Samuel L. Jackson on His Hope for His Legacy After 50 Years in Hollywood (Exclusive)

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It's been 50 years since Samuel L. Jackson made his first on-screen appearance in the 1972 independent blaxploitation film Together for Days. Since then, the actor has become one of the most recognized actors of his generation, one of the highest-grossing actors of all time and has been featured in over 100 films. It's safe to say he's made an undeniable mark on the world of cinema. 

The 73-year-old actor spoke with ET's Nischelle Turner, reflecting on his 50th year in Hollywood, what he hopes to leave behind as his legacy, and his upcoming series on Apple TV+, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.

The show, which premieres on March 11, is Jackson's first TV series and features him playing the titular character. Apple TV+ describes Ptolemy Grey as "an ailing man forgotten by his family, by his friends, and by even himself." Grey, who suddenly finds himself without his caretaker, sinks deeper into dementia and gets assigned to the care of a teenager named Robyn (Dominique Fishback). 

The two soon learn about a treatment that can temporarily restore Grey’s memories, leading them on a journey of unexpected truths and revelations about the past, present and future.

Jackson revealed that seeing Fishback star opposite Jamie Foxx in the Netflix film Project Power inspired him to have her cast as Robyn. He first met the 30-year-old when she worked with his wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, on the 2015 HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero

"I started calling people going, 'We got to find this girl,'" he admits. "She's a very studied actress, you know -- she came in with, like, a 32-page PowerPoint on who Robin was. She journals as her character so, I was like, 'Look, I don’t have time for all that, but we're going to have some fun. Come on, let's laugh, let's talk.' And we got along amazingly. She makes me laugh and I make her laugh."

Fishback shared a similar sentiment when speaking with ET, noting that her chemistry with Jackson was "kind of off the rip."

"We did the chemistry test and that was great and fun. I think it was for them to see me play the role and to work off Sam and he is very quick and witty and says what is on his mind. And I am from Brooklyn, so I ain't a chump now! So, he liked and respected that I was good with it," she muses, adding that, thankfully, she didn't feel intimidated working opposite the veteran actor. 

"Once I get a character, it is all about the character and I try to think like that. If I go in thinking, 'This is Sam Jackson,' then I am not doing the job," she explains. "Once you show you can do that, why question it then? I need to be present and honor the character. Once we are doing the scenes and we are having these convos, we are here in the moment. [Although] sometimes when it's like, 'cut,' and everyone is talking, I am like, 'Oh shoot, that is Samuel L. Jackson!'"

Considering how decorated an actor Jackson is, we respect that Fishback can keep her cool while working with him. And the accolades keep coming for him.

At this year's NAACP Image Awards, Jackson received the prestigious Chairman's Award, an honor recognizing individuals who demonstrate exemplary public service and use of their platforms as agents of change. Past recipients include the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Danny Glover, Tyler Perry and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Jackson will also receive an honorary Oscar during the 12th annual Governors Awards on March 25. The Honorary Award is given "to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy."

The Pulp Fiction actor shared that receiving these awards feels like an "acknowledgment" of all his work and contribution to various causes, including health, civil rights and other issues that merit changes over the last 50 years.

"Service is service and LaTanya and I give service in every way we possibly can," Jackson shares. "The fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to survive a lot of different conflicts in terms of trying to make change and affecting change while still being a viable person even though [my] moral code [is] sometimes not the thing everybody wants to hear. But I don’t adhere to the 'shut up and dribble' kinda thing, so, that’s just one of the aspects of who I am, and us being a part of a revolutionary ideal that we've always had that -- there are wrongs that need to be righted and someone’s gotta stand up because if we don’t stand up for anything, we'll fall for everything."

"So, I’m proud of that, and glad that I have that kind of reputation," he says, noting that he's been "around this business" for a long time now and has made his share of "popcorn movies." 

He adds: "I'm proud of those movies because those are the ones I saw as a kid. I’ve made a lot of people smile, I’ve made a lot of people clap, a lot of people cheer and I’ve made a lot of people money and put some a**es in those seats. I hope my legacy is that I did a lot of movies that people enjoy and that I brought joy to a lot of homes and people are not mad when they see a Sam Jackson movie."

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey premieres Friday, March 11 on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes, followed by one new episode weekly, every Friday. 

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