Samuel L. Jackson and Latanya Richardson are a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. The couple, who have been married for over 38 years, have overcome obstacles and hardships, always leaning on each other for support. Samuel and Latanya met each other in college. Latanya was attending Atlanta’s Spelman College, a liberal arts women’s college when she met Samuel, who was studying at Morehouse College, a liberal arts men’s college. Jackson had originally planned on majoring in marine biology, however, after taking an elective acting class, Jackson switched his major to acting. Thank goodness.
In the late 1960s, Jackson was active in the Civil Rights movement and even attended Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral as an usher. In 1969, Jackson and fellow Morehouse students held members of the school’s board of trustee’s hostage, demanding reform to the school’s curriculum and policy. While the school did change the policy, Jackson was charged with unlawful confinement, which is considered a second-degree felony. He was suspended from school and he moved to Los Angeles to work as a social worker before returning two years later and earning his degree. He became active in the black power movement and the FBI shared with his mother that Jackson would probably be dead within a year if he kept it up. Jackson was sent back to Los Angeles on his mother’s wishes.
Jackson, who has has numerous award nominations and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, credits his wife for getting him to where he is today. During his speech at the BET Awards (when picking up his Lifetime Achievement Award), Jackson thanks his wife Latanya for pushing him to go to rehab when she found him passed out one day after a “crack-induced” meltdown. LaTanya and 8-year-old daughter Zoe had found him on the kitchen floor surrounded by drugs and paraphernalia.
Latanya convinced her husband that getting clean would not only benefit his health but push his acting talent. “I’ve always had my wife LaTanya, who’s my harshest critic,” he recalled in an interview with The Guardian. “She’d say: ‘You’re so intelligent that the first time you read something, you think you understand it intellectually and emotionally … But there’s no blood in it.”
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Samuel L. Jackson and his wife LaTanya Richardson, 1972. They have been married for almost 40 years. // “I’ve always had my wife LaTanya, who’s my harshest critic. She’d say: ‘You’re so intelligent that the first time you read something, you think you understand it intellectually and emotionally, then you find the vocal inflections, and the facial expressions – and you can get there with that. But there’s no blood in it.’ And I’m like: ‘It’s all fuckin’ make-believe, what in the hell you talking about?’ And it wasn’t until I got sober that I knew fully what she meant. Before, I used to do stuff on stage and kinda look for the reaction from the audience – ‘Aha! I got ’em good that time!’ And once I was able to ignore that, and focus on the relationships with the people I was onstage with, I was finally able to blossom into whatever I might think I am now.”
Once he sobered up in 1991, Jackson was able to see what his wife Latanya Richardson was talking about. His first movie in which he was sober was none other than Jungle Fever, where he played a crack-addicted brother of Flipper (Wesley Snipes).
In 1994 Jackson landed his starring role as hitman Jules in Pulp Fiction. At the same time, Latanya was staring in movies such as Fried Green Tomatoes, Sleepless in Seattle, and Malcolm X.
During a recent interview with Essence magazine, Latanya shared the couple’s secret to a lasting marriage.
“You have to have a big heart and the Lord. You can’t do this without the Lord. You’re going to have to turn to somebody, something — because men, they are different,” Richardson Jackson shared. “They’re cut from a different cloth.”
The family was featured on the cover of Essence magazine back in 1999. “I’m telling you, we were revolutionaries,” she said of herself and her husband. “We used to say the most revolutionary thing was to keep a Black family together. So that became our mantra.”
Today the couple is still working hard in both their fields of work. Samuel L. Jackson has captured audiences with his recent role of Nick Fury in the Marvel Universe. Latanya Richardson Jackson has been busy as well, most recently playing the role of Calpurnia in To Kill A Mockingbird on Broadway in New York City.
Cheers to the happy couple.