Samuel L. Jackson Reveals Tips on Becoming a Great Actor

October 1, 2015

Samuel L. Jackson reveals his addiction to acting, creating character biographies and dealing with Hollywood talent agents.

Samuel L. Jackson has worked on over 100 movies, and is Hollywood’s most celebrated actors in the industry. But, behind working on so many movies and becoming one of America’s most recognizable faces, Samuel L. Jackson is a hard worker who has no time for small talk, well according to a recent interview with the Guardian.

 

In a recent interview with Megan Conner, Samuel L. Jackson is not like what you expect. On Twitter, Samuel L. Jackson loves exclamation points and catch phrases and even his wife points out that Jackson is “emotionally disconnected” when he is working on set.

Oh, he’s a funny fish, Samuel L. And I wouldn’t be the first person to say it. His partner of 40 years, the actor LaTanya Richardson, once said that the problem with her husband is that he is “emotionally disconnected”. Onscreen he is celebrated for his warmth and wit. But when he is away filming, he apparently can’t even bring himself to say he misses his wife over the phone. Richardson has confessed that at times in their marriage she has felt “abandoned” by him.

When I ask him about his lack of affection, Jackson nods. “I have very brief phone conversations. ‘Oh, I miss you!’” he imitates. “No,” he shakes his head. “[We don’t do] that. She’ll say: ‘Oh, I miss you’ and I’ll go: ‘Oh, OK.’’

 

But, his lack of emotional connection to friends and family is what probably makes him a successful actor. Jackson is known for never forgetting a line, never lat on set, and undergoing an extensive process preparing for each movie by creating a character biography.

According to former colleagues, the small details matter to Jackson. He is what they call meticulous: never late, never forgets a line and undergoes a process of preparing for each film by writing a “character biography” comprising so many pages it has to be bound.

When I ask him about the biographies, Jackson, as he is prone to doing, shrugs me off. So I ask him specifically about Valentine. What was in his biography? “The kind of foods that he eats, educational background, parents, the kind of friends he had, the kind of friends he developed, how he started making money, how he made his money, what he did with it…” It seems an inexhaustible list: “What gives him his confidence, how he’s managed to make his way through the world, especially with the fact that, you know, people…”

But, what is interesting to point out in the interview is how Samuel L. Jackson developed into the actor he is today. When he was a child he had a stuttering problem. “Concerned about his confidence, his aunt, a teacher in Chattanooga, enrolled him in speech therapy and encouraged him to act, casting him in her school plays.”

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After graduating from college and moving to New York City, Samuel L. Jackson revealed that he became an alcoholic. But, it was once he started getting clean that his acting improved.

Jackson has said that there is a direct correlation between getting clean and his success. Before he quit alcohol, Richardson referred to his acting as “bloodless”. Certainly, he says, his acting improved. But there’s a sense that working has also become his new addiction. With an average of five to six films a year, Jackson has an astonishing output. But at his age and with his success (let alone money), I say, nobody needs to work at the rate he does. Or do they?

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Jackson also points out what a typical day is like for the actor and the process he undergoes when choosing a script.

But whatever scripts he is given, he says, he will usually find one. “They just give me a bunch of stuff and I’ll pick one and say: ‘Negotiate this deal.’ You know, we make things work. If it’s a good story, I might say: ‘They want me to play this guy. I don’t like that guy. I like that guy. Can I be that guy?’ And they’ll find out.”

“And then,” he adds, “at other times when a movie comes along, it might be a movie I wanted to see as a kid. So with Tarzan, I always wanted to be in that movie. Here’s the chance. Hell yeah! Let me be in that.”

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