Film & TV

Growing Your Acting Career

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 20:25 min

Sam walks you through the most important business relationships you’ll form as an actor, and offers wisdom on how to best work with them.

Samuel L. Jackson
Teaches Acting
One of the most successful actors of our generation teaches you how to elevate your acting.
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When people ask me why I work so much, I go, it's because it's what I do. It's like any acting opportunity is a great opportunity for me. You know, if I could get up every day and go somewhere and act, I'd be the happiest person in the world. You know, writers get up and write. Painters get up and paint. Why can't I get up and go act? - You've been quoted as saying that there is-- along your path, that there's no small role. - Right. - How has that evolved throughout your career, like, from start to where you are now? - Any day that I have an opportunity to go act for somebody, I take it. I go do it. And it's a corny, little statement. You know, there are no small roles, only small actors. But, you know, it's true. Every role is important. If somebody's got something to say or something to do, then it moves the story along. Um, but saying all that, I never worked as an extra. But that was because I was a stand-in for Robert Hooks when I was in college. They actually came to Atlanta and shot a movie, and I was his stand-in. I stood there while they set the lights and did the whole stand-in thing. And, you know, I ate when the actors ate. And, you know, people knew my name, and they treated me well. But I saw how they treated the extras. And I said, oh, shit. I ain't never gonna do that. I'm not gonna do that. I'm not going to eat last and stand in the rain and not have nowhere to go pee, you know, all that. You know, so I never did that. But, no, there are no small roles. You take every chance you can to act, and you never know who's going to see you doing whatever it is you do. Breaks come from nowhere. That's the one thing. Nobody can teach you how to get your break. Your break always comes from being in the right place at the right time. And nobody can teach you that. You know, and that whole luck is the perfect meeting of preparation and opportunity. If you ain't prepared when opportunity knocks, who knows when he be coming back that way. You know, so do it. Yeah, step up every time you can. - So you think even as far as, like, a business decision, you still shouldn't say no to a job? For instance, like TV is concerned, I feel like a lot of times in television as an actor you can get stuck in what they call a costar actor, somebody who comes in, says a couple of things, and that's it. So I feel like you kind of get pigeonholed in that, rather than being thought of for a top-of-show guest or a, you know, one-day guest star. So do you feel like it's still good to say yes to all of that, regardless of, like, being pigeonholed in a sense? Because in TV, you kind of get stuck. You know, if you let yourself, I feel like you can get stuck there, rather than saying, you know what? No, I'm not going to do cop number one. Thank you so much. I have plenty of cop one. I'm not gonna do it anymore. Thank you. - You can do that, if you feel like that's where it is. You know...

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.

Great to learn from the best. To see the secrets and habits this great actor has.

Absolutely brilliant. I wish I'd done this before my last musical because this was so helpful. It was great to hear from one of the wiser and more experienced actors of our generation.

I'm a beginning actor. This course covered of variety of things but most important to me was the background study of the character. Understanding the character to know where they are coming from and where you plan to take them while acting the role.

to go more in depth with my emotions to find myself in another character, and Samuel greatest teacher alive !


Chris M.

Honestly, I think, acting comes down to talent. You could have no fundamental knowledge in the acting/film world and be an amazing actor. You just have to have the "gift" to make it into the menacing world of arts and entertainment. But what Sam teaches is so much more than fundamentals, it's life experience in an actors point of view.

A fellow student

All of what he said is so valuable. The journey becomes more and more of persistence

Sam B.

Acting is being...Surround all that with TENACITY!! Samuel Jackson gives his personal insights to the business of SHOW. The more life you have; the more you have to draw from... and share. Great profile of preparedness and opportunity meeting at the intersection. Thank you SJ

Frederick I.

Great advice. That’s been my approach too. Plus hearing the same advice from my actors workshop TSAW in LA


I loved this lesson. When it comes to a job...take it. We are given an opportunity that we cant afford to turn down. Lets just get employed! Keep the ball rolling and say YESSS.

Raub F.

Very similar to how I teach people to comprehend in reading. He naturally questions using the Socratic method. Any person would benefit from this class who want to be well rounded and get a deeper level of thinking and questioning. He’s well studied with purposeful intention and shares his strategies well all while being compassionate, positive and reflective. I appreciate Samuel for sharing.

John G.

These lessons are amazing. How lucky we are to learn about the art and craft of acting from one of the greatest of all time. More than sharing technique, he's sharing the spirit of what he does. Invaluable. These are also great life lessons, as well as acting lessons. I'm grateful for what he's shared with us.

Debbie D.

