Most well known for being the voice of the ominous Darth Vader, James Earl Jones has had a long-standing career in the entertainment industry. But, as a Star Wars fan, I'm ashamed to admit...I had no idea he got his start at a little theater in Manistee, MI.

How It Began

James Earl Jones, born in Mississippi, came to Michigan with his family early on in his life which may have been the very thing that led to his successful acting career. He attended Dickson High School where he met a teacher that helped him overcome a stutter. And, he would later return to be a part of the Manistee Summer Theater Company.

Jones would go on to perform on the Ramsdell Theater's stage in 1953, '55, '56, and '57 as Todd Jones, a stage name he used before reverting to his birth name.

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It's said that Jones actually began his theater work as a carpenter building sets for stage productions at Ramsdell Theater before stepping on stage as an actor. And, like most actors at the beginning of their careers, he found himself living in less than ideal conditions, sleeping in an old theater tower on Maple and First Street in Manistee. See? Even the greats start out as starving artists.

How It's Going

Obviously, since finding his passion for acting in the relatively small town of Manistee, James Earl Jones has gone on to have a wildly successful career. His titles include:

  • Star Wars - the voice of Darth Vader
  • Lion King - the voice of Mufasa
  • Coming to America (and Coming to America 2)
  • The Hunt for Red October

And a lot more. A total of 187 credits, to be precise. A few years ago, he also lent his powerful stage presence and voice to a few Sprint commercials. James Earl Jones reading text lingo out loud? It's genius:

Totes. Magoats.

His impressive career also earned him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017:

All of this because he found a spark on a little stage in Manistee, Michigan. Mind, officially, blown.


Before you go, did you know that James Earl Jones attended the University of Michigan as a pre-med student before deciding that he wanted to pursue acting? Read more here.

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