How to Swear, with Samuel L. Jackson: Actor Is the Latest A-Lister to Teach a MasterClass Course; the Man Behind Nick Fury, Jules Winnfield and Mr. Glass Draws on His Decades of Experience on Stage and in Front of the Camera for His MasterClass Course on Acting. Hold on to Your Butts

By Ciampaglia, Dante A. | Newsweek, January 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

How to Swear, with Samuel L. Jackson: Actor Is the Latest A-Lister to Teach a MasterClass Course; the Man Behind Nick Fury, Jules Winnfield and Mr. Glass Draws on His Decades of Experience on Stage and in Front of the Camera for His MasterClass Course on Acting. Hold on to Your Butts


Ciampaglia, Dante A., Newsweek


Byline: Dante A. Ciampaglia

Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in more than 100 films, bringing, among others, a Bible-quoting hitman (Pulp Fiction), a Star Wars character (Mace Windu), a disabled comic gallery owner (Unbreakable) and a Marvel crusader (Nick Fury) to vivid life. When he's on screen, you pay attention. So who better to command a classroom?

Jackson makes his debut as acting teacher with a course presented by the online education platform MasterClass. In 21 lessons, students learn the basics of the craft (like patience) from one of the most successful and recognizable actors in Hollywood.

The actor liked it more than he thought he would. "I was worried because I don't consider myself a teacher. I don't think that I'm even-tempered enough to watch people do something bad and not be upset by it," he says.

And nobody wants Jackson mad at them, since he's also a master of another art, cursing--particularly when motherfucking snakes get on a motherfucking plane. His "Elmer Fudd word," as he calls it, helped him to overcome a stutter. "When I try to talk too fast or I'm nervous or there's some tension, it creeps back into my speech pattern, reminding me to take a breath: 'Stop. Stop motherfucker, stop.' It just grounds me," he says with a laugh. "I don't know why."

Jackson gave Newsweek a lesson in swearing during a conversation about his new MasterClass course, his experience teaching and the people who helped shape him as an actor.

What's the key to swearing, and swearing well?

Having a command of the language in a specific way and having more than a rudimentary knowledge of how English works, in terms of coloring a word or coloring a phrase or making sure that what you say is understood without any question. Swear words are used for emphasis or as a description of what a thing particularly was. If you tell somebody, "It was really amazing," that's one thing. But if you say "It was a motherfucker!"? That's even greater than amazing.

There's quiet cursing, too. Quiet cursing is pretty frightening to people. They know, "Oh my God, he's seething. This person's so angry they can't raise their voice to me." There's an explosion building.(Laughs)

Do you get people coming up to you asking you to swear at them?

People do ask me to call them "motherfucker," yes. Or if somebody's just hounding me, hounding me, hounding me, take a picture, take a picture, take a picture, it's like, "Motherfucker stop!" And they go, "Oh! Yeah!"

It's something you accept. If that's their dynamic and how they want to interact with me, OK. Nothing I can do about that. If that's how they perceive me, fine. It's something to appreciate, it's not something to hate. Better to be liked than not liked, so fuck it

You say in one of your MasterClass lessons that "'motherfucker' was my 'Elmer Fudd' word." That word is something I think a lot of people see as a big part of the Samuel L. Jackson they see on screen, but it sounds like it was more important than people might realize.

It's just something that helped me cope. We all have different coping mechanisms; that was mine when I was younger. To make myself fit or feel OK about me when I spoke out loud. I still struggle not to stutter in certain situations. It's not something that just went away. When I try to talk too fast or I'm nervous or there's some tension, it creeps back into my speech pattern. And "motherfucker" is that thing, like, Stop. Take a breath. Stop motherfucker, stop! It just grounds me. (Laughs.) I don't know why.

At the end of your course, you walk off-camera and you say, "Fuck, that was awesome!" What was so awesome about it?

I enjoyed myself! I was worried about it. I don't consider myself a teacher. I don't think that I'm even-tempered enough to watch people do something bad and not be upset by it. …

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How to Swear, with Samuel L. Jackson: Actor Is the Latest A-Lister to Teach a MasterClass Course; the Man Behind Nick Fury, Jules Winnfield and Mr. Glass Draws on His Decades of Experience on Stage and in Front of the Camera for His MasterClass Course on Acting. Hold on to Your Butts
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