Film & TV

Sam's Journey From New York to Hollywood

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 19:00 min

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

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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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.

I'm so glad this exists to help us all achieve our big dreams!

This was amazing learning from such a legend and the student sessions really were intriguing . I used this as my first official acting class before applying for a MFA in acting

Sam Jackson was/is fantastic! Very accessible, simple, relatable and offered up lots of gems in the art of Acting, the business of Acting and in life in general. . And like he said regarding auditions, when you leave make them want to go with you and that's exactly how I felt when he got off that chair and let this class. I highly recommend it.

I'm an author. I do create backstory for my characters before I write a book, but Samuel goes so deep into creating rich characters that the audience wants to hear more from. During his course, I've gone back and added more information to my own character bios. He's a true master. I am honored to have taken his masters course. Thanks for providing me the opportunity.


Michael U.

Great to hear Mr. Jackson's shout out to the Frank Silvera's writers workshop. I spent plenty of time there as part of the technical crew back in the mid to late '80s.

Kassi K.

"If I start drinking again or if I start using again I'm going to fall a lot faster than I rose cause I know how to fall. I know what that is. It was hard rising." I just wrote that quote on a manic sign and put it on my wall, so good.

Jenna L.

Very inspiring and helpful information, thank you, Mister Jackson! My acting classes are starting this week and I really needed this lesson.


I love understanding the difference in artistic success and box office success because it shows how the alignment of our work as artists affect the numbers and magic of where your career goes next. To welcome all work, but know the business of it as well. I find we all have something we lean towards in life, and I appreciate the cathartic experience that Sam allowed in, to heal and move the next level in life.


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.