October 20, 2020
As their hard-hitting TV show Enslaved comes to an end, the star and his wife LaTanya Richardson talk about roots, race, revolution – and how to get rid of ‘the orange man’
From Spike Lee joints to Tarantino thrillers, Star Wars to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Samuel L Jackson has done it all. Last year he was named “Hollywood’s most bankable star”, with films grossing a total of $13bn to date – more than the annual GDP of Iceland. The New York Times has described him as “his own genre”.
And yet, despite having one of the most recognisable faces on the planet, until recently Jackson didn’t know quite where that face had come from. Like many African Americans, he was descended from people who were enslaved, leaving a question mark over his origins. That was until he embarked on a process of genealogy and DNA testing, which led him back to Gabon’s Benga tribe. “A lot of people tried to trace themselves and find out where they came from – all they could find out was maybe a country,” he explains. “So to go through what I went through – to find out what tribal ancestry I had and to be able to step back into – it was a really emotional, satisfying feeling. There’s a fullness that comes upon me, every time I land in Africa. As I step on the ground, everything sort of changes”.