I really enjoy these lessons. It wasn't easy when I first started for acting parts, but in early days, my manager and I used to walk right on the movie lots, like MGM or any other lots and could knock right on the casting director's office. I just didn't have what they wanted when I did read. Those were the days. Later it got real bad; security, then all this paranoia, then 9-11. Couldn't just walk on the lot, in the open just like that without security checking this or that. So I jumped around careers from music, back to film, to theatre, back to music and I turned into a ping pong ball feeling like I was the ping pong and there were people hittin me back and forth. Didn't know where I would end up.... Used to audition for Broadway too and many Hollywood auditions. Almost did Cats, but because I was honest when they pulled me out of the frey after dancing & auditioning and needed me to have "Broadway Experience" I told them I didn't. If I lied I would have had that job. I'm the one who got stuck some in extra rolls, hanging out all day or sometimes all night, bored, restless, being told I shine too much or something so get in the back cause I was distracting from the stars and I cried.... So went to go dance and studied and danced and loved that. Then back to the music and I became a combo of a two boxers face being beat in, cause the music industry kept rippin me off and all the moguls I met with were dirt heads; had no integrity about the "art" and the drugs and drinking...holy shit.... it was real hard to have it together, when everyone was real fucked up, stoned, falling asleep on the freeway so they couldn't make rehearsal, I was the only one sober or clean and just tolerated it all (you can't simply fix that and some get mad if you try); that was really hard watching all that go down... Had a show with the Drifters as opening act and wow, one of my musicians doesn't show up to four hours too late cause he is on heroin; and we played anyway but only after so many people had already left. But now I think bout it and what I'd like to do is play a part that changes people's lives somehow, makes an impact, does something for others... not just play cause I need the work or money but have some kind of effect on people's lives, thinking, and maybe even their futures somehow. I studied acting & threatre throughout my life, yet some people are just really focused or get there and some don't or get pushed aside or knocked out of the ring and have to find other ground to play on instead. If that's possible and someone will need me somewhere... but I do art now, which I love too but it's isolating too at the same time... How many attempts at a career can a person have? But I don't have to rely on alcoholics, drug addicts and don't have to contend with constant temptation cause I am an old alki too. I used to drink and not all that much but a lightweight. It's STAMPED AS REQUIREMENT IT SEEMS in music industry so much of the time (going on the road or everyday rehearsals with people using, well, you worry and some get really wild or hostile for no reason cause it can be Dr. Jekyll, Mr. or Mrs. Hyde when someone is using a whole lot. ...just the game... musicians gotta drink much of the time.... was my experience.. gotta be high to feel good or be who they are. Me, I ended up praying to Gd one day asking gd to help me stop drinking. That was a long time ago. Now the first time, a musician takes me over to Sonny Cool, a music producer in a studio where he's working on Bonnie Pointer album and there is no alcohol and they are real into serious business, the sounds, recording working hard. I come invited and later he calls me and tells me he'd like to produce me after listening to my stuff, and Tobi Hero comes from a legacy in music, played w big names and even Gospel names, rock, and more, wants to bring out his rolling mobile recording studio from Arizona to record but still I don't have a record label...and everyone needs money, green mandangos, mazuma, green lettuce,long green and pocket change. Sonny Cool is hardcore too; I mean he is'nt easy to get with in the first place. He was there with Martin Luther King Jr. and has a very shrewd type of outlook, yet humorous just a bit, but still, he's seen it all go down...and how or why he'd even choose to produce a White woman, well, after he's seen all that and some of the worse racist stuff; well I'm just really blessed is all. But I've seen somewhere that Samuel Jackson plays music and is multi talented and just wonder if somehow we can get Samuel's sounds on some tracks possibly if anything comes together. I like sober and all the power to being sober and stayin off drugs: really. Don't ruin it by drinking what the Native Americans call, "White Mans Brew". It just has ruined too many lives is all somehow. I've heard the stories, been my own, and getting high on yourself, doing, acting, creating is the high of highs. These classes and talks are really great, just terrific. Tomorrow I have a little meeting for a small something through a casting call too. I gotta get down there by about 2. So I don't know where I can do something that has a bankable effect and changes people's lives yet, so keep studying, creating, and like these classes cause maybe someone somewhere can use me in their movie.


Hi Sam! Sterotypical junkies are so different today than in the 80's. These days, druggies tend to hide their true selves and act like normal people. I watched the "Coming to America" clip. I wouldn't change your character into a sterotypical junkie, because you wouldn't have the strength or balls to hold that gun. You'd have emotional breakdown(s). The voice would be slurred. Walking would be erratic. You'd be like a heightened alcoholic but desperate. Maybe.... You'd be so different and probably simpler for the other characters to confront you as they overpower you in the scene. The scene just as it was done seemed perfect. I love acting. I am an actress. I am a successful actor/actress. Enjoyable class :)

Stephanie B.

I would take any role you never know how the movie might turn out as long as produced artfully