'Captain Marvel' Star Samuel L. Jackson Talks The Origins And Legacy Of Nick Fury [Set Visit Interview]

In May 2018, I visited the set of Marvel Studios and Disney's next superhero movie, Captain Marvel, which was shooting in Los Angeles. On set, we had a chance to talk with Samuel L Jackson, who is reprising his role as Nick Fury in this prequel. He walked in the room with performance capture tracking dots on his face, perhaps to help with the de-aging visual effect that we've seen in past Marvel films. Or perhaps they were shooting a scene where we find out how Fury loses his eye, as he also had some makeup under his eye that indicated some sort of injury.

I've interviewed Jackson in the past, and he seems to get some joy from his no-f***s-given attitude, as you'll see here. One really good answer comes when one of the female journalists on set challenged Jackson's dismissive response, it's my favorite part of this interview. While there isn't a lot of information revealed in this discussion, I think you'll have a fun time reading it while imagining Jackson's voice in your head for his responses.

Note: this interview was conducted in a roundtable format with a number of other journalists.

samuel l jackson in captain marvel

Samuel L. Jackson: I'm about to do this shit again? When it's time for the movie to come out, I better not see none of these motherf***ers. Hi.

Question: Hi. Sorry to see your disintegration. It's good to see you back in action here.

Jackson: Is that it?

Question: You have some dots and stuff on your face. You have an injury of some kind. Can you talk about that?

Jackson: Yeah, I'm trying to join the Wakanda tribe and this is what, this is my initiation rite.

Question: How's it going?

Jackson: I don't know. Pretty cool. I haven't been spanked yet by anybody yet, but the hazing is pretty, pretty tough. It's okay.

Question: When you first played Nick Fury, did you ever think you'd get to explore his backstory like you are in this one and what is that like for you?

Jackson: No.

Question: Have you enjoyed it?

Jackson: Huh?

Question: Have you enjoyed getting to explore the character's origins a little bit more?

Jackson: Yeah. We always do. We always... look forward to figuring out stuff that people don't know or might not understand or the, I guess the evolution of Nick Fury from desk jockey to Director of SHIELD. It's kind of fun.

samuel l jackson in captain marvel

Question: From what we just learned about the character in this film, it sounds like he's kind of in a just he doesn't know his place in the world. Like, the Cold War is over. Haven't reached the–

Jackson: He totally knows his place in the world.

Question: Oh he does, okay. Oh, then what's his place in the world?

Jackson: Yeah. I mean, his job right now, his place in the world is to find out where the next enemy's coming from. 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.

Question: What is the aspect of Nick, this Nick, that's the most different from the one that we've seen.

Jackson: He's younger.

Question: Is it just age or is there–?

Jackson: Yeah, about 30 years younger. And not as jaded about the world yet. He hasn't grown into his cynicism quite yet.

Question: How do you describe Fury's relationship with Carol?

Jackson: Like most people, you meet somebody, you theoretically surmise that they're from outer space and I guess like most of us the first thing you think about is the difference and she looks like us, yes, but she also showed up with these things that can shapeshift. So is she what she appears to be? Is she a safe individual? Is she a dangerous individual? All those things come to mind.

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.

Question: And speaking of relationships...

Jackson: Are you the alpha person? Go ahead, everybody else is–

Question: My apologies. Someone else wanna...?

Jackson: No, go ahead.

Question: I... Oh.

Other Journalist: No, please.

samuel l jackson in captain marvel

Question: I was just gonna ask what was I think, what's the most enjoyable part of playing Nick at this stage in his life as opposed to when we've always seen him? What was the thing you found most enjoyable about discovering him?

Jackson: Payday.

Question: Okay.

Jackson: Yeah, it's payday's nice. Most enjoyable thing about him, I guess, like I said, he's not burdened by the weight of the world the way he is and he hadn't come to resent the powers that be in terms of how they view the world and how they view what he does. And the seriousness of the situation. They're totally unaware of it right now. So his next challenge is convincing them that we do need to enlist people who have extraordinary gifts that can help us defend not just the country but the world.

Question: When you were first cast as Nick Fury, it was like a groundbreaking moment. And there was some controversy for certain people being mad about Nick Fury being changed to an African American.

Jackson: What are you talking about?

Question: Well, I mean, people were, there were definitely some like people were upset because they were used to the old school, Nick Fury. But now it's like 10 years on and you pretty much own the role for all time. So you–

Jackson: I had more chances than they did. That's one thing. I don't know. When I went when I was in Golden Apple one day and I saw The Ultimates cover and I realized it was my image. And so I called my manager immediately. It's like who'd I give permission to use my image for a comic book? Or did you guys do it and didn't tell me? Were you trying to surprise me and what are you talking about? And they made a call. And to the Marvel people at that time and they said, well like it says inside the comic book, the character Nick, the characters are talking and one of the characters goes, so if they make a movie about us, who would you want to play you? Nick Fury says, Samuel L. Jackson. And I'm like yes.

And Mark Millar being Mark Millar did that. And he did the same thing in Kingsman. We have a pretty good relationship these days. 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.

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.

samuel l jackson in captain marvel

Question: The character of Nick Fury has proven to be a fan favorite of the MCU. To what do you owe that–?

Jackson: Yeah, they missed me a little bit, didn't they? I haven't been in like the last six movies. They sent me on a road trip and didn't let me come home.

