Samuel L. Jackson had real-life experience to draw from when he played the crack-addicted Gator in Spike Lee‘s 1991 classic “Jungle Fever.” That’s because he was hired just a week out of rehab.
In a recent interview on “The Breakfast Club,” the veteran actor talked about being addicted to drugs many years ago and how it truly blocked his success.
“Once I got clean, everything sort of changed,” said Jackson. “So there’s a very distinct correlation of me changing my life and being focused and clear about what I needed to do and my success…. I was a week out of rehab when I started doing ‘Jungle Fever,’ so I didn’t really need makeup. I was still detoxing.”
Jackson even remembered going up to craft services on the “Jungle Fever” set and the Nation of Islam’s Fruit of Islam unit, who were doing security at the time, thought he was a neighborhood crackhead and nearly shooed him away.
And although crack was just one of the substances he used, Jackson said his drug of choice was anything in front of him. He also revealed that his wife LaTanya Richardson helped him get sober.
“The day they found me passed out on the kitchen floor, next day I was in rehab,” he explained. “She called my best friend from high school, who was a drug counselor. He found a bed for me in upstate New York, so I went straight in there. I didn’t go in kicking and screaming. I went in. I was tired.”
“Then the job came up, ‘Jungle Fever,’ and the drug counselors were like ‘you shouldn’t do that job,’” Jackson recalled. “You shouldn’t be playing a crack addict. All of your triggers are going to be there, pipes and lighters.’”
Jackson said he used the role as motivation to stay clean so he wouldn’t have to enter rehab again.
You can hear him talk about the experience below at the 5:30 mark.