Film & TV

Case Study: Caveman's Valentine

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 10:53 min

Sam breaks down the nuances of his characterization process and performance as Romulus, a prodigal but schizophrenic and homeless concert pianist, in The Caveman’s Valentine.

Samuel L. Jackson
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Take a brilliant concert pianist, like Romulus in Caveman's Valentine who was a child prodigy. Whose home life's damaged. He's got a damaged home life, and they're in denial about his mental condition or his schizophrenia to the point, you know, that when he does kind of succeed, he succeeds to the point that he can't handle the success. There has to be a reason for it. And the reason that he comes up with is a made-up guy who lives in this tower in New York that shoots rays into his head to the point that he can't touch a piano because it's painful. Fight it, baby. Show Stuyvesant you're not scared of him. Play the damn thing. But he will do it sometimes just because he still has that need to play music. [PIANO MUSIC] When he forces himself to play, he plays in pain and he fights through that pain to the point that it becomes so excruciating that at some points, it is ecstatic. It infuses him in a way that will exhaust him and make him even crazier to the point where he wonders if it is self-imposed or if it is real. He has a daughter that loves him. That not necessarily wants to help him, but wants to let him live his life, but to live his life not in danger. Because he looks the way he looks, he's a huge imposing figure with big coat and a fur hat and long dreadlocks. He's not Invisible to the people around him. His situation is invisible to the people that he passes, like most homeless people in New York. So New York becomes an imposing character in itself-- the city and how he deals with the city. He lives in the middle of New York City, but he lives in a cave in Central Park. So he's isolated anyway. I mean, if you're sleeping in a cardboard box, you're not isolated because people are walking by you every day, but they still don't see you. They don't interact with you. And quite frankly, you-- you're an imposition, or you're a sauce of shame for them, because you are there, whether they admit it or not. You are a source of shame for people who pass by you every day and don't do anything to help you, whether they admit it or not. They know that, you know? They see you but you think they don't. But he's there in the middle of that city and he's ranting, you know, a lot. So people have to dodge and if they see him, they get out of his way, but they don't interact with him. in any way. So he is in that box of his own. But he's accepted that box, to the point that those people don't mean anything. He rushes through the city like he's on a mission all the time. I mean, there's something chasing him or he's dodging the rays from that building because he knows the guy's looking for him, he's just looking for a chance to shoot a ray into his head so his eyes are constantly darting. Even though he's huge, he has a hunched thing because he's always on guard to duck a ray or whatever he's trying to get away from. He thinks...

Get into Character

As a kid, Samuel L. Jackson stuttered so badly that he stopped talking for almost a year. Today he’s one of the world’s most successful actors, with roles in over 100 films, including Pulp Fiction and The Avengers. In his online acting class, the Oscar-nominated star shares how he creates memorable characters, powerful performances, and a long-lasting career. Learn to master auditions, analyze scripts, and find the truth in every role you play.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Really great tips coming from life lessons. It truely made me think.

Awesome class, overall! I was happy to listen and learn from a seasoned professional in the line of business I have been lobbying for over 20 years now. Thanks for those golden nuggets of wisdom!

A brotha doing his thing. Awesome. Learning from the best.

He has a kot of tios on how to work in the business, which I really appreciate.


Julian S.

I need to see this movie at some point. The man is so enlightening. He makes his characters so much more relatable. I get the same feeling from homeless people, especially when I'm on the subway. Whenever I'm approached by one, my first instinct is usually to look the other away and/or disengage immediately. One time, a guy on the subway wouldn't shut up; he kept asking me how my day was, and I wanted so badly to get off, but my stop was ten minutes away. Eventually he left, but it was an uncomfortable moment to say the least. I have not been able to think about how the other half of society lives until now.

keison T.

great ... just like a character depending on how you are as a person will define how you recive this info..

Chava G.

Mr. Jackson is the more than serendipitous, for one thing, among many things and has exquisite detailing as each member being becomes real to us. Also I truly dig all that articulation of and for each of these characters and their relationship to others is magic. A joy to observe, listen and learn from, observing the observer as a great big giant consciousness to become a truly aligned actor!

Jim S.

I used to work in a book store and a man would come in to look at car magazines. He always held one up like he was showing it to someone while quietly talking to them. One day he turned to the person and blurted out, "Man, you are crazy!" Then tossed the magazine down and walked out.

Jenna L.

I always observe people too but knowing it helps to develop a character is really helpful. This is very inspirational.

Phyllis S.

Samuel Jackson hit the nail on the head regarding how actors try to play an instrument and I can tell they are not playing the violin at all but faking it. It does take me out of the movie or show. I get so irritated!

Robert A.

Wow incredible knowledge of how he develops himself in the characters!!!. Thank you sam!!!. Onward!!!


I very much enjoy his breakdown of the character and the time he spends developing him.


From viewing the clips, you seem to have pushed the limits with Caveman's Valentine. It's obvious that you're very passionate about your character. I enjoyed this class very much.

A fellow student

Actors are fascinating people . They live to entertain pretending to be a character but they are not poseurs. Instead they are believeable personas. They are the free-est spirits of all. That said i am having trouble memorizing my monologue. I chose Rocky speaking to his son. What is the secret ? How can i memorize a script if i fail as a memorist for one solioquy?