Movies & TV

Samuel L. Jackson on race and loving his job

Samuel L. Jackson poses for a portrait in New York to promote "The Hitman's Bodyguard," April 20, 2017. Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP

NEW YORK: Does any other actor so fully embody the high-octane thrills, the colorful language, the sheer bigness of American movies as Samuel L. Jackson? He’s a mainstay of Marvel, a veteran of “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park,” and the dependable muse of Quentin Tarantino. He’s brought “great vengeance and furious anger” and rid planes of snakes. Jackson makes being a movie star look fun. That’s true of his latest, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” an R-rated action-comedy co-starring Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds accuses Jackson of ruining the word “motherf-----” – a trademark of the actor’s. Jackson also recorded a blues song for the film that opens with an expletive.

Associated Press: You must be one of the greatest cursers to ever live. What do you love about the word “motherf-----?”

Jackson: It’s a kind of all-encompassing word that describes a lot of different feelings and a lot of different things. It all depends on the inflection, the place in a particular sentence that allows someone to understand what you’re saying and how you feel about it. It’s very freeing in an interesting sort of way to relieve the pressure of the importance of something sometimes. You can elevate something with motherf----- or you can deflate it with motherf-----. The word works in so many wonderful and amazing ways.

Q: Not everyone in Hollywood always looks like they’re enjoying themselves, but you do.

A: Yeah, I do. It’s one of those dream jobs ... I did a lot of pretending with my friends and I did plays and all this other stuff. It just kept going until I finally reached the point where I figured it was a viable occupation to have.

Q: You recently narrated the Oscar-nominated James Baldwin documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” Baldwin spoke about the effect of growing up seeing only white faces on the screen. Did you have that experience?

A: I was growing up in segregation, so I didn’t expect to go to the movies and see black people up on the screen ... I went to a theater that was specifically black, in my neighborhood. My whole existence was black. I only encountered white people when I went downtown ... Then, when I started getting cast in something, I’d flip through the script and see what page I died on. I got it, at that point.

Q: You’ve played golf with President Trump before. What did you think of him?

A: I didn’t spend enough time around him to decide if I really liked him or did not like him ... I saw what kind of golfer he was. Golf’s a very moral game. You kind of police yourself out there, and he didn’t really police himself very well out there. Once he started to espouse his political opinion or his general opinion about the world, the state of the people who live in this particular country, based on that, not such a great person, in my opinion. But that’s my opinion.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 14, 2017, on page 10.

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