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Samuel L. Jackson is intimidating. When he sat down in front of us while visiting the set of Captain Marvel last May in Los Angeles as part of a group of journalists, it was clear from the start it’d be an entertaining interview.
What is the aspect of Nick, this Nick, that's the most different from the one that we've seen?
Jackson: He's younger.
Captain Marvel is set in the 1990s, decades before we get to know Jackson's Nick Fury in Iron Man 2. When we encounter Fury in Captain Marvel, he's in a different place than we've seen him before.
"His job right now, his place in the world is to find out where the next enemy's coming from," said Jackson. "And like most sane human beings with a job like that, you figure the next enemy is some other country or somewhere else. And all of a sudden he discovers something that we speculate about and now we know it's, well he knows it's true that there other beings in the universe, not just us. The next problem will be convincing everybody else that's true.”
Enter Captain Marvel, Fury's first foray into the superhero business. Naturally, her existence brings up plenty of questions for him.
"So is she what she appears to be? Is she a safe individual? Is she a dangerous individual? All those things come to mind," explained Jackson. "Spending time with her, he discovers things about her that lead him to believe that she is something other than what she has presented herself to be or even knows herself to be. So during the course of interacting with her, they do become compatriots. They have a shared sense of humor. He's open to the difference in what she may be and what she may not be. And he's definitely willing to help her explore what she needs to find out to find out who she is and what and how she came to be.”
Nick Fury is one of the most iconic characters on the MCU despite not actually being a superhero himself. And let's be honest, most of that can be attributed to Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal.
"You take a job and you hope you can inhabit a character in a specific way that creates excitement for people who are sitting there watching it. And that there's something about that character that's memorable that they can take away. Or if it's a real fan, something they wanna emulate or that you have actually done something that makes that character more real and more enjoyable and you do wanna see more of him," said Jackson. "So you hold back little pieces of what's going on in terms of especially his thought process. And where he's going and what he's trying to accomplish in terms of making sure that he is the patriot that he says he is. And that we know him to be. And that he has a greater sense of the world's safety and humanity in terms of all people are equal and as important and every culture needs to be defended, not just ours. And I think I tried to find a way to make him that citizen of the world and not just the United States. And I think it resonates with a lot of people.”
It obviously does. Jackson has been making his mark in Hollywood for decades in all types of films and roles. He said he chooses to be in the types of movies he loved as a kid.
"You sort of earn a reputation for being able to embody specific characters in specific ways," he said of his career. "And I do a lot of movies that are kind of gun movies or action movies because I loved them when I was growing up and to have an opportunity to do them now is like perfect for me. So I tend to sometimes just choose movies because they're movies I would've gone to see when I was a kid or when I was young. There's really no other reason to do Snakes on a Plane. But it was fun. And I try and have fun."
Jackson also recalled what got him into performing in the first place. His aunt was a performing arts teacher and always looking for boys to join her productions. So Jackson participated.
"And the discovery of that and people pinching you on the cheek, 'Oh my God, you're so good, you were so wonderful' made you go 'Wow, okay. That's something I can do. And I feel very good about myself when I do it.' So I started at a very young age."
Now at 70, he still loves it.
"I don't care about the 5 a.m. call. I get up at 5 a.m. and when I'm not working I get up at 5 a.m. anyway, so I can go to the golf course so I won't get out of the habit of getting up at 5 a.m. So I continue to do that," he said. "And it's a joyous place for me to be, come and forget about who I am, what's going on in my house, what's going on in the world. Can't listen to the news every day. So to come here and to go into a world that has its own rules and to create a character that doesn't know anything about any of that is a wonderful escape for me. And it helps keep me sane.”
Captain Marvel is the first female-led superhero film by Marvel Studios, and it's clear Jackson is excited to support Brie Larson in what could be an impactful film.
"To know what's going to happen when this movie does actually hit theaters for women and little girls is going to be amazing," Jackson said. "Just because of who [Brie] is and what her understanding of her responsibility to not the male audience, but the female audience that's coming to this film. To be able to be alongside her, support her and to give her what she needs to be this strong character questing for self-identity, number one. And once she realizes what her power is and how she wills it has been a real honor for me. 'Cause I want Brie to succeed in a very real, very strong way. And… to have the opportunity to come into this particular place where they actually know how to do this. They figured it out. There's a Marvel playbook that works. I mean, as out of the box that people think Black Panther was, it's part of the Marvel playbook. It just happened to have Black people in it. And this is a Marvel movie being made through the Marvel playbook and it just happens to be a strong female character in it. And it will hopefully incite people the way Black Panther incited us racially when we saw it. So I'm really proud to be part of it."
Captain Marvel hits theaters March 8.