From Samuel L. Jackson's MasterClass

Voice & Character

Sam reveals how his childhood experiences have informed his approach to character voices throughout his career, and discusses his method of developing a vocalization plan.

Topics include: Overcoming a Stutter • Creating a Lisp for Valentine in Kingsman • Using Vocal References in The Mountaintop • Develop a Vocalization Plan • Vocal Warmups • Creating Different Characters in Voice-Over Acting • Creating a Universal Voice in I Am Not Your Negro • Play With Energy to Reach Youthful Audiences

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Sam reveals how his childhood experiences have informed his approach to character voices throughout his career, and discusses his method of developing a vocalization plan.

Topics include: Overcoming a Stutter • Creating a Lisp for Valentine in Kingsman • Using Vocal References in The Mountaintop • Develop a Vocalization Plan • Vocal Warmups • Creating Different Characters in Voice-Over Acting • Creating a Universal Voice in I Am Not Your Negro • Play With Energy to Reach Youthful Audiences

Samuel L. Jackson

Teaches Acting

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There are a lot of us, you know-- James Earl Jones, Bruce Willis, uh, Emily Blunt. I think I spent-- what was that-- my fourth-grade year, I got laughed at in class one day because I was [STUTTERING]. So I didn't talk for a year. So the teachers were sympathetic. And they knew I could read. So they didn't have to ask me to read out loud, you know, when they were trying to get people to read passages out loud to see if they could actually read or whatever. And I passed all the spelling tests, so I don't really need to do a lot of talking. The more confident I got in my intelligence and my persona, the more able I was to deal with how I wanted to express myself and not use specific consonants or things that caught me, 'cause I would know early in the day if I was having a C day and it was cu-- cu-- cu. So I didn't use those words. Or if I'm having a B day, bu-- bu-- bu, the worst days are the W days, 'cause I still have things, sentences that start with what, why, when. It's like [STUTTERING], 'cause it's hard to fix that, to find the alternative word that you can start a sentence with. Motherfucker was my, you know, Elmer Fudd word. You know, [STUTTERING] motherfucker, OK, I can get it out now. Yeah, yes, it was. And there are several movies that I can look at and go [LAUGHTER]. I mean, in "Jungle Fever," when I was trying to ask Spike what he did for a living in-- in-- in the park, it was [STUTTERING]. And it worked for Gator, because he was just kind of caught up in whatever. But I could not get what is it you do again. [STAMMERING] And he just kept it in the movie, which is fine. I realized that we were doing a Bond spoof. And all Bond villains have something. You know, Goldfinger had something. Yaphet Kotto had whatever he had. And because I stuttered when I was a kid, I know people had this thing about people's speech patterns. And they think less of you when you have something, you know. And I didn't want to stutter. But I know that a lisp is one of those things that people look at. And they kind of go-- you know, they snigger at you when I have them. The clothes just happened. So all of a sudden, everybody thought I was doing a Russell Simmons impression. But, you know, I just chose that Valentine would do that. And the director wasn't sure about that for a minute. You know, the first time I showed up during rehearsal, and I did it, he was like, what are you doing? And I was like, I'm working on a character thing. And he was like, are you gonna do that the whole movie? I'm like, yeah. He was like, why? I was like, why not? It's a Bond movie. And he was like, well, let me listen to it. You know, I don't know. And I'm like, look. One of the baddest people on the planet had a lisp. And he was like, who are you talking about? I was like, Mike Tyson. And he was like, oh, really. And over the course of a day, a day and a half, he got used to it, and he loved it. And for me, you know, it's easy to ju...

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.

I just started getting into acting, even though it's late in the game for me, compared to other actors. This course has helped understand what I need to do to help further my abilities. This is some of the stuff not taught in acting class that is very important!

I enjoy the tips and the sense of humor you have ...you make acting look easy because you love it

This is my first Acting class Ever! I am so grateful that my Acting foundation is built on the backs of Giants like Professor Jackson! God bless you sir!

"Who can teach you better than a Jedi Master? "

Comments

Al K.

I related to this lesson a bit more than the others so far, since I am an audiobook narrator and voice actor. I'd love to hear more on the audiobook experience Sam had!

Bryan

Very relatable to this topic is that I have different voices in my head.I often use British or Southern dialects in my 'in my head' voice. I read things in a woman's voice, etc. when l'm reading. Now when I voice stuff, I do the same thing, I just have trouble getting it, the accent or dialect, out of my head and vocalize it.

ALICIA S.

I wish I had somebody to run lines with... I find that vocalizing brings a confidence comfort. Reading, comprehending and understanding is the imperative to interpretation. To me imitation is just mimicking. Learning about a character and creating it means putting yourself into the actual role. People can tell. Great advice. Let me remember it all.

