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James Earl Jones Talks Growing Up With A Racist Grandmother On BBC World News

James Earl Jones

First Posted: 12/07/11 06:19 PM ET Updated: 12/08/11 09:49 PM ET

James Earl Jones opened up about the "most racist person" he has ever known: his grandmother.

During an interview with BBC News, the actor and famous voice of Darth Vader, shared information about growing up in rural Mississippi with his grandmother whom he said was profoundly racist, despite her Cherokee, Choctaw Indian and African American roots.

"She was the most racist person, bigoted person I've ever known," Jones told BBC's Stephen Sackur. "She trained us that way. She would consider it defensive racism, but it's still racism, it's still the same poison."

Jones said he credits his grandmother with giving him his "first need for independent thinking" after he moved from Mississippi to Michigan, and giving him the ability to empathize with racists.

I'd go to school with white kids and Indian kids. I knew they weren't the devils that she said they were. I had to start thinking for myself, and I had to start understanding the extent to which she was right too. But I can now live in the shoes of racists. When I hear about racists, I know exactly what they're feeling. I said 'I'm gonna allow myself to feel that, just for the hell of it.' So I know what they're going through.

The actor is currently starring in "Driving Miss Daisy" alongside Vanessa Redgrave at the Wyndham's Theatre in London. In November, he received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement onstage after a performance, where he graciously accepted the award.

"You cannot be an actor like I am and not have been in some of the worst movies like I have," he said. "But I stand before you deeply honored, mighty grateful and just plain gobsmacked."

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Filed by Danielle Cadet  |