From Samuel L. Jackson's MasterClass

Working With Directors

Learn Sam’s tried-and-true methods for developing strong working relationships with directors.

Topics include: Show Up With Too Much • The Three Kinds of Directors • Learn Your Director's Goals • Resist the Need for External Validation • The Director Isn't Always Right • Learn From Good Directors


Learn Sam’s tried-and-true methods for developing strong working relationships with directors.

Topics include: Show Up With Too Much • The Three Kinds of Directors • Learn Your Director's Goals • Resist the Need for External Validation • The Director Isn't Always Right • Learn From Good Directors

Samuel L. Jackson

Teaches Acting

Learn More


Let's remember, we are in the business of make believe. So there is no limit to what you can make believe. Go as far as you can go. One of the things I always tend to do when I show up to do anything is show with too much. It's way easier for a director to ask you to drop this, drop that, don't use this, don't do that, than it is for him to try and pull something out of you that you haven't figured out, or you need to figure out because he's trying to pull the performance out of you. Show up with much shit. It's easy to drop something than it is to find something and pick it up. The actor-director relationship, in the theater, it's one thing. In the movies, there's a couple of different things, because you have guys who are shooters, and you have guys who are writer/directors. And you have guys who are lucky to be there. So the shooters, the shooters hired you, and they're glad you're there, because they're going to leave you alone to do the performance so they can get it. So all they're concerned with is composition of shot. They just want to make sure they got their shot composed, and they trust you to do what you do. Those guys, I love them, because I mean you hired me for a reason, and hopefully I'm going to give you what you want, and you hired some other people that are going to give you what you want, and everything is going to be fabulous. All you got to do is make sure you get it in the camera and shoot it. Writer/directors, depending upon who they are, sometimes they know what they wrote. And sometimes they don't. And hopefully, they're not very precious about what they wrote, because one thing's for sure when you hire me, you're getting a black actor. And if you wrote it, and you didn't see a black actor when you wrote it, or even if you saw one, sometimes what you put in my mouth is not how I talk, depending upon what I read. You created a character who's a lot more educated than you allow him to speak. You know, I can conjugate. And a lot of people can't. So I don't need you to write black vernacular for me. I can say what you want said, but you need to say it this way. If I'm from somewhere else, I can say it that way. But from what you have here, and who this character is, he's a lot smarter and more educated than you made him speak. We don't all speak like somebody on a rap video. So I can fix that for you if you'll let me. And if your ego is not too precious, then all I'm doing is making your movie better, I hope. Sometimes you have to go back the other way. You've written this character, you've elevated this character, but that's not who that character is. He needs to not be able to conjugate as well as this character. And there are things about him that are very different in terms of the way he looks at the world, in terms of right, wrong, and otherwise, that impact on how he reacts with the other people in the script, and we can talk about that. And a lot of those writer/directors are open to that, you ...

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.

Sam... what can I say that’s not been said! I find you intelligent and engaging. As an actor your thought process before a reading, is useful. Thanks!

Samuel L has reemphasized the importance of always working at my craft. He's given me so many practical tools to use in my acting journey. I'm reading, analyzing characters, taking more risks. Great class!! Fun too.

Excellent class. Thank you, Mr. Jackson and everyone else involved who helped curate this class. I've learned a lot of really valuable tools that I can now take with me on set and into the world of acting. Highly recommend!

I would recommend this class to ALL actors. The class was informative. The nuggets are valuable and could ignite your career. I keep watching this.


Maya A.

I haven't started this yet, but wow. So far, I am absolutely enjoying this class. Had to just say it now

Eric G.

I just finished my eighth film with a director who was 50% number 2 type, and 40% number 3 type and 10% number one. It was his third film. However, he came to me from a different perspective than my other directors...As a classically trained theater actor originally with 20 years on stage, I am used to a lot of rehearsals and a director who brings you notes. This director did that and, as Samuel pointed out, we worked on those things in his notes he wanted to see. He was open to some ideas as the role required a culturally correct characterization, not unlike what Samuel was referring to in principle when he was talking about him not needing someone to tell him how to speak as a black actor in a certain setting. It worked out fine although he did do the Kubric thing of dozens of takes for my scenes. In the end, though, I worked with him on some small improv ideas and we tried one of them. It proved hilarious in an otherwise incredibly poignant scene without dialog. Ultimately, I don't look at my takes on set, but the director wrote to me later and said he was sending me mine because he thought they were the best ones in the film. That was a satisfying moment professionally, especially because I had just turned down a role from one of number two and three type of directors, who was all about himself on set, and in public, didn't have a clue what he was doing with his films (which are always action flicks centered around violence and his girlfriend as a star,) and he was incredibly unethical in his actions with me in the preproduction casting. Understanding directors and how to work (or not work) with them will always be a key to your success in films the same as it was for my huge successes on stage. This is a great series.

