Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson on Their 41-Year Marriage: 'We Made a Pact to Stay Together'

The movie star and Broadway actress met in college and are the proud parents to daughter Zoe

At the very beginning of their relationship, Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson made a pact to stick together no matter what.

The movie star and Tony-nominated actress, who are the proud parents of daughter Zoe, 39, met in college and have been together ever since. In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the couple, who have been married for 41 years, sat down for an intimate interview to discuss their love and life now.

"In the beginning, we always said the most revolutionary thing that Black people could do was stay together, raise their children with the nucleus of having a father and a mother, since everybody likes to pretend that that's not the dynamic of the African American family. That it's just children out here being raised by women, which we know is false," says LaTanya. "In order to change that narrative, we made a decision to say, 'We are going to stay together no matter what. We'll figure it out.'"

Samuel L Jackson & LaTanya Richardson
Matt Sayles/@msayles

And that's just what they did. But it hasn't always easy, especially when Samuel became addicted to drugs and was unable to be there emotionally for his family. It was LaTanya who helped him get into rehab in the early '90s. Samuel has now been in recovery for more than 30 years and credits his wife for helping change his life for the better.

For more on PEOPLE's cover story with Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson, listen below to our daily podcast on PEOPLE Every Day.

"She gave me the chance to be the man I was supposed to be," he says. Once he got out of rehab, he saw his career take off thanks to a role in Spike Lee's 1991 film Jungle Fever.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson Jackson on or on the PeopleTV app.

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Today, his films—including massive franchises like Star Wars, Avengers and The Incredibles—have collectively raked in nearly $18.5 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing actor of all time.

But Samuel is modest about being called a Box Office King. "Coming from the kind of backgrounds we come from and the people that raised us, we learn that we're not better than anybody else," he says. "A job is a job. We were fortunate enough to have a job."

LaTanya—whose career has also thrived, including her 2014 Tony nomination for A Raisin in the Sun—jokes that her husband is "an anomaly" because he "loves every job he does. Snakes on a Plane, I'm like, 'Really?"

Every July, the actors stops working to spend quality time as a family. They often take Zoe and friends out on a boat, where Jackson says there is only one rule: "Don't wake anybody up. You sleep when you sleep. Then we come together and eat."

Samuel L. Jackson, Latoya Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson/instagram

The have also teamed up as producing partners on the Apple TV+ limited series The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, a drama starring Samuel as a man with dementia caused by Alzheimer's. The project was personal to Samuel because his grandfather and mother had Alzheimer's.

"I'm amazed at how busy we are in our seventh decade," says LaTanya, 72. "I'm grateful because I think of all the things that could be."

Samuel, 73, adds that the secret to a successful marriage is simple. "It's two people who respect each other, love each other and look out for each other."

For more about their love story, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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