Question: To what do you owe that popularity?

Jackson: What do I owe that popularity? A lot of other movies. Yeah. You sort of earn a reputation for being able to embody specific characters in specific ways. 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.

I mean, work for me, I mean, acting's always been fun. And I think because I was a stutterer and was halfway shy when I was a kid being able to be on stage when I first discovered it from my Aunt who was a performing art teacher in Chattanooga, she always was in charge of pageants and plays because she was a performing arts major at North Carolina A&T. And she never had enough boys. And I lived in the house with her. So whenever she did something, I had to do it. 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. I got away from it for a while. But I still performed, because I was in a marching band, a very good marching band, a concert band. And then when I got back to college, I rediscovered theater. When I was in high school, they wouldn't let me do all the plays and said, you gotta let somebody else do it. Nobody else was volunteering, I'm here. But they go out and recruit people anyway. So it's part and parcel of that. The adulation, the joy of me being there. It's a really wonderful way to make believe.

I was an only child, so I spent a lot of time reading and being in my own head and exploring worlds the way I wanted to explore them. Or exploring stories the way I wanted to explore them. And my grandfather told me stories and he would make me tell him stories. So we shared made up stories on the porch at night. And we did that. So and listened to a lot of radio drama. So I learned to use my voice and inflection and whispering and opening, vocalizations come to me easy now, because I listened to people like Andy Griffith and The Shadow and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Just crazy radio stuff. I listened to them.

So coming to work or me is a real joy. I don't care about the 5:00 AM call. I get up at 5:00 AM and when I'm not working I get up at 5:00 AM anyway, so I can go to the golf course so I won't get out of the habit of getting up at 5:00 AM. So I continue to do that. 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.

Question: Can you talk a little bit about what it means to you to be such a big supporting role in the first female-led Marvel superhero movie.

Jackson: No. Does that mean something?

Question: I would certainly say it does. It does to me.

Jackson: Let me think about that. I hadn't thought of it that way. I thought I was the star. I have a daughter and I have a wife who feels undervalued. Because she is a Black woman, she is in this business and she's been in this business longer than I have. She was a professional actor when she was a kid and doing all this stuff. And she's a specific body type and a specific... skin tone. Which is not the preferred skin tone of this business basically. I mean, Viola Davis is the biggest dark skinned star. And... being able to uplift women in a very specific way,

I grew up in a house full of women. Who always made me feel special. And made me tow a specific line. I understand a lot about who they are and what they felt just because I heard it. And I had to experience it every day. How hard the world is for women specifically. And I guess as I got older because my world was specifically Black and White when I grew up, 'cause I grew up in segregation. So I didn't talk to White women, 'cause I didn't know any. So I only talked to Black women, so I know what their worldview was and what it meant. And it wasn't until I got older that I realized that White women might be as beat down as we were in a specific way.

And to work with Brie who has a very political aware sense of self, who not afraid to use her platform to push female agendas has been a real joy. This is my third movie with her. I did Kong with her, so we went all over the world. And then I did her movie, Unicorn Store. And to be a part of this specific story where she has such an enormous responsibility, especially in the success of the Marvel Universe and what it means every time there's a Marvel film.

And to look at what happened last year with Wonder Woman, DC almost figured it out with that movie. To know what's going to happen when this movie does actually hit theaters for women and little girls are going to be amazing. Just because of who she 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.

Brie Larson Interview

Question: What has been your impression of what Brie has done with the role in terms of like the physical demands that it's entailed? This is new territory for her.

Jackson: The physical demands? Whoo... Let me see, when was the...? I think about a year ago, Brie started working out. And the girl that I did Kong and Unicorn Store with is not this person. She's got, she's like five percent body fat now. And she used to send me workout videos, which were like crazy, dope workout videos. And she was, the first one she sent me she was lifting, what was she lifting? Like 100 pounds. She was doing this thing with a waist lift, about 100 pounds. The last one she sent me was 350. And she does chin-ups and she sent me a video of her pushing a Jeep up a hill. It's pretty amazing stuff.

So she's made a distinct transformation that I don't think a lot of people would be willing to do and it's a huge commitment to do stuff like that. When I was doing Tarzan with Alexander, wow, he would come to work at like 4:00 AM in the morning and go workout. And then he would eat. And then he would do his cardio. And then we would start to shoot. And every time they said cut, somebody was putting a weight in his hand. He was doing curls and he was doing pushups. Brie's sort of like that. At this point in her development that she can actually do all that stuff. I mean, it's kind of crazy. Let's see, what else did she...?

[JACKSON SHOWS US A VIDEO OF BRIE LARSON PUSHING A JEEP UP A HILL]

Jackson: See, that's her pushing a Jeep up a hill. Wow. Killing it. Yeah, right. Have to find a better one.

Journalist: Thank you for sharing that.

Jackson: That's not it. Where's the good one?

Question: Was she trying to encourage you to like push it?

Jackson: No, I have an age limit. I'm done with all that. I go to Pilates. I only push my body weight. I don't mess with any other weights. None.

[JACKSON SHOWS US ANOTHER VIDEO]

Jackson: Here we go. Look at that. Got it going on. So yeah, I'm impressed with what she's doing.

Question: Thank you so much.

Jackson: All right, guys. Enjoy your stay here today.

Journalist: Good luck with the rest of it. Don't lose an eye.

Jackson: All right.