The Rags to Riches Story of Samuel L Jackson
Suprise, motherfu-… you didn’t actually think I’d say it, did you?
Though Sam L. is famous among his fans for his use of the expletive (which, fun fact, he began using to counter a stuttering problem he had as a child), few recall that the charismatic actor began his career in a very dark place: straight from rehab for alcohol, crack cocaine, and heroin. The rags to riches story of Samuel L Jackson is definitely inspirational, and perfect for Inspirational Role Model Month.
Jackson’s drug use can be attributed to his incredibly rough upbringing during a time of unrest in the country. Born in 1948, Sam L. was subjected to a childhood filled with racism, hate, and poverty. He was raised primarily by his grandmother; his mother was absent for much of his childhood and he only met his father- who struggled with addiction throughout his life– twice in his lifetime.
Jackson’s grandmother pushed him to strive for his education and he attended the prestigious, predominantly black Morehouse College. While attending the school in Atlanta to study marine biology and architecture, Jackson was expelled for taking part in student protests regarding a lack of black representatives on the board of trustees.
That did not effectively end his college career, however, and he returned to Morehouse to receive a degree in acting, inspired by a performance by the Negro Ensemble Company.
Through all of his work as an activist, a social worker in Los Angeles, and his ambition toward higher education and success, Jackson was unable to evade the demon that haunted his family. He fell into a life of substance abuse and addiction, abusing crack cocaine, alcohol, and heroin.
Sam reveled in the lowered ambitions and disassociation he experienced when under the influence of drugs and alcohol; for years he lived in that haze, addicted and functioning, but without truly relishing life.
Thankfully, his talent was unhindered by his substance abuse disorder. He continued to act in plays and small film roles, waiting for his moment to break through. What he never realized was that his crutches of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin were inhibiting his chances at success in his acting career.
It was also affecting his relationship with wife, LaTanya, and their daughter, Zoe. In fact, Jackson would not seek rehabilitation until the day his wife and child walked in on him preparing cocaine for injecting. That was the moment he decided to get help for his addictions and checked into rehab.
Surprisingly, it was while he was still in rehab that Sam L. auditioned for Spike Lee and was cast in the role that would change his life- Gator in “Jungle Fever.”
Jackson has said the role was cathartic for him, helping him in his recovery. From that moment his career would take off and it has not stopped since: as of this day Samuel L. Jackson has acted in 163 films, TV shows and even voice work in video games and animated projects. In fact, the iconic role of Jules Winnfield in “Pulp Fiction” was written just for him. His latest blockbuster reprised his role as Marvel’s Nick Fury in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and he is slated for movies into 2017.
In his personal life, Samuel L. Jackson is a philanthropist involved in nearly two dozen charities and foundations. He donates money and time to such admirable causes as cancer research, ending apartheid, and serving children in underdeveloped countries. He and wife LaTanya have been married for over four decades and he credits his over two decades of sobriety to her commitment and faith in him.
How does Samuel L. Jackson inspire you? Let us know in the comments!
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About the Author
Alexandrea Holder is a South Florida native working toward double Master’s degrees in Psychology and English. She finds the psychological aspects of addiction and mental illness fascinating, as both are prevalent in her family’s history. When not researching and spreading addiction awareness, Alexandrea enjoys sparring, artistic pursuits, and admiring puppies online.