From Samuel L. Jackson's MasterClass

Creating Characters

Learn how Sam imbues every role with a sense of purpose and complexity of character—even if they only appear on screen for a few minutes. In this lesson, he shares the fundamentals of his characterization process.

Topics include: Create a Whole Person • Start With Your Character's Goal • Analyze Your Character's Relationships • Make Thoughtful Choices • Give the Audience Something to Latch Onto • Creating a Relatable Character in Die Hard • Don't Judge Your Characters

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Learn how Sam imbues every role with a sense of purpose and complexity of character—even if they only appear on screen for a few minutes. In this lesson, he shares the fundamentals of his characterization process.

Topics include: Create a Whole Person • Start With Your Character's Goal • Analyze Your Character's Relationships • Make Thoughtful Choices • Give the Audience Something to Latch Onto • Creating a Relatable Character in Die Hard • Don't Judge Your Characters

Samuel L. Jackson

Teaches Acting

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If there's source material, read it, especially if it's a book. Read a book, because writers tend to give you vital info about who the character is, where he came from, what he does. Sometimes they even try and explain why he's doing it, why he's doing a particular thing. And after you've done that, reread the story again to get the story in your mind. And after you've read that, figure out how you feel about that character and why he's doing those things that he's doing inside that script. And once you think you know why that character is doing those things, then you figure out, OK, where did he come from? Who is he? How old is he? Does he feel that way about this character because he has a brother or sister that is that way? Who are his parents? What's his educational background? Does he have a military background? Did he go to the army? Has he ever been in jail? Is he out of jail? How educated is he? Is he smart, sort of smart, very smart? It's not there. And sometimes you will never have to explain that to an audience or to the other cast members. But it's important to you as a person, because all those kinds of things determine how you feel about people, how you look at them, how you interpret their actions, what your prejudices are toward those people in a particular way. Are they smarter than me? Do I like that? Do I not like that? Is he dumber than me? Am I going to manipulate him because of it? And it's stuff that an audience might, or they probably won't ever know. But for you as the actor, when you're interacting with that character that you think you're smarter than, it interprets how you approach that character and how you accept what they say to you or what you think of it or what you're trying to do. And all those things are dictated by what kind of person I am. And if there's no source material to tell me what kind of person I am, then it's incumbent upon me to create a human being that's inside that story that has a full life, that feels a certain way about things because this happened to him, that happened to him, this didn't happen to him. He didn't have this advantage growing up or he had this advantage. Or he had a woman who left him so he can't relate to women, because he thinks women are all whatever and he just cannot deal with them or he doesn't understand the female psyche. Or his mom did something to him, so he can't handle family life. And he doesn't know how to be a father because he didn't have a father or the father he had had no idea how to treat him or he watched him treat his mother a certain way or didn't do this. All kinds of things that you can make up about that person, but what you need is a whole person, which is something Lloyd Richards imposed upon me, Douglas Turner Ward imposed upon me that says whenever you're onstage, you're coming from somewhere. And you're going som...

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.

Reviews

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

The class helped from the basics of acting to dealing in the industry with professionalism and mastery of a craft that i love.

A simple but too true lesson. Success is the by product of hard work. It is about doing the work to become accomplished. There is no point in which he discussed any shortcuts. The question is -- how bad to you want?

sam did a great job. thank you for all the help

Being more confident, knowing to chase goals in every scene, taking risks and be committed to your choices, be humble, be on time, give everything in every performance and audition you make. Blessings to Mr. Jackson and all the crew!

Comments

Ross S.

Good stuff. Many gems. One of them being to remember that every character in a scene is there to help the scene move from point A to point B. What is the goal of the scene? How's it fit in the overall story of the movie? What information is being given to the audience, how is it delivered? Each character has an agenda, which agendas are in conflict? How is the agenda morphed from beginning of scene to scene end, and more importantly when thinking of where the character begins in the next scene, how do I (as actor or writer) make the character traverse the present scene so they can arrive in the next as they should? Good, fundamental stuff. Great reminders.

Buckaroo B.

Much of this is advice for very advanced actors working on big budget projects.

KC F.

This is crucial information for actors, but myself being a screenwriter, this info is so beneficial so I can add more details to the character to make it even easier for actors to absolute know and relate to whatever character they're acting.

Cliff P.

Great insight! Really liked the part when he mentioned that you some time need to become the audience, even though you know what is going to happen next.

Antonio Roberto P.

Extremely helpful and useful! As they say: "never judge a book by its cover"!

Nina

Watch this class with this track in the background (minute 2 on youtube, minute 2:30 on sams insight vid) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar9qA3WJInk

Bryan C.

This lesson helped me understand the importance of breaking down a character and taking as much as I can from the character’s given information, and from the cookies in the script or any sides provided. I'm working on a script and this lesson led me to breakdown my character’s personality in so much depth, as well as his background story and my relationship with the other characters along the story. I learned that if there's not much information given on a certain character, it’s an opportunity for me to create it and find a personable and relatable version of the character that people can identify themselves with, as far as his choices and the way he thinks and reacts. Very enlightening stuff, Samuel!

Sara S.

Good life lesson: Don’t Judge Your Characters. Easily applies to everyone in your life. You don't know their backstory.

Al K.

I enjoyed it. I've got to be honest, I'm mainly a voice actor, with audiobook narration my current mainstream focus. But I would like to act on screen sometime. And, much of what is being taught for on-screen acting can translate to audiobook narration, because we need to create believable characters as well. This lesson does give me some tools to begin honing.

Robert A.

Yeah you to have to put yourself in the characters place by thinking of something thats get's you into that mode for sure. Totally because the audience will feel it and relate to it. Phenomenal stuff Sam!!!. Thank you!!!. Onward!!!.