Rahul S.

I watched "I Am Not Your Negro". I felt his narration was on point as the he was describing mostly the disturbing images of the past. There was seriousness and tension in his voice. It was deep , bassy and slow. As he said, knowing the target audience/project helps. This voice is really good for narration purposes. This is truly amazing "read by Samuel Jackson". He perfectly described an action scene with four different voices (narration + 3 characters) keeping in mind the state of emotion of each character while eliciting the lines. I distinctly remember "Where is my suit" scene from The Incredibles. I just realized that Sam is behind Frozone's voice. Yes he is employing higher pitch in this case. Its a pole apart voice when compared to I am not your Negro!

Joshua C.

Don't forget to be doing your assignments guys. The class alone is good, but what makes a actor great is actually doing assignments and getting the feed back

Ben A.

I've been looking forward to getting to voice acting in this class, and I've also been gripped by all the discussion leading up to this chapter. I'm learning so much, and I can't imagine another class with this much insight on how to approach a role.

Emma

Really interesting idea of changing your tempo and energy level to engage with a younger audience without being patronising

Mia S.

"I watched a lot of cartoons when I was a kid, and I didn't think the voices weren't real, I just thought they were the voice of that particular animal or cartoon character. Daffy Duck's voice was Daffy Duck's voice. When I read it, I hear a voice and I think of the audience that it's for and it's kind of like baby talk - because they think babies like that. I never talked to my daughter that way, because I was like, 'She needs to hear what people sound like.' But when it's a youthful audience, there's something about voices with higher timbres that they like. The reality of my higher-timbre voice is still a real voice of a human being, and not something they're not going to hear. Kids aren't going to go through life hearing people talk to them ('Oh you're so cute!') talk to them like that, so I talk like a normal person, but I will change the timbre and energy of my voice. Because that's the energy of a child, and children like things that engage them, and you want them to be engaged. When I'm doing movies that are specifically designed for a youthful audience, I try and use a voice that has energy and there's something significant, that they can attach to or be excited by."

Mia S.

"After I've chosen the character and how I sound in that story, you hear different voices of people as you read. The most difficult aspect of that was from time to time having to bounce from one character to another, or there were incidental characters that passed through every now and then - and remembering what that voice was when that character bounced into the dialogue or story at that point and being able to do it. It's challenging when you have group scenes in a book and there are multiple characters talking to each other - and differentiating those voices when you have an opportunity to do it and remembering who sounds like what and who's speaking and distinctly making those voices different, so people will know 'that character's speaking, that character's speaking.' When I was approached to do 'I Am Not Your Negro,' I instinctively felt that I didn't want to try and imitate James Baldwin. One of the things I'm pretty certain I can't do is imitations. I envy people that can mimic other people's voices - I can't do that. In talking about what was on the page and how he wanted it interpreted, he asked me to give him a quiet dignity of sorts, to use those words in the way that Baldwin would say them in terms of what his speech patterns were or what that would mean to an audience listening or people who knew his voice, but to give something that was universal but impactful, in terms of allowing people to absorb the images that were on screen and still absorb the intellectual quality of what Baldwin wrote. We found this kind of quiet, intense voice that I hoped would be soft enough that it would make people sit forward to listen, but making sure that the intonations and inflections were clear enough that they would be universally understood."

Mia S.

"Sometimes, you don't know the props, but you get there and you start doing the lines and you pick something up that you hadn't picked up in your mind while you were rehearsing the lines. You look at it while you're doing the lines and look at the person, you handle that thing, put it down, take a drink, so there are things that change. But your plan - vocally and intentionally - remains the same. I tend to do vocal warm-ups more when I'm in a theatrical setting. I only do them now just perfunctorily before I do voiceover things. There are times when I'm going into an ADR session or before I'm going to do any kind of voiceover, I do go through consonants and vowels, AEIOU. I will run through the alphabet sometimes. A, E, A, E, A, E... Bo, bay, bee, bye, bo, boo... I do every alphabet and go through it and then go from the highest point in my voice to the lowest so that I'm letting my voice know that we're about to do some work, so I limber up, do some stretches. Voiceover acting is just an exercise in reading aloud - a lot of times alone, occasionally there are other actors there. One of the things that served me very well in a venue like that is, I did spend long evenings sitting on the porch with my grandfather listening to radio drama, and how people used their voices to tell stories. I understand dramatic reading and the use of your voice in terms of the ups and downs of excitement or the calm of exposition and being able to interpret what's going on. I've also had the privilege of actually doing an audio book, which is kind of fun because I got to change my voice and do a bunch of different characters in the story and find distinctive sounds for each one. It's a matter of being able to read and interpret. I read a lot anyway, so when I read I read in other people's voices in my head."