CLEVELAND – Donald Trump loves many things, including Arizona and its eponymous iced tea.
But just like that tea is not brewed in Arizona, this Trump is not the Donald.
Eric Jackman is a Trump impersonator who has drawn swarms of both Trump devotees and detractors while sauntering down the bustling streets of Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. With nothing but a blond strawlike wig on his head and a sharp wit as his weapon, Jackman makes a Donald that causes double-takes.
“A lot of people don’t know this about Trump but I actually love Arizona iced tea, it’s one of the great iced teas of our time,” said Jackman’s “Trump.” “I’ve always had a great affinity for Arizona, I love the Phoenix Coyotes.”
A car salesman from New Hampshire by day and an impressionist by night, Jackman has impersonated Trump for 10 years and has been featured countless times online and on air on shows including “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
While Jackman has made him a name for himself as a professional Trump impersonator, he didn’t become Trump overnight. Jackman acted in plays starting in second grade and participated in Shakespeare Festivals in his youth. His love for impersonation began when he, his twin brother, and friends tried their best to parody then-President Bill Clinton.
“Starting in seventh grade my brother spraypainted his hair, had a saxophone, and dressed up as Bill Clinton,” Jackman said. “I played Linda Tripp and our friend was Monica Lewinsky. We called it Bill Clinton’s ‘Farewell Address.’
“From there we thought we kind of have this knack for impersonating political figures and other known people, why not keep mixing and keep going with it?” he said.
But Jackman didn’t add Trump to his repertoire until 2006, when the billionaire businessman was caught in a feud with comedian Rosie O’Donnell.
“Trump summoned the cameras from ‘Entertainment Tonight’ to Trump Tower, they threw the cameras on him and sounded off for two minutes,” Jackman said. “Trump said Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting, she’s a slob, she talks like a truck driver. I was like, ‘Oh my god Donald Trump is crazy. This is awesome.'”
After witnessing what he called “the greatest few minutes of television” he’s seen his in life, Jackman said he became more aware of the billionaire-turned-presidential-candidate. To prepare for the role, Jackman watched videos, followed the 24-hour news cycle and worked on his body language to portray Trump to a T.
Jackman has also drawn inspiration from his background in politics. Jackman studied political science at Franklin Pierce University and has worked with several politicians, starting as a high school senior with a stint as a volunteer for John Kerry. Jackman later worked for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and current Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson.
Jackman, who considers himself an independent with Libertarian leanings, was hoping to vote for Johnson in November, but with Trump securing the Republican nomination Tuesday he’s not sure who will get his vote, noting that a Trump presidency would be good for his business.
Although Jackman enjoys playing on Trump’s headline-grabbing comments and demeanor, even he wants the Republican presidential candidate to get more serious.
“I do have to say to Donald if he’s going to be serious about being president he really needs to buckle down and start getting specific about policy issues, ” said Jackman. “He has to get serious.
“Attacking other people is all fun and great – lyin’ Ted, little Marco, low-energy Jeb, that stuff is great but if you’re going to be president of the United States you need be serious about policy. You need to take this thing seriously,” Jackman said.
(Video by Krandall Brantley/Cronkite News)