Arts & Entertainment

Sam's Journey From New York to Hollywood

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 19:04 min

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

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

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


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...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Samuel L. Jackson

One of the most successful actors of our generation teaches you how to elevate your acting.

Explore the Class
Sign Up