These days, Samuel L. Jackson is one of the most recognizable faces on the planet as an A-list Hollywood celebrity. However, before he became famous for portraying characters like Jules Winnfield, Mace Windu, and Nick Fury, Jackson was a struggling actor who fell victim to the temptations of drugs. His addiction was crack cocaine, and his habit nearly derailed Jackson’s Hollywood career before it began.
Jackson was born on December 21, 1948 in Washington D.C., but he grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was an only child, and his parents split when he was a baby. Thereafter, Jackson was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother. Jackson attended the acclaimed, all-black Morehouse College in Atlanta.
While there, Jackson became involved in the Black Power movement. He was expelled from Morehouse for his involvement in a hostage-taking of college trustees in protest of the lack of a black studies program at the school.
This expulsion from college may have been for the best as it convinced Jackson to abandon his involvement with the Black Power movement. He instead decided to devote himself to acting. Jackson moved to New York City in 1976 to chase his acting dreams.
In NYC, Jackson soon learned that he was supremely talented onstage, and he also learned how to act on drugs. He consistently drew stellar reviews in both Off-Broadway and Broadway performances even though he claims that he performed all of his roles high on some substance. In 1988, he landed his first film role in Spike Lee’s film, “Do the Right Thing.” He would go on to star in two more Lee films over the next few years, but he failed to break into the Hollywood mainstream.
As he began to feel a sense of desperation at his lack of success in Hollywood, Jackson turned to crack cocaine to fill the emptiness he felt inside. In 1991, drug addict Samuel L. Jackson hit the rock bottom part of his life. His wife, LaTanya Richardson, and eight-year-old daughter found Jackson passed out on the kitchen floor with crack paraphernalia all over the kitchen table.
With the encouragement of his wife, Samuel L. Jackson entered rehab the very next day. This was the beginning of his road to unimaginable success. His family fiercely supported him over the course of his rehab, and he would soon pay back their support by developing a Hollywood career that would become the envy of nearly any other actor.
Once he was clean and sober after rehab, Jackson was ready to land the role that would gain him notice in the Hollywood mainstream. After Jackson became sober, Spike Lee cast him as a crack addict in “Jungle Fever.” Using his own experiences as a drug addict to dive into the role, Jackson won rave reviews for his performance. More roles would soon follow in films as diverse as “Jurassic Park,” “True Romance,” and “Menace II Society.”
Samuel L. Jackson credits his sobriety allowing him to become such a huge star. Thanks to the energy and focus he has after beating drug addiction, Jackson has become one of the hardest-working and biggest-grossing actors in Hollywood. Samuel L. Jackson’s story goes to show that it is always possible for drug addicts to turn their life around and find happiness.