Is Samuel L. Jackson, 70, ever afraid? The inquiry doesn’t apply to life but when he’s approaching a new role.
“Fear?” said that deep voice of authority. “No, I’m always anxious to jump in there and figure out who a character is, where they’re coming from, and what they’re doing.
“Exploring the human condition is part of the challenge,” he said.
He will be doing a lot of exploring in 2019, resuming his role of Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, a role he played in the 2000 M. Night Shyamalan film “Unbreakable.” Then he goes back to Nick Fury territory in spring’s “Captain Marvel.” As if that weren’t enough, he also stars in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (July 5) and a reimagined “Shaft” (June 14).
Review-Journal: What is your idea of a great Sunday?
Samuel L. Jackson: Sunday is always a good day, especially if you add a little golf to the mix. I love to play and I won’t tell you my handicap. Otherwise, I might binge a series on Netflix. Get an acupuncture treatment to keep everything moving. Hang out with my wife. We go to Whole Foods and cook. We just like to kick back.
In “Glass,” you play a man with special powers. What superpower would you like?
Teleportation. Takes away all the wasted time at the airport.
How was it reuniting with Bruce Willis and M. Night Shyamalan, and working with James McAvoy from “Split”?
It was great to be together again with Bruce and Night. It was a ride with some very intense characters. And it was great being in a room and watching James McAvoy do what he does with those many characters. I watched someone transform in front of my eyes.
What do you enjoy about your character, Elijah?
I just love his complexity. He’s quiet, but you can always see the wheels turning. I love that he has his mom who understands him and knows who he is. Even better, he knows who he is as a man. He has an extremely fragile body but his mind is solid, which is the main thing. And he has a belief that this mind is stronger than anything anyone could ever take away from him.
Do you remember being cast by director M. Night Shyamalan for the first film?
I remember running into Bruce years ago in a casino in Marrakesh. Bruce said, “This kid is writing a movie for us.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” Then I said, “The kid from that movie about the dead people?” I told him.” Bruce said, “That’s the kid.” Bruce actually called Night, who said, “I’m writing your scenes right now.” It has been that random and fortuitous. We stumbled into this place and something really magical happened.
What do you look for in a new character?
When I look at scripts, my main criteria is: “Have I seen this man before?” Then I think, “Have I talked to anybody like this?” That’s how I know how I’ll approach it. I want to make it feel real.
What isn’t so cool on a set?
Animals. “Snakes on a Plane” was enough.
Is it true that you almost became an oceanographer?
I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I spent my Saturdays in front of the big screen watching my favorite, Errol Flynn, swashbuckle his way into movie history. I’d sit there imagining that someday that could be me up there. Either that or I’d become an oceanographer. I wanted to be the black Jacques Cousteau.
You’ve said that your early job as a security guard was great acting training.
I’ve only had one real job outside of acting, and that was as a security guard outside of Manhattan Plaza when I was first trying to break into show business. It was a construction site that needed guarding. I punched a clock from 11 at night to 7 in the morning. I observed everything going on in the night. It was great acting training.
You were always persistent.
When I was young, I’d call my agent every single day and ask her, “Did Hollywood call today?” It was almost like a recording. She would say, “No, Sam, not today.” One day, I called her and asked if Hollywood called and she said, “Actually, they did.” It was a great day.”
What’s the appeal of your Nick Fury role in the “Avengers” franchise?
Nick seems to grow with each film, which is something I enjoy. Also, these movies are much more than a comic book feature. Everyone on the set is so creative and so much fun. You actually have to think about something when you see these films, and that always excites me.”
Do you ever geek out? Not that you would because you’re tough and cool …
I read comic books all my life. I remember Nick Fury when he was a white guy. You grow up as an actor and want to be inside that childhood fantasy. You step on an “Avengers” set and say to yourself, “Oh, yeah.” That’s a geek-out moment.
You believe it’s important that audiences get something out of a film.
I think I represent a lot of moviegoers who want to be entertained. When you get it right, it’s exciting. I want people to sit in the dark with a bunch of strangers and walk out of my films feeling like they got their money’s worth.
Finally, how many movies have you done over your career?
I’m not really sure how many movies I’ve acted in. I don’t even want to know. I think it’s a lot, and it’s going to be a lot more in the future.