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James Earl Jones on Broadway

In Driving Miss Daisy, he gives voice to a new character

"Every act you take in life, you take a journey," Jones says, objecting to use of the word challenge. "Sometimes there's a hill on that journey, and you climb that hill. That hill, you might call a challenge. In life, I've avoided the stages of panic you have when you think, 'Oh, this is going to be a challenge,' by looking at things as possibilities, not challenges."

Jones' perspective is interesting when one considers how he was raised by an African/Native American grandmother who was "more racist than anyone I'd ever met."

"Life had given her a bad hand, and she hated everybody," Jones says. "White people first, then Indians for having black slaves, then black people for allowing it to happen. Nobody was exempt from her fury. She trained us to be racists, and we had to learn different. We had to learn to think for ourselves, which was the best thing she could have done for me."

Jones — who will continue with Driving Miss Daisy through April 9, and who was just announced as the star of the upcoming Broadway play Gore Vidal's The Best Man, in which he'll play a fictional former U.S. president — has come far as both an actor and a person with the philosophy that viewing life's travails through any hurtful prism is counterproductive. Still working hard at 80 with no sign of slowing, Jones has found just the right recipe for squeezing every drop of joy out of life.

"Bitterness doesn't get you very far. It creates a little cancer in you," he says. "That includes all the negative feelings — including the anxiety of challenge."

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