The movie star, who will return to the New York stage this month (Oct11) as Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop, believes his former brush with Broadway put him in rehab – because he turned to hard drugs to help himself cope with the fact he was actor Charles Dutton’s understudy, and never actually got to perform a role he had originated.
The Pulp Fiction star admits it was soul destroying to work so hard to play Boy Willie in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, and then never get to to appear onstage.
He explains, “I originated the role at Yale (Repertory Theater) and then I had to understudy him (Dutton) because the role was written for him when he was doing Crocodile Dundee 2, so when Crocodile Dundee 2 was over he came back and he started to do the play. It was pretty much the play that put me in rehab.
“You have to show up every day and sign in and if that person’s not there by half hour (before the show) you start getting ready to go on. But he was always there… I had to sit backstage until at least the first act was over and listen to the play onstage, which was kinda running me crazy, so I used to sit on the back steps and smoke crack.”
His casual drug habit became a full-blown addiction as Jackson continued to “chase the wind” to get high – and he admits he could have died a little-known actor.
Appearing on U.S. TV’s The Late Show With David Letterman on Friday (30Sep11), Jackson confessed, “I was standing on the verge.”
He was saved by a drug counsellor friend in Tennessee after Jackson’s wife found him passed out on the floor as he was attempting to cook up his fix after a day of heavy drinking.
He added, “He called somewhere upstate in New York and I was in a rehab facility in the next day.”
Jackson has been sober for 21 years.