Film & TV

Voice & Character

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 13:14 min

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.

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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 . 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 , '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, motherfucker, OK, I can get it out now. Yeah, yes, it was. And there are several movies that I can look at and go . 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 . 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. 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.



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

samuel L jackson was outstanding telling us how to act i feel like i can make it in acting now

I've learned how to dissect a script and a character and that it's up to me to bring that character to life with my own quirks, attitude, etc. I also feel more confident in going out and marketing myself in the industry- something that I previously had no knowledge on. I'm excited to see what the future brings!

It felt personal and honest with welcome reminders and new ideas on what it takes to make it. I just love watching it over and over and feeling like I got an experience from someone who actually lived it. The best things I learned centered around how to deliver your lines and how to build a character in mind to play off!

The class exceeded any subliminal expectations and gave a well of detailed information.


Comments

A fellow student

I like playing lines better in my head as well and it gives you the ability run through endless possibilities and try different things much easier than trying to read aloud at first.

Vladyslav

Now here's where all precious gems are lying. Taking down, memorizing, using as a tool.

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."