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Samuel L. Jackson Shares How Acting Helps ‘Fight’ Fears Of Getting Alzheimer’s Disease

Samuel L. Jackson in The Last Days Of Ptolemy Grey
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Samuel L. Jackson’s been in Hollywood long enough to build a sizable list of amazing movies that prove he's a brilliant actor, and while he seemingly has no intention of slowing down (especially considering his continued presence in the Marvel universe), time affects us all. The 73-year-old actor is promoting the release of his new Apple TV+ limited miniseries, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, about a man temporarily cured of his Alzheimers thanks to a miracle drug. The subject matter is something that Jackson takes quite seriously, as he opened up his own fears of the disease playing into why he made the role a priority. 

In a recent interview in support of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Samuel L. Jackson discussed with how his mother and several other family members suffered from Alzheimer's. And not only did he want to take on a role spotlighting age-related mental struggles, but he opened up about how his frequent acting gigs across his prolific career tend to help him fight off any fears of contracting the illness. In his words:

I don’t know if I’m as facile as I used to be in terms of learning that much dialogue. Knowing that I can get up every day, regurgitate dialogue and do all this stuff helps me fight off the fear of genetically being caught up in everything my parents and grandparents were.

Samuel L. Jackson mentioned that he first read Walter Mosley’s book (which he then helped adapt into the series for Apple TV+) ten years ago, and that he immediately related to it. As mentioned, Jackson’s mother suffered from Alzheimer's disease, as did his grandfather. A progressive disease that destroys memory and other important functions needed to work the body, the ailment is a major topic of medical research in the hopes that it can one day be reversed and/or prevented, and Jackson seems to have taken to using dialogue memorization (something other older actors like Judi Dench find new tricks for, though due to other factors of aging)  as a way to keep his intellectual acuity coasting.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is not all about Alzheimer's, as Samuel L. Jackson noted, but it does play a part of the miniseries' story. Jackson talked more about how his family suffered from the genetic illness, and how it drove him to bring this adaptation to life.

As they passed on, I just became more determined to tell this story and get it out there. And make sure people understand that the people they loved are still there, inside that person, so you can’t throw them away. You have to care for them and love them as if they’re still contributing to your life.

The good news is that Samuel L. Jackson is allegedly in good health, and is keeping busy in Hollywood. That much is clear in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, where Jackson plays a 93-year-old man with dementia. As mentioned, the man receives a miracle drug that allows him to retain all his memories for a brief time, which he then uses to attempt and solve the murder of his great-nephew. It’s definitely a project that’s different than some of Jackson’s more recent works (including Marvel's upcoming Secret Invasion show), but given the personal connection to Jackson the story provides and his talents as an actor, it's possible this is added to the list of the best Apple TV+’s shows so far by the time it's concluded.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is currently available to stream on Apple TV+ with new episodes premiering on Fridays. It’s one of many great new TV shows on the way, so be sure to keep an eye on everything coming up in the world of streaming and television this year. 

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.