Eddie G.

Was able to have a wonderful conversation on my character, goals and vision with my director. Thank You

George B.

As a wanna be director, this is really helpful to know how to treat the actors and what ways actors will tell me I'm wrong, he's right when he says that everyone else has been on more movie sets then the director has, and it is important to just take a step back and not overly control everything, because chances are you'll just fuck up the whole production.

Janice H.

I don't act, ha! I bought this course because Samuel L. Jackson inspired me to want to express myself and then i took an 8 week acting class...during those 8 weeks we didn't act...fuck that! So i am going to write and direct my own film based on a true story in my life...for sheer fun, creativity and expression. I love watching these lessons with Samuel l. Jackson, he inspires me.

Ellak E.

Good class. I like this one because it conveys rare information about working with directors.

Weronika K.

One of the best lessons so far! It's great that Samuel shared with us that knowledge! Hope to hear more!! :)

Charlotte P.

I have a question about directors giving you bad instructions. A teacher is coaching me and he seems to hate the way I act (even though all my other teachers and directors like it) and keeps criticizing me as if nothing I do is right. I just lose confidence and don't even like the way he is making me act because it doesn't look like me. I filmed myself doing the scene and I still like it better when I do it my way compared to his way, and a director even agreed with me. What should I do to deal with this teacher?

Mia S.

"I have the option of, if a director says, 'You think we can do it this way once? We'll do it your way one time, and then just give me this thing so I can have it in the editing room.' And I say no, because I don't get to go to the editing room. That's the thing you like, that's the first thing you're going to look at and that's the thing you're going to think is right, and if I don't give it to you then I don't have to worry about you fucking up my performance. They go, 'OK.' There are few directors that I know have a complete idea about what they're doing, and there are directors that can say certain things to you that you don't know that you know that they understand the material in a way that is inspiring in the moment of what you're doing, that gives you an opportunity to say, 'You know what? That's an interesting choice, I want to explore that with you. OK, let's do that.' You don't have that a lot. Those directors generally come from somewhere else. Francoise Girard, he came from the opera. Roger Michell came from the theater, and he had this wonderful insightful way of looking at stuff after you'd done it. When he came to me, he had a notebook and notes, like in the theater. 'Emphasis on this word is great, but if you soften it and emphasize this, then that makes what you say in the next line much more effective in this way.' And I could go, 'Wow, yeah, you're right.' He could pull meaning from someplace that was - he could take something from the obvious to the subtle that enhanced the performance in a way that most directors can't, and then you gain trust in that person because of it."

Mia S.

" I guess the other way is by showing up and doing your job in an efficient and intelligent way that shows that you're not just worried about what your performance is, but what everybody else's is also - and what it means for you to be part of that ensemble. I'm not one of those people that goes to the monitor and watches playback. I want to watch the movie when it's done, and I have a feeling about whether a scene worked or not. I know there are actors who are needy in a specific kind of way, who have to go and ask the director, 'How was that?' I don't. One of the things I learned in the theater a long time ago - when you finish your rehearsal and people were getting notes, if you don't get any that doesn't mean the director is ignoring you, it just means you don't need any notes - keep doing what you're doing. So that's what I do. If they don't come to me and say, 'That was horrible,' I don't go and ask why they're not talking to me - I just assume they got what they want and they're moving on, and that's good. I've watched actors listen to a stupid director from a director and pretend they didn't understand and just do the right thing. Then I've watched actors take the stupid director's direction and do it and kind of look at them, just go, 'Wow, that's too bad' and keep on. I might pull them to the side later on and say, 'Look I know you're supposed to do what the directed asked you to do, and there are times that when you feel right, as them, if they don't mind if you do it this way one time and then do it that way.'"