Film & TV

Hollywood Lessons

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 9:25 min

Sam shares three very personal lessons learned over the decades he’s spent in Hollywood.

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Samuel L. Jackson
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There are, like, several really interesting lessons that I've had that stuck with me. The first one was in 1980 when I went to my first "Ragtime" interview. I was sitting outside, waiting to meet the director. And James Earl Jones came in, the preeminent black actor of our time, at that time, in 1980. And I'd read the book and everything getting ready to come to this audition and be there. So I knew there was a Booker T. Washington role in this. So I figured, oh, James Earl Jones is going to be Booker T. Washington in this movie, blah, blah, blah. And he sat down. I introduced myself. Told him how much I admired him, blah, blah, blah. I said, so you're playing the role of Booker T. Washington in this movie. And he's like, no, I'm here for an interview, just like you. And I was like, oh. Shit. I just assumed because you're James Earl Jones and "Great White Hope," and , that there's scripts on your door that you're reading. He was like, mm-mm. I was like, oh, fuck, this what I got to look forward to? First lesson. In " A Time to Kill," the weight of what had happened in that film, I mean, that has a whole interesting kind of story in that, in that when I did that movie, I went into it with one intention. And I did that. And it was one of my first editing room lessons in Hollywood because in the book, and in my mind, and in my heart when I did that, the movie, for me, was about a father letting his daughter know that no matter what happens to her in the world, he'll protect her, and he'll make the world a safe place. So when he killed those guys, he didn't kill them because they raped her. He killed them because he wanted her to know that those two guys will never be in the world to hurt you again. And if anybody else does it to you, I'll be here to do that for you again. I am protecting you from the world. And all the scenes that I did where I expressed that verbally were taken out of film so that when you look at the film, you see Carl Lee as this conniving Negro who purposely killed these white guys, and now, he's trying to find a way to get out of it by using his daughter's rape as the crutch. And one of the biggest things that happened for me was when I got that job and I got there, the first scene I shot in that movie was me going to Jake's office, Matthew McConaughey's office, and telling him that exact story that he tells the jury in the courtroom at the end of the movie, the exact-- almost exact same speech, how they raped her, what they did to her, they peed on on, they threw her out of truck, da, da, da, the whole speech. When I got through doing that, everybody in the room was crying. The cameraman was crying. The script supervisor was crying. The director, Joel, was just, [FAKE CRYING] oh, my god. This is amazing. You're gonna be great. And then when I saw the movie and it was gone, I was ruined. In my heart, I was just . You know, because at that time, I still had-- I still had that a...


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.



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I feel so relieved to see an actor who makes his own technique, maybe combining more into one, that's what I liked the most about this class!

This class has given me a new outlook on being an actress. And has open my eyes on how to walk in an audition an on it. I really learned a lot it was worth every dime I spent. An he is one of my favorite actors. I will work with u one day. So remember me. Thank you so much.

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Comments

Jenna L.

Very cool to learn the stories behind the movies and what you did to receive the role, very motivational. Thank you!

Pamela K.

Harvey deciding to have a "bake off" and making Samuel L Jackson re-audiiton is kind of a famous story. I heard that he came in with the burger and the drink right off the red eye and he was PISSED and he was the character as soon as he walked into the room... and blew everyone away. Great behind the scenes story.

Ocubox

Oh the power an editor has, as they say, editing is another time to do more re-writes, in this case, F'in up an actor's performance/character.

Mia S.

"I'm on the plane doing everything that I would do over a possible week, two week period before I actually start diving into learning what was going on in the script, and so I get to the audition that next morning and nobody is there, I'm there by myself. 'The other guy's been here already, they've gone to lunch.' They come back, introduce me to all these people that I hadn't met, and there's one guy who's like, 'Oh you don't need to introduce me to him, I know who he is, and I love your work, Mr. Fishburne.' Now I'm like, heated, heated, heated. I go in the room and I'm eating a hamburger and doing the audition at the same time. And we're doing it, we're doing this scene in the car, me and this guy they hired as a reader, and we're doing the scene and I'm killing it, and this motherfucker gets lost on the page, and I just stopped the audition, went off on him, cursed him out and told him, 'If you can't do it, I can do both parts my fucking self, OK? Either get it right or get out.' Boom, we do it. Go through audition, every scene that Jules is supposed to do, leave, get on the plane, start fresh Monday. Lawrence comes to my trailer, says, 'OK, the job is still yours. Don't worry, everything's cool. But to be honest, we had really gone to lunch to try to figure out how to tell you that we got to cast this other guy. It wasn't until you did the diner scene that you rocked it and knocked it out, because we never knew how this movie was supposed to end, until we saw you do that scene.' Lesson in that is, never accept the fact that somebody tells you that something is yours, and never not do all the things that you've done to be the creative person that you are. When you go into a room with some people, no matter what they tell you, even if they tell you, 'We just want to hear what he sounds like, you don't have to have the performance down, just let us hear' - that's bullshit. Every time you're in front of somebody, you're being judged."

