Samuel L. Jackson on His Addiction Battle and How His Family's Love Changed His Life

"I was like the troll in the basement, and every now and then I'd come upstairs and hover around to do something," the actor recalls of his earlier years

Samuel L. Jackson says it's his family's love that helped him "become the man I am meant to be."

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the movie star and his wife of 41 years, Broadway actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson, sat down for an intimate interview to discuss their love and life now.

While today, Samuel's 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, there was a time early in his career where he struggled.

Early on in marriage, Samuel became addicted to drugs and admits he was not emotionally present for his family.

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.

"I had basically moved into the basement of our brownstone," he says. "I was like the troll in the basement, and every now and then I'd come upstairs and hover around to do something. I was addicted and being crazy."

Samuel L Jackson & LaTanya Richardson
Matt Sayles/@msayles

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

Samuel L Jackson & LaTanya Richardson
Matt Sayles/@msayles

LaTanya insisted he go to rehab and made calls to find him a spot. "She didn't have to try to fix me," he says. "She could've just said, 'Get out,' and left me into the world, let me go and be whatever I was going to be."

But LaTanya, 72, says that was not an option: "I couldn't do that because I felt as though God had spoken to me and said, 'Now, you can't leave this young man like this. Give him some help. And then, if you feel like leaving afterwards, we'll talk about it.'"

Through good and bad times, the couple have stood by each other's sides and have joined forces to produce the Apple TV+ limited series The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, a drama starring Samuel as a man with dementia caused by Alzheimer's. They hope the series creates deeper understanding of the disorder, which runs in Samuel's family. "It was important for us to tell this story and show that there's a life inside these people that needs to be explored," he says.

When not working, the couple love to spend time with their daughter Zoe, 39, a TV producer. "She makes me laugh like nobody else," says Samuel, 73. "Having her home during the pandemic was such a blessing. She was making us lemon bars, feeding us and making us laugh."

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

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