lot of fighting scenes. Which is great, because I just came off [M. Night Shyamalan's] "The Last Airbender," and I've been doing fighting for the last six months. So I'm ready to keep it on.
MTV: What kind of moves will you be pulling off? Just shooting guns? Obviously, it won't be highly-stylized martial arts stuff.
Rathbone: No, it won't be karate, it won't be kung fu, like the stuff we're doing in "Airbender." But even in "Airbender," the fighting styles I was doing were a little bit more loose, like street fighting. And that's kind of what this is; it's about evading.
MTV: Why is that?
Rathbone: Well, we're talking about newborn vampires that can't control their urges — they can't really think very quickly. So if you just let them go to their instincts and evade and attack them from side to side, you could get them; but if you try and go after them through force, they're going to win every time. So it's all about evasion.
MTV: Are there training scenes in "Eclipse" along these lines?
Rathbone: It's interesting; there's a lot of cool scenes where Jasper trains the Cullen family on how to fight the newborns. He gets to train Emmett — and Emmett is a born fighter — so he's telling Emmett all these techniques, and Emmett thinks he could just best Jasper [during their sparring]. Jasper ends up getting the best of him, because it's a war mentality, not just a street brawl. It's about thinking ahead; it's a chess game.
MTV: Cool. Will we see the scene where Jasper gets bitten?
Rathbone: Oh yeah, we have to see that. It's going to be great. I've been studying up a lot on the Civil War and that era. It really was a crazy time. It was all-out war on our own turf and between countrymen. That's terrible. It's an interesting time to see when Jasper was actually human and what his human form was and, when he gets turned, how intense and how dark he is. Then [we'll see] his realization of what he's become, him finding Alice and being redeemed by love.
MTV: And is that the first time we'll see your powers?
Rathbone: Actually, in "New Moon," we get a little glimpse. Inside the school.
MTV: How was it to film scenes where you were influencing the emotions of those around you?
Rathbone: It was fun. I just played it very naturally, like, if you have these special powers — like Edward has the ability to read minds — it's not like he's going to [get overly dramatic] and go, "You're hungry!" No, it's a natural thing, like the human ability to smell or to hear is a natural ability. To affect the mental state of anyone around you [I depicted Jasper as] keeping it all right in the eyes. Just thinking it and transferring it through the eyes, which are the windows to the soul — even to the soulless.
MTV: And will it be clear to the audience that this emotion-manipulation is going on?
Rathbone: In "New Moon," when we see it? It's pretty obvious.