From Samuel L. Jackson's MasterClass

Sam's Journey From New York to Hollywood

Learn how Sam got “plucked” from the Negro Ensemble Company, where he performed alongside Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, to go to Hollywood.

Topics include: Finding a Nurturing Environment • A Hollywood Disappointment • Getting Sober • Playing Gator in Jungle Fever • Artistic and Box Office Success


Learn how Sam got “plucked” from the Negro Ensemble Company, where he performed alongside Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, to go to Hollywood.

Topics include: Finding a Nurturing Environment • A Hollywood Disappointment • Getting Sober • Playing Gator in Jungle Fever • Artistic and Box Office Success

Samuel L. Jackson

Teaches Acting

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This is what happened. When I got to New York, I was one of those people-- I mean, as savvy as I was supposed to be about the business, I thought acting was like everything else. You know, you start in the mail room. You end up at the corporate office, you know. So I figured, OK, I'm here. I'm doing theater. Blah, blah, blah, blah, you know. If I'm lucky, I get good enough, I got a soap opera. You know, I'll do a soap for a while. I'll go from soap opera to a real TV show, from TV show, I get a movie, and I'll become a movie star. I thought it was a progression. I didn't realize all these other things have to fall into place to make that happen. [MUSIC PLAYING] Well, I moved through the Negro Ensemble Company. And I eventually started working at The Public. I think the first thing I did at The Public, I did a production of "The Mighty Gents" that Ntozake directed. So it was me and Richard Lawson and Tucker Smallwood Otis Young-Smith, Gary Bolling. And something happened, and Tucker fell out. And this kid came in, his understudy, guy named Denzel Washington came in. And he ended up doing the part. So there we were. From that, I went to "Mother Courage" with Gloria Foster, Morgan, Robert Christian. It's amazing, amazing, talented people. In fact, I was Morgan's understudy, which is one of those funny things because you had to go to understudy rehearsal, like, twice a week. One day, for some reason, Morgan and Robert Christian were sitting in there. And after the understudy rehearsal, you know, Morgan was like, you don't really need to work that hard because I'm never going to miss a show. But you do have something. You're going to make it. I was like, thank you. So that was that. But being in New York and being in a nurturing environment is that thing. I remember when I did "Coming to America," I was talking to the director, and he was saying that he'd never been in an audition situation where all the actors there in the room were sitting around talking to each other before it was their turn to go in the room. He was used to being here in LA where all actors come in, they're sitting there looking at their scripts-- blah, blah, blah. And I tell people the reason for that is because we know each other, in a way, in New York because we're generally going to the same auditions. So if we have to go on 14th Street to an audition and our next ones on 23rd, we walk together to the next audition. Or the next audition's at 30-something Street, we walk from there to the next audition together. Or if I go to an audition and I know I'm not right for it, I'll pick up the phone and call my friend and go, hey, they are reading people for this thing that you're perfect for. You should go. And here, it's more of an adversarial situation because you're in your car and you drive to the audition. You go in there. You see the same dudes that you've been auditioning against, you know, all the time. You might be friends peripherally, or-- i...

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.

It was great! I learned so much from the class.

I don't have to fear the standards I set for myself as being too demanding. The goals I set make my life better, even when damaging, through their progression and achievement.

Acting, at least for me, is mainly a hobby. However, I'm thinking about expanding my "career" in the coming future and this Masterclass taught me the essentials I needed to learn in order to do that. Thanks.

Samuel L. Jackson is clearly a master of his craft. I took this to help me with character building for VO. These lessons will serve me well, regardless of the type of acting I am doing. Thank you Sam!



Just saw "Glass" a few days ago here on Kauai. YES it was a "popcorn movie"--and a perfect vehicle to entertain--and advance and grow your worldwide status. No need to paraphrase what you have said here. The references to addiction ...were not lost on me. Was this movie my "cup of tea"? Naaaa. Chess is certainly played...way off the supposed boundaries of the board, in real--and Brando once said that "everyones' an actor, some are just better compensated. Best regards to those whom understand sometimes a lie is closer to the truth. Acting Speaks. A still headshot is not necessarily inert.


You have a great enthusiasm for acting. It's probably from having a very supportive network like that ensemble of friendships. They didn't teach me about actor groups in acting school. It was just a Business of Acting Class to prepare my resume. Also, how to act professionally at auditions and on-set with cast & crew. Years ago, I watched Jungle Fever, but didn't remember anything but Spike Lee in the park. So I watched you on movieclips. I enjoyed "Gator's last dance" in Jungle Fever. It was a memorable scene.

A fellow student

wow, that was great. i guess it is good to be part of an actor company when starting out.

Sharon W.

I love this class u will never no how this have helped me. Because I shall make it In this business. Because I will never give up. This is so amazing.

Tre L.

This is nothing short of amazing!! Great info, I am so glad to be able to absorb this knowledge. Pulp Fiction is one of my absolute favorites but I can see how a box office hit can change your life. Same thing is happening now with the stars from Black Panther.

Stewart M.

love the positivity and nurturing atmosphere of being in the New york scene at that time.


Really appreciate his openness and how he left his addiction behind him when he played a scene that reflected his actual addiction struggle at the time. I like him in "The Long Kiss Goodnight" the best.

Gino D.

PS "Growth as an actor and as a human being are synonymous." - Stella Adler

Gino D.

Major respect for Sam, because of the man that he is. To be able to speak about addiction and share his story means so much to many people in the same fight. It is because of who he is, his core, is the reason he is one of the greats in American film. I love this class! Bravo!

Mia S.

"I'm shooting Kiss of Death, Quentin's editing or whatever. At an audition for Waterworld, and I was like, 'I hope I get that movie - I can go to Hawaii and kick it, play some golf.' Somebody comes to me later and says, 'Oh, you didn't get Waterworld, Laurence Fishburne got it. But he was supposed to do Die Hard; if you want Die Hard, you can do that.' 'Hell yeah, I've always wanted to be in a Die Hard movie.' I remember watching Die Hard 1, my friend plays the cop, who's outside. I was sitting there going, 'How did Reggie get that job? When was that audition, why didn't I go to that?' I'm talking to Bruce and Bruce goes, 'When this movie comes out, it's going to change your life.' I go, 'What about when Pulp Fiction comes out?' He's like, 'Pulp's going to be good, but this movie is going to change your life.' Sure enough, Pulp comes out, it's great, I get an Oscar nomination, all is wonderful. But when Die Hard comes out, it's the highest grossing movie in the world. All of a sudden, people all over the world know who I am because we're doing press for it and everything else. And things do change. I learned the difference between an artistic success - which Pulp was, which was great - and a box office bonanza success, which means everything to your career, because all of a sudden, you mean something to the box office. Granted, Bruce was the star of that movie, but people loved Zeus - so people are yelling my lines at me on the street, and they're saying all this. It's just happening, and it's like - things change. The way you can negotiate, or the kinds of things that come at you after that, are very different. So that's the break - Pulp was great, Die Hard was better."