Mia S.

"At that time I still had that actor Oscar thing in my head. Because Oscars are won through moments - Academy Awards are sometimes based on whole performances, and sometimes they're just based on this dynamite ass moment that was in that movie that happened. They run that thing, and when that was gone from that particular role, I was like, 'The effectiveness of this movie is awesome, it's great, all of that, but when you take that part of the story from me, it changes who I am in the dynamic of the story without me knowing that you did that.' Because I acted a whole 'nother role, but when it got edited, it became something else. I'm in New York making a movie called 'Fresh' with Lawrence Bender, the producer I read with for 'Reservoir Dogs,' he's also a producer and 'Pulp Fiction.' While I'm there I get a call from my agent saying that some actor had come in and auditioned for 'Pulp Fiction' for some other role but he wanted to read Jules so they could see what he could really do, and all of a sudden they were like, so impressed with what he had done. I had been in and read Jules because they said they just wanted to hear what Jules sounded like, so I went in and I did this cursory reading with Quentin and some of the producers. They said the guy was so great that they were like, 'Might have to reconsider and give him the job, we know you came in and read and you were good but this guy was great.' I was like, 'I was just reading, wait a minute.' They called Harvey Weinstein, says, 'OK you got to have an acting contest, so bring that guy back and bring Sam in.' Now I'm furious, because I had to work that Friday, get on a plane, the red-eye that night, got the script, furiously scribing notes in the margins, breaking down speeches, hitting the hot points, what am I trying to achieve... I'm doing all the things that I learned in the theater to do when I'm breaking down a role, because I wasn't there year - we had another month and a half before that movie was supposed to start, so I hadn't done it, I was engrossed in 'Fresh.' That was a pretty cerebral part also."

Mia S.

"I was sitting outside waiting to meet the director, and James Earl Jones came in - the preeminent black actor of our time, at that time in 1980. He sat down, I introduced myself, told him how much I admired him, blah blah. 'You're playing the role of Booker T. Washington in this movie?' He's like, 'No, I'm here for an interview, just like you.' I was like, 'Oh. Shit. I just assumed because you're James Earl Jones that there's scripts on your door that you're reading.'[No.] I was like, Oh, fuck, this what I got to look forward to? In 'A Time to Kill,' the weight of what had happened in that film, there's a whole interesting kind of story in that, when I did that movie I went into it with one intention and I did that, and it was one of my first editing room lessons in Hollywood, because in the book, and in my mind, and in my heart when I did that, the movie for me was about a father letting his daughter know that no matter what happens to her in the world, he'll protect her and he'l make the world a safe place - so when he killed those guys, he didn't kill them because they raped her, he killed them because he wanted her to know that those two guys will never be in the world to hurt you again. And if anybody else does it to you I'll be here to do that for you again. 'I am protecting you from the world.' All the scenes that I did where I expressed that, verbally, were taken out of the film so that when you look at the film, you see Carl Lee as this conniving negro who purposely killed these white guys and now he's trying to find a way to get out of it by using his daughter's rape as the crutch. One of the biggest things that happened for me was when I got that job and I got there, the first scene I shot in that movie was me going to Jake's office and telling him that exact story that he tells the jury in the courtroom at the end of the movie, almost the exact same speech. When I got through doing that, everybody in the room was crying, cameraman was crying, script supervisor, director, Joel, 'This is amazing.' And then when I saw the movie and it was gone, I was ruined in my heart, I was just..."

Elizabeth C.

The day to day realities, it's great hearing about them and remembering to always be your best for the creative craft you're invested in.

Kyle S.

I feel for the guy he cussed out because he was having a bad day. It is those moments that turn a loyal fan into a secret enemy. In a backhanded way, also become the motivation to make it and be better than the person that let you down.

Brandi Michelle C.

Hi classmates I have a question. Will agencies still sign you, if you don't have any acting jobs underneath your belt?

Janet P.

Wow, what a lesson. Thanks Mr. Jackson for sharing something so personal. Even if you have the contract signed it isn't yours till they edit the film. I've known of situations where the actor was replaced after filming started. This lets you know that even at that level the same rejection, frustration, bs happens