Samuel Jackson is one Bad Mutha, but it wasn’t always that way. Here we wish the actor a Happy Birthday and celebrate his life and accomplishments.
Samuel L. Jackson turns 70 years old today and it is indeed a noble endeavor to chronicle his incredible life, albeit in abbreviation.
Before appearing in Marvel movies or as Frozone of Incredibles fame, or as the Jedi Master Mace Windu in the Star Wars canon, Jackson was just another brother in America trying to make it.
The word “just” isn’t meant to diminish him as merely being common, but to illustrate how greatness in the face of societal resistance is itself a quintessentially African-American attribute and commonality.
Born to Elizabeth and Roy Henry Jackson, the latter of which he only met twice, young Samuel grew up an only child in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was raised by his mother, maternal grandparents and extended family.
Jackson attended segregated schools, playing multiple instruments from the third through 12th grades.
Though his catchphrase is an expletive of the highest order, Jackson’s delivery has become legendary, having said “motherf****r at least once in most of the films he has appeared in. During an interview with Parade, he revealed that he started using the term with such frequency due to a stuttering problem.
He used the phrase as a punctuation to his sentence, or an affirmation to a certain train of thought.
Jackson attended prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, where he studied marine biology before switching his major to architecture.
In 1969, disheartened by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Jackson and several other students held the board of trustees hostage on campus to demand reform in the school’s curriculum and governance.Among the hostages was Martin Luther King, Sr.
Jackson was charged and convicted of unlawful confinement and was suspended for two years. He was reportedly involved in the Black Power Movement, having met with Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown and other prominent members.
Before being fully immersed in the aggressive actions, Jackson was sent to Los Angeles by his mother after the FBI allegedly threatened her with Jackson’s death within a year if he remained in the movement.
Following his graduation from Morehouse in 1972, Jackson made his cinematic debut in Together for Days. Afterwards, he would move from Atlanta to New York City in 1976, spending the next decade performing in stage plays and developing addictions to alcohol and cocaine – his preferred drugs of choice at the time after kicking heroin due to multiple overdoses.
Jackson was mentored by Morgan Freeman very early in his career and, following a performance in A Soldier’s Play, was introduced to then up-and-coming director Spike Lee. Jackson would score small roles in School Daze and Do the Right Thing, as well as the role of Stacks Edwards in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
He appeared in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever as the crack-addicted Gator just a little over a week after completing rehab. His humanization of black addiction was so moving that the Cannes Film Festival created a special “Supporting Actor” award for him. That was followed by increasing opportunities that landed him in the comedy Strictly Business, as well as Juice and Patriot Games.
His first lead role came in National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, a parody of the Lethal Weapon film franchise that was insanely popular at the time. Then there was the forgettable Amos and Andrew, which was followed by his role in the mega blockbuster Jurassic Park.
From the outside, Jackson appeared to be living a charmed life with no scars to indicate the traumas that he’d weathered along the way. Following his appearance in True Romance, Jackson landed the role of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, a role that was written specifically with him in mind. It earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor and catapulted him onto the trajectory he’s been on for the past 25 years.
His next critically-acclaimed performance came in A Time To Kill, which earned him an NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and a Golden Globe nomination or Best Supporting Actor.
Counting supporting roles, Jackson is the second-highest grossing movie star of all time. He’s listed as the seventh highest-grossing actor ever excluding supporting roles.
To date, he has appeared in over 124 movies, and counting.
Jackson stands as a monument to the power of determination and hard work as drivers of personal change.
Happy 70th Birthday to One Bad Mutha….