Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting in a New Online Course, Drawing on His Iconic Pulp Fiction Performance & Others

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

With an actor as pro­lif­ic and as long in the game as Samuel L. Jack­son, a fan can pick a favorite per­for­mance only with great dif­fi­cul­ty. Should it come from his roles in Hol­ly­wood block­busters like Juras­sic ParkDie Hard with a Vengeance, the Star Wars pre­quels, or the com­ic-book spec­ta­cles of Mar­vel Stu­dios? His roles for icon­o­clas­tic auteurs like Spike Lee, Mar­tin Scors­ese, Steven Soder­bergh, and Paul Thomas Ander­son? His role — immor­tal title line and all — in Snakes on a Place? For many, though, Jack­son attains prime Jack­so­ni­an­ism in only one con­text: his ongo­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with Quentin Taran­ti­no.

When­ev­er Jack­son appears in a Taran­ti­no film, whichev­er char­ac­ter he plays imme­di­ate­ly becomes one of the most mem­o­rable in cin­e­ma’s past 25 years. But will any ever sur­pass Pulp Fic­tion’s Jheri-curled hit­man Jules Win­n­field for sheer impact per moment onscreen? Taran­ti­no wrote the part espe­cial­ly for Jack­son after see­ing what he could do with a thug­gish char­ac­ter in Tony Scot­t’s True Romance, whose script Taran­ti­no had also writ­ten. Taran­ti­no’s sec­ond fea­ture film (and Jack­son’s thir­ti­eth) rock­et­ed the actor to the top of the zeit­geist, not least on the strength of what we now call the “Ezekiel speech­es,” the scenes in which Jack­son-as-Win­n­field quotes what he describes as the Bible pas­sage Ezekiel 25:17:

Blessed is he who, in the name of char­i­ty and good will, shep­herds the weak through the val­ley of the dark­ness. For he is tru­ly his broth­er’s keep­er and the find­er of lost chil­dren. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furi­ous anger those who attempt to poi­son and destroy my broth­ers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.

Jack­son’s first Ezekiel speech (which owes as much to mar­tial-arts star Son­ny Chi­ba as to any holy text) comes toward the begin­ning of the movie, as he and his part­ner in killing Vin­cent Vega (a role that also did a great deal for its per­former John Tra­vol­ta, return­ing him to his for­mer cul­tur­al promi­nence) turn up to an apart­ment to do a job. He deliv­ers his final one in the high­ly Taran­tin­ian set­ting of a Los Ange­les din­er booth, and both Taran­ti­no and Jack­son do their utmost to make it reveal his char­ac­ter’s trans­for­ma­tion in his jour­ney through the sto­ry.

It makes sense, then, that Jack­son would break down and recre­ate that din­er scene in the online course “Samuel L. Jack­son Teach­es Act­ing,” new­ly offered (for a fee of $90) by the edu­ca­tion start­up Mas­ter­class. “I made a deci­sion ear­ly in life that I was­n’t going to live and die in Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee,” he says in its trail­er, a line that could belong to the kind of mono­logue he deliv­ers so pow­er­ful­ly in the movies. “Being able to embody a lot of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in film has been very cathar­tic, being able to let go of the anger or the dis­ap­point­ment that I had in my life.” Jack­son’s Mas­ter­class promis­es cov­er­age of script break­down, voice, char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, audi­tion­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and voiceover act­ing — cathar­sis, it seems, comes as a bonus. You can enroll now and get access to the 20-les­son course. Or you can pur­chase an All-Access Annu­al Pass for every course in the Mas­ter­Class cat­a­log for $180.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Quentin Tarantino’s Orig­i­nal Wish List for the Cast of Pulp Fic­tion

Free Audio: Go the F–k to Sleep Nar­rat­ed by Samuel L. Jack­son

Samuel L. Jack­son Stars in “Wake the F**ck Up for Oba­ma,” a NSFW Polit­i­cal Children’s Tale

See Flan­nery O’Connor’s Sto­ry “The Dis­placed Per­son” Adapt­ed to a Film Star­ring a Young Samuel L. Jack­son (1977)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.