Ptolemy Gray is a lonely 91-year-old man suffering from dementia, which causes him to withdraw from his loved ones until he meets Robyn, a teenage girl. At the same time they discover that a new treatment has been released that can restore the memories he has lost, so Ptolemy and Robyn begin a journey that will take them back in time to uncover a murder mystery.
This is the plot of the miniseries The Last Days of Ptolemy Graywhich marks the series debut of Samuel L. Jackson who is directed by Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger) and premieres on March 11 on the AppleTV+ platform. Reason why we talked to the highest grossing actor of all time, about this job and the reason why it took him so long to get into television series.
What attracted you to this project?
I read the novel (written by famed author Walter Mosley, who is also a writer on the series) 12 years ago and always found Ptomely to be such a fascinating character and also quite cinematic that I thought he would be fun to play. Meanwhile I was dealing with my grandfather, my mom, her brother and her sister, who had Alzheimer’s or dementia, I was surrounded by her and how that defined me because it was part of my genetics. So every time I was seeing this character as something that said something about my life, who he was and what was going on and how I wanted to present this story to the world and what it means if it could be carried out and although it took a while for it to happen I think it was worth it.
Because of this family situation, are you afraid of Alzheimer’s?
Beyond the fear of this, I am aware that it is possible, although it happened to my people when they were young and I am past that age, but like so many people in my family on both sides, my father and my mother. And sometimes it scares me a little when, for example, I enter a room and forget what I had entered or that I forget the name of someone I know and that I know, it makes me want to scream because that frustrates me a little, but I think that the fact that I continue to work and learn things keeps me calm at the moment, but hopefully I am not part of these cases and that one day I wake up not knowing who I am. The point of this work is that I wanted to present Ptolemy as someone who gives hope to people who are facing something similar with their close ones and who have an honest feeling the same as they had when they began to experience this with one of their friends. relatives. Here Ptolemy delivers shame, anger and frustration when he can’t remember things and that’s inspired by the faces of my relatives who went through it and couldn’t remember things they knew. Honesty exists, although it is not something depressing that later the audience thinks about continuing to watch the episodes because here we also give a great air of hope.
In the miniseries you work with young talent like Dominique Fishback, Omar Benson Miller and Shiquita James. Does it inspire you or do you learn something by working with the new generation of actors?
I really enjoy seeing these young actors, the things they can do and the risks they’re willing to take. The fact that there are so many young people working in different genres and that they are not those people who just want to be in front of the camera to be famous, they want to act. I also really like seeing so many people of color, especially women directing, producing, doing everything. The fact that there is also so much diversity in the industry today motivates me.
This is your first serial work and soon you will be in Secret Invasion. Why did you take so long to enter this medium? Didn’t it catch your attention before?
My agents and managers didn’t offer me anything. The industry works differently now. Before, there was a big difference between a movie star, a television star, a soap opera star, and a theater star, all of those. So when you get into one thing and you haven’t done the others, you stay with that, just like Bruce Willis who started on TV and then became a movie star, but it didn’t happen to everyone. Even when they began to make television in a more cinematic format like The Sopranos, The Wire either Boardwalk Empire, there were actors in those shows who could not go to the movies if they were not playing roles similar to those they did on TV, but the main characters of the show if they came from the movies or some supporting characters who could do incredible jobs on TV. The pandemic changed things much more. The fact that who could work who wasn’t working then suddenly we were all TV stars, no matter what project it was you were already on a streaming service and not in theaters because they were closed. So we all had that opportunity to do that kind of thing. I always wanted to do theater and then movies or TV. I feel like if I wanted to I would have, but my managers always managed to give me a new movie before I finished the one I was in so it didn’t give me time to get into a fight about doing something in another medium.
From when you first read the novel to now that you brought it to the screen, did Ptolemy change at all?
The character did not change so much from when I read the book to the script because there are some things that should not change. When you are in a creative process with people you face many things because they always want to do everything with the original story, they want to change the relationship with this character or turn Robyn into a relative of Ptolemy because he calls her uncle when they are not family, stuff like that. There are people who don’t understand the relationship between African-American families, that we can do those things. Many people who are not my relatives call me uncle, but they are people I have known for years, so I like that when they call me uncle they make me feel close. The point is that I wanted to change details and I had to be strict in saying that this was a book that I fell in love with and this is the story that I want to tell so if you want to tell something different then you better not do it with this story because then I I get out. I asked them to respect the story as I liked it and I got it.
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Samuel L. Jackson makes his TV debut with The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray
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