Samuel L. Jackson calls 'Ptolemy Grey' an Alzheimer's fairy tale

Samuel L. Jackson calls 'Ptolemy Grey' an Alzheimer's fairy tale
Samuel L. Jackson starred in and executive produced "The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey" on Apple TV+. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, March 10 (UPI) -- Samuel L. Jackson calls his new TV series, The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, premiering Friday on Apple TV+, a modern-day fairy tale.

In the adaptation of Walter Mosley's book, Jackson, 73, plays Ptolemy Grey, a 91-year-old man with dementia given a chance to temporarily regain his memories.


"Walter created a drug and a person that comes with a cure," Jackson said on a recent Television Critics Association Zoom panel. "It's not a real thing."

Since there is no real-life cure for Alzheimer's disease, Jackson said Ptolemy Grey offers wish fulfillment for people dealing with it. The fictional treatment allows Grey to recall his memories one more time before losing them again.

"It's based in the reality of, yes, someone who has lost himself over the years," Jackson said.

Jackson, a co-producer, said he had tried to set up an adaptation of Mosley's book for 10 years after growing up with a grandfather, uncle, aunt, mother and extended family members who had Alzheimer's.


"I watched them change, deteriorate and become different people over the years," he said.

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is about Grey reclaiming his self-worth in a world that abandoned him.

"You are still a worthwhile individual, even though a lot of people discard you," Jackson said. "Like some people say, some garbage is other people's treasure."

Over the 10 years he was developing the series, Jackson said he resisted studios that wanted to make one standalone film. The Apple TV+ series runs six hourlong episodes.

"When we were trying to deal with other people to get it made, they wanted to make it as an hour-and-a-half-long movie, which was impossible," Jackson said. "I was always banging my head against the wall about that because I never wanted to tell the story that way."

As a movie star, Jackson holds the record as the actor with the highest box office total. . Thanks to roles in the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, and films of Quentin Tarantino, Jackson's films have racked up high grosses.

He also has nearly 200 film credits, including Do the Right Thing, Goodfellas, Jurassic Park, Shaft, Snakes on a Plane and Unbreakable. Many of Jackson's roles have been in heavy dramas like Ptolemy Grey.


Do the Right Thing was Spike Lee's charged racism drama. Jackson played a homeless man in The Caveman's Valentine and Resurrecting the Champ.

He played a veteran with PTSD in Home of the Brave and bluesman who holds a sex addict prisoner in Black Snake Moan. Like his other dramatic roles, Jackson said playing Ptolemy Grey did not weigh on him after wrapping.

Jackson said he always separates his work from his real-life emotions.

"I'm not a method actor," Jackson said. "I just kind of turned on the emotional asset that I'm able to access. Then when I get off, I talk to my agent on the phone about things that I need to do later on."

But he can relate to simple memory loss issues.

"Every time I walk into a room, and I can't remember why I walked in there, or I can't remember the name of an actor in this movie, all those things mean something to me," Jackson said. "It's an honest and, hopefully, endearing assessment of the deterioration of life that a lot of us face."

Jackson said he hopes to continue to work into his 90s. Though his family has a history of Alzheimer's, Jackson said they also have a history of longevity.


"I got a 94-year-old aunt in L.A. who would take credit for everything that I do in my life," Jackson said. "She's the first person that made me act or recite something."

He is also taking good care of himself to ensure he has many more productive years ahead.

"I discovered the value of sleep," Jackson said. "I used to sleep like three hours a night. But sleep is so valuable, and I treasure it now."

Jackson added that he reads to keep his mind active, and hires masseurs and acupuncturists.

Two episodes of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey premiere Friday, with new episodes released weekly on Apple TV+.

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