'Captain Marvel' Star Samuel L. Jackson Talks the Origins and Legacy of Nick Fury [Set Visit Interview]

In May 2018, I visited the set of Marvel Studios and Disney’s next superhero movie, Captain Marvel, which was shooting in Los Angeles. On set, we had a chance to talk with Samuel L Jackson, who is reprising his role as Nick Fury in this prequel. He walked in the room with performance capture tracking dots on his face, perhaps to help with the de-aging visual effect that we’ve seen in past Marvel films. Or perhaps they were shooting a scene where we find out how Fury loses his eye, as he also had some makeup under his eye that indicated some sort of injury.

I’ve interviewed Jackson in the past, and he seems to get some joy from his no-fucks-given attitude, as you’ll see here. One really good answer comes when one of the female journalists on set challenged Jackson’s dismissive response, it’s my favorite part of this interview. While there isn’t a lot of information revealed in this discussion, I think you’ll have a fun time reading it while imagining Jackson’s voice in your head for his responses.

Note: this interview was conducted in a roundtable format with a number of other journalists.

Samuel L. Jackson: I’m about to do this shit again? When it’s time for the movie to come out, I better not see none of these motherfuckers. Hi.

Question: Hi. Sorry to see your disintegration. It’s good to see you back in action here.

Jackson: Is that it?

Question: You have some dots and stuff on your face. You have an injury of some kind. Can you talk about that?

Jackson: Yeah, I’m trying to join the Wakanda tribe and this is what, this is my initiation rite.

Question: 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, pretty tough. It’s okay.

Question: 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?

Jackson: No.

Question: Have you enjoyed it?

Jackson: Huh?

Question: 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 people don’t know or might not understand or the, I guess the evolution of Nick Fury from desk jockey to Director of SHIELD. It’s kind of fun.

Question: From what we just learned about the character in this film, it sounds like he’s kind of in a just he doesn’t know his place in the world. Like, the Cold War is over. Haven’t reached the–

Jackson: He totally knows his place in the world.

Question: Oh he does, okay. Oh, then 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 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 other beings in the universe, not just us. The next problem will be convincing everybody else that’s true.

Question: What is the aspect of Nick, this Nick, that’s the most different from the one that we’ve seen.

Jackson: He’s younger.

Question: Is it just age or is there–?

Jackson: Yeah, about 30 years younger. And not as jaded about the world yet. He hasn’t grown into his cynicism quite yet.

Question: How do you describe Fury’s relationship with Carol?

Jackson: Like most people, 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 shapeshift. 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 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.

Question: And speaking of relationships…

Jackson: Are you the alpha person? Go ahead, everybody else is–

Question: My apologies. Someone else wanna…?

Jackson: No, go ahead.

Question: I… Oh.

Other Journalist: No, please.

Question: I was just gonna ask what was I think, 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.

Question: Okay.

Jackson: Yeah, it’s payday’s nice. 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.

Question: 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?

Question: Well, I mean, people were, there were definitely some like people were upset because they were used to the old school, Nick Fury. But now it’s like 10 years on and you pretty much own the role for all time. So you–

Jackson: I had more chances than they did. That’s one thing. I don’t know. When I went when 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. It’s 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 and what are you talking about? And they made a call. And to the Marvel people at that time and they said, well like it says inside the comic book, the character Nick, 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. We have a pretty good relationship these days. 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 wanna emulate or that you have actually done something that makes that character more real and more enjoyable and you do wanna 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.

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