Minus the Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scene, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury on the big screen. But that changes on March 8th when Captain Marvel is released.
Not only does the movie heavily feature Nick Fury, but it’ll be a younger Nick Fury. Captain Marvel takes place in the 1990s, before the events of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, before Fury served as Director of SHIELD, and before he grows to resent the powers that be. It’s also before the Avengers and before Fury has worked with a superhero, so when he encounters Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, he’s got his work cut out for him in terms of figuring out how to handle someone with such extraordinary gifts arriving on Earth.
While on the Captain Marvel set back in the summer of 2018, I got to participate in a roundtable interview with Jackson and he spoke about where Fury stands at the moment, Fury’s relationship with Captain Marvel, what it means to him to play a key supporting character in the very first female-led MCU movie, and much more. You can check it all out in the full conversation below.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: Yeah, I’m trying to join the Wakanda tribe and this is my initiation rite.
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 tough. It’s okay.
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?
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, you know, people don’t know or might not understand or the, I guess the evolution of Nick Fury from desk jockey to Director of SHIELD, yeah. It’s kind of fun.
From what we just learned about the character in this film, it sounds like he doesn’t know his place in the world.
JACKSON: He totally knows his place in the world.
Oh, he does? Okay! 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 that 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 are other beings in the universe; not just us. The next problem will be convincing everybody else that’s true.
What is the aspect of this Nick that’s the most different from the one that we’ve seen?
JACKSON: He’s younger. Yeah, about 30 years younger. And not as jaded about the world yet. He hasn’t grown into his cynicism quite yet.
How do you describe Fury’s relationship with Carol?
JACKSON: Like most people, you know, 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 shape-shift. 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, you know, 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.
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. Yeah, payday’s nice. [Laughs] 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.
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?
People were upset because they were used to the old school Nick Fury. But now it’s 10 years on and you pretty much own the role for all-time.
JACKSON: I had more chances than they did. That’s one thing. I don’t know. 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 and was 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?’ ‘Man, what are you talking about?’ And they made a call to the Marvel people at that time and they said, ‘Well, like it says inside the comic book, 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. So we have a pretty good relationship these days. [Laughs] 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 want to emulate or that you have actually done something that makes that character more real and more enjoyable and you do want to 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.
The character of Nick Fury has proven to be a fan favorite of the MCU …
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.
To what do you owe that popularity?
JACKSON: What do I owe that popularity? A lot of other movies. [Laughs] 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, 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 arts 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 – [claps] – 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. And listened to a lot of radio drama, so I learned to use my voice and inflection and whispering, and 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 five o’clock call. I get up at five o’clock and when I’m not working I get up at five o’clock anyway so I can go to the golf course, so I won’t get out of the habit of getting up at five o’clock. So I continue to do that. And it’s a joyous place for me to be, to come and forget about who I am, what’s going on in my house, what’s going on in the world. I 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, you know, it helps keep me sane.