A Jedi & A Genie
Two of my Favorite Actors.
Everyone has people they admire, and of course, me being me, mine tend to be people in Hollywood. Not everyone there (most of them are assholes), but there are those rare few who are different. I decided to narrow mine down to two people: Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Williams.
I admire these two men mostly because they, as far as I’m concerned, are not real celebrities.
Obviously, they are famous, but what makes them different and so special is that they always remained classy guys who never pretended to be things that they weren’t. They were open about their struggles and always wanted to do nothing more than entertain and help people when they had the opportunity.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON
He was born on December 21, 1948, in Washington D.C., though he was raised by his grandparents in Tennessee.
During the 60’s, while attending Morehouse College he became a member of the Black Panther Party. He was later expelled for being part of a group that held the Morehouse Board of Trustees hostage. That board included Martin Luther King, Sr.
During the 70’s and 80’s, as a struggling actor, he battled heroin addiction and overdosed multiple times. He was also an alcoholic, and later became addicted to cocaine.
In spite of all of that, his devotion to his wife and family pushed him into rehab. He has since been sober over 30 years and is now the highest grossing box office star in the world.
Now for a personal story...
When I was a kid my best friend Jake and I were obsessed with Sam Jackson. If he was in the movie, we were in the theater.
Then a magical thing was created, something that would give us the ability to communicate with him directly; it was called Twitter. So, Jake and I decided to send him a tweet.
Tragically, Jake passed away in 2013, before we were able to send it. However, the day before he died, I made a promise to Jake in his hospital bed that I would send Sam Jackson that message.
A week later, I wrote it out.
I don’t remember exactly what it said, but the general idea of it was what big fans we were, and what Jake’s story was. Within an hour I returned to Twitter. It’s easy to be disappointed by your heroes and I really didn’t expect a response. But when I opened my account, here is what I found:
Needless to say, I LOST IT!!!
This man took time out of his day to reach out to a fan. He could have easily just left it alone. It’s awkward, I get it. If he didn’t respond, I couldn’t have done anything, and it wouldn’t have ruined his reputation. Nobody would have known. But he responded anyway.
My life was rough at that point with losing my best friend, and just trying to survive High School, and this meant so much to me. Just that he had heard our story and cared enough to react to it.
On a less personal level, this man is just a legend. He is so badass in every movie he is in, and everything he does.
I don’t remember when it was that I started looking up to him but somewhere along the line I just realized he was great. Perhaps it was after he did Snakes on a Plane, because, let’s be honest, how many Oscar nominated actors would do that and be proud of it?!
It’s no surprise to people who know me that I am, and always have been, a giant Robin Williams fan. Ever since seeing Mrs. Doubtfire, I loved his stuff, especially his improv skills.
When I was a kid, after I would see a performance of his, I would go in my basement and act it out, pretending like I was in front of a crowd and getting the same laughs he was.
Robin Williams was born July 21, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois. His family moved to Detroit when he was little, and he grew up in a mansion his father rented. His two brothers were older than he was, so he spent a lot of time alone, doing voices and improvising.
He went to Julliard for College but eventually left after a professor told him, “there was nothing more Julliard could teach him.”
He began doing stand-up after that, and struggled with alcohol and drug addiction throughout most of his career.
He became sober in the 80’s and continued to perform several stand-up specials, starred in over 50 movies, and even won an Academy Award in 1998 for his work in the movie Good Will Hunting.
He even performed 6 USO Tours in Afghanistan, from 2002 to 2013.
On August 11, 2014, he committed suicide. It was revealed months later that he had recently been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, which meant that he would lose what he believed was, “his only gift.” Although he didn’t leave a note, his family and friends believe this is what led to his suicide. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system.
Like the rest of the world, this had a huge effect on me. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I did have a dream once of him and Jake. The three of us were all together laughing and having a good time. It was only a dream, but it was still really great.
Robin Williams is the reason that I started writing. His honesty and humor, and the way he made fun of his own struggles has encouraged me to do the same in my own way.
As someone who grew up very quiet, with my own thoughts and fears, I often felt like I didn’t fit in. Or I worried that my problems would hold me back; and in a lot of ways they did.
I don’t know for a fact if these two ever felt the same way I did, but they’re human beings. I’m sure it crossed their minds at least once.
They both had problems with addiction (problems I don’t have) but the fact that they could overcome those issues, talked about them so openly to the world, and were still good humble people, is something I admire.
Everyone has heroes, and these are two of mine. They have changed the game for me. They helped me in childhood with their work and have encouraged me to take more risks and be more confident in my future.
In fact, my mantra, when I’m nervous in a new situation is, “be Sam Jackson cool” and once I'm there, “be Robin Williams funny.”