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James Earl Jones Stutter

Why Did James Earl Jones Refuse to Speak When He was a Child?

James Earl Jones is quite popular for his deep resonating voice. The actor’s voice was used in several iconic roles such as Darth Vader and even animated characters like Mufasa from The Lion King. What is surprising to know, the actor whose voice we are very familiar with was not always as confident in speaking. Did you know he refused to speak when he was a child?

As a child, James Earl Jones refused to speak because of a severe stutter. To overcome his speaking disability, Jones performed in poetry readings as suggested by his high school teacher. This in turn influenced him to pursue acting.

James Earl Jones’ Stutter

The iconic voice that brought Darth Vader to life has always been perceived as an excellent speaker. But this wasn’t always true. Jones grew up in Mississippi during The Great Depression. He was adopted by his grandparents who loved him dearly. Jones started to develop a stutter which affected his confidence and led him to stay quiet for much of his childhood.

As a small child, I would communicate to my family, or at least those who didn’t mind being embarrassed by my stutter or my being embarrassed, I did communicate with the animals quite freely. They don’t care how you sound, they just want to hear your voice. But by the time I got to school, my stuttering was so bad that I gave up trying to speak properly.

James Earl Jones, Actor

What’s fascinating is, that at the age of 91, Jone still stutters. He said it was not cured, but that he just learned to work with his speech impediment.

For me, it never ends. I’m still a journeyman actor. But you’re on a journey — and it’s one foot in front of the other.

James Earl Jones, Actor

(Source: NPR)

How Did He Improve His Speaking?

Jones admitted that he became non-verbal as a kid. This meant he focused on other things like writing. He liked to be quiet in his thoughts and write about what he thought and feels. In addition, he says that being quiet also turned him into a good listener, you end up appreciating the writing and listening because you focus more on experience than speaking.

But it came to a point where Jones knew he can’t be reserved all throughout his life. With the help of his high school English teacher, things changed.

I had an English teacher in high school who discovered that when I read my own poetry I didn’t stutter, because I wasn’t in confrontation with other peoples’ feelings or thoughts, but my own. And it came out better so I practiced reading poetry for a while and I think that’s what got me into a feeling for reading dramatic interpretations.

James Earl Jones, The Actor

(Source: Stamma)

How Did James Earl Jones Get the Role of Darth Vader? 

The director of the Star Wars series, George Lucas was on the hunt for the perfect voice for the antagonist of the film. He spent time listening to recordings of well-known actors. At the time, Jones had just finished filming with two of Lucas’ pals when he ran into him. Though he was initially concerned about casting the film’s only black actor as a villain, Jones’ baritone proved to be ideal for the role. 

Jones refused to have his name in the credits of the film. He felt that his contribution was not significant enough as a different actor played the role of Darth Vader in the film. All they needed was his voice. (Source: NPR)

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