Jurnee Smollett Got Some Very Unique Advice From Samuel L. Jackson About Playing Black Canary

Samuel L. Jackson has clearly reached that stage in his career where he's done playing the Hollywood game — and why shouldn't he be? After 50 years of starring in acclaimed auteur films, classic blockbusters, and good old-fashioned B-movies, he's got nothing to prove at this point. Even if hadn't won a long-overdue honorary Oscar this year (an event which, let it not be forgotten, the Academy deliberately chose not to air live), Jackson probably would've continued to speak to the press with the same unabated honesty we've come to expect from him in recent years.

On the off-chance you ever thought that Jackson might be a little different one-on-one in the real world than he is on-camera, think again. Famously, when he was playing Mace Windu in the "Star Wars" prequel movie trilogy, Jackson straight up asked George Lucas if his Jedi character could have a purple lightsaber in the films (a request that was ultimately fulfilled). Turns out, Jackson was just as amusingly blunt when it came to advising "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" star Jurnee Smollett about her role as Black Canary.

Staking one's territory

Long before joining the DC Extended Universe and appearing in shows like "Underground" and "Lovecraft Country," a young Jurnee Smollett starred opposite Samuel L. Jackson in director Kasi Lemmons' revered 1997 Southern Gothic drama "Eve's Bayou." In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about her role in director Joseph Kosinski's sci-fi thriller "Spiderhead," Smollett admitted that she reached out to Jackson after being cast in "Birds of Prey," calling him one of her "mentors."

Having already played Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years, Jackson no doubt has plenty of wisdom to share with Smollett about how to handle the challenges of joining a major superhero franchise. The advice he actually shared with her, however, was far more uniquely Jackson-esque than she could've predicted:

"... I remember calling [Jackson] and being like, 'OK, so like, yo, what do I do? Is there a way in which I should approach this any differently than how I would approach any other character? I always do so much research of the world.' And he said, 'Baby, just go and piss on your territory.' (Laughs.) So I've been just so truly, truly humbled by the response from the fans."

Direct it may be, Smollett took Jackson's words to heart. Her turn as super-powered night club singer Dinah Lance (whose tough-as-nails exterior belies her wounded spirit) ranks among the many highlights of director Cathy Yan's "Birds of Prey," a giddy, Day-Glo colored romp that deserved to be far more successful in theaters than it was. Fortunately, between the box office and streaming on HBO Max, the film did well enough to convince Warner Bros. to start developing a "Black Canary" spin-off movie starring Smollett — giving her the chance to further, ahem, stake her territory (to paraphrase Jackson).