Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Speak out on Fame, Marriage & Why It's Her Turn Now

By Kinnon, Joy Bennett | Ebony, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Samuel L. Jackson, LaTanya Richardson Speak out on Fame, Marriage & Why It's Her Turn Now


Kinnon, Joy Bennett, Ebony


BLACK America's best-known acting duo is in adjoining chairs for hair and makeup--and the repartee is flying fast.

They are discussing working together in Freedomland, only their second film together, and why--at least from her perspective--it may be their last. "From the experience I had with him in this film, I don't want to act with him again," says LaTanya Richardson. "Not on the level I was on. He was such a superstar. He wasn't on bad behavior, but it was a lot for me to see him in that huge trailer and for me to be down in this little room. It was hard to take."

"She's looking for a bigger trailer," Samuel L. Jackson laughs. She demurs, "... but I went willingly into the half trailer." Her husband's rebuttal is swift: "You didn't have a choice! It was either that or dress outdoors!" He laughs.

In their first film together, Losing Isaiah, in 1995, the two actors shared more or less equal billing. Not this time. Samuel L. Jackson is a bona fide superstar now. In 2005 he added "$6 Billion Man" to his list of credits. That amount is the total Jackson's 80-plus films have grossed since he hit Tinsel Town in 1972. That makes him the highest-grossing movie actor of all time.

"When we did Losing Isaiah, I was kind of rising, but now on this set, I was No. 1, and she had another number. My trailer was way bigger than hers and people catered to me," he says. His wife rolls her eyes at the mention of catering. "He rode to the set while I walked," she says.

The recently released Freedomland, co-starring Julianne Moore, is directed by Joe Roth for Columbia Pictures, and is a racial drama about a woman whose son disappears and what happens when she blames it on a Black man from the projects.

It is a return to the big screen for Richardson, Jackson's wife of 25 years. The highly respected actress spent summer 2005 appearing on stage for Joanne Woodward in the play, The Member of the Wedding, at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut. The theater is really her first love, and she received stellar reviews. The couple recently purchased a $4.8 million apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and plans to move to the city, at least part-time, so that she can be close to the New York theater scene.

"That's why I returned to the theater," she says, citing her "unorthodox look" for the movie industry. She says that returning to the stage "allows me to work on my own terms, and I'm definitely an 'on my own terms' type of person." Her husband agrees and adds, "She's been acting longer than I have, so she has this thing about why me and not her."

Again Richardson jumps in. "No, the question is, 'What about me?!' I understand why you, because you're good. I'm asking what about me as well, in addition to you? So that's why I've gone back to the theater so that I can see; maybe this movie thing is not my niche, even though I was pretty good," she adds.

She is a great actress, but she is also a devoted mother to their 23-year-old daughter Zoe. Richardson put her own career on hold to stay at home with Zoe, who recently graduated from Vassar College and is attending a culinary institute in New York City. Placing her career on hold to raise Zoe was not a decision Richardson made lightly.

"I cried like a banshee," she says. "But I've had to cry a lot. I kept saying, 'Lord, I was in this before Sam, is this really going to be [only] about him?'" As Jackson's career skyrocketed, she was totally invested in motherhood. "I still believe in family, so I had to deal with my feelings: I wasn't going to be good with just nannies raising Zoe."

Today, young Black actresses like Kerry Washington and Regina King, seek her for career advice. Richardson tells them wisely not to give up or give in and to stay with it--no matter how much they have to cry. "I tell them to stay in it, hold their heart, hold their tears. Get a bowl or a bath sheet if necessary, put their tears in it and keep going. …

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