Did you know that this actress played an important role in launching Jack Black’s career?  Here’s why her pep talk mattered.

Did you know that this actress played an important role in launching Jack Black’s career? Here’s why her pep talk mattered.

Did you know that this actress played an important role in launching Jack Black’s career?  Here’s why her pep talk mattered.

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If you’re considering Jack Black, you may remember: School of RockNacho LibreVery trustworthy, jumanjic or his band, Tenacious D. But there’s one thing you don’t think about: Helen Keller.

She was a deaf, dumb and blind girl who was rescued by her teacher, Anne Sullivan, and eventually became an author, advocate for disability rights and teacher. Her story was embodied in the classic play and movie The miracle workerwhich starred actress Anne Bancroft as Sullivan.

How do we get this back to black?

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A life-changing connection

When Black was in high school, he played a supporting role in The miracle worker† Coincidentally, one of Black’s classmates was Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.

Even though Brooks was not on the show, his mother, one of the most famous celebrities of her time – who was known for her role as the iconic Mrs. Robinson in The graduate – was in attendance and gave the cast a pep talk before the performance.

Black, in his words, thought he “knocked it out of the park,” and he wasn’t alone.

“When we got home there was a message on the answering machine, it was Anne Bancroft, and she said, ‘Yaaaaack, you were born to do it. Born. To. Do it,'” he told Bob Odenkirk in a recent interview. “People thought your part was a thankless one, but I called the writer to tell him I just saw that part well played.”

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A mentor message

Black has never forgotten that call.

“I listened to it a hundred times, it gave me the confidence I needed at a very important moment,” recalls Black. “It gave me some rocket boosters for later in life.”

Sometimes I am asked for advice by a student, sometimes I have the opportunity to speak at a high school or college. Sometimes I do this. Because of my schedule, I often don’t.

That’s a shame because when you reach a certain age you can really make an impact on a young person’s life by taking a moment to offer words of encouragement. Even Anne Bancroft, a Tony and Oscar-winning icon, found the time to talk to the show’s writer about Black and then call him herself to praise him.

After hearing Jack’s story, I decided to do more of this because it could make a difference. It sure did to him. Because without Anne Bancroft, Jack Black Po might never have voiced Kung Fu Panda (and what a loss that would have been).

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