Pos­i­tive spin James Earl Jones’ wise words

Ac­tor James Earl Jones – the voice of Darth Vader – shares his type 2 di­a­betes in­sights

Diabetic Living - - Contents -

Af­ter a sur­prise type 2 di­ag­no­sis more than 20 years ago, James Earl Jones learnt to raise his own level of aware­ness. His mother and sev­eral other mem­bers of his Michi­gan-raised farm­ing fam­ily had di­a­betes but, like many, he was still shocked when he was told he had di­a­betes in his six­ties. “My di­ag­no­sis hit me like a thun­der­bolt,” Jones, 86, tells Di­a­betic Liv­ing.

Best known for voic­ing Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mu­fasa in The Lion King, Jones starred along­side Vanessa Red­grave in Driv­ing Miss Daisy on Broad­way and Lon­don’s West End in

2010 and 2011, and, in 2013, with An­gela Lans­bury in the pro­duc­tion that toured Australia for four months.

His health jour­ney, how­ever, has been one of his hard­est parts. “I’ve had the chance to do some very in­ter­est­ing roles in my ca­reer, but I find that liv­ing with type 2 di­a­betes is one of the most chal­leng­ing roles I’ve ever had,” Jones says.

Af­ter his di­ag­no­sis, Jones – whose film cred­its also in­clude Field of Dreams and The Hunt for Red Oc­to­ber – put to­gether a team of med­i­cal ex­perts. “I’ve cer­tainly had to make life­style changes, like ex­er­cis­ing more and watch­ing what I eat,” said Jones, who owns a prop­erty in up­state New York. “I try to walk in the woods be­hind my house and in my neigh­bour­hood as of­ten as I can. I make health­ier food choices now, too.”

Over­com­ing hur­dles

Af­ter the 2016 death of his wife of 34 years, ac­tress Ce­cilia Hart, who passed away af­ter a bat­tle with ovar­ian cancer, Jones’s main sup­port is their son Flynn. He as­sists with his fa­ther’s diet and health ap­point­ments. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it with­out the help from my fam­ily,” Jones has said.

Di­a­betes is not the only hur­dle the ac­tor has taken in his stride. As a child he learnt to man­age his stut­ter with pub­lic speak­ing and act­ing. “Stut­ter­ing is painful,” he has said. “In Sun­day school, I’d try to read my lessons and the chil­dren be­hind me were fall­ing on the floor with laugh­ter. But by the time I got to school, my stut­ter­ing was so bad that I gave up try­ing to speak prop­erly.”

His high school teacher Don­ald Crouch en­cour­aged him to read po­etry aloud to his class­mates and take up de­bat­ing

If you want to lift your­self up, lift up

some­one else – Booker T. Wash­ing­ton,

Ed­u­ca­tor

and dra­matic read­ing classes. To this day, Jones man­ages his stut­ter by avoid­ing some sounds in­clud­ing ‘M’. And as a re­sult, he says he has a much wider vo­cab­u­lary than those who “have more choices of words at their dis­posal”.

Jones’s pos­i­tive spin on his stut­ter, which led him to the ca­reer that he loves, is much like his take on di­a­betes. It’s some­thing he knows has en­riched his health. n

The ac­tor, who has type 2, is proac­tive about his di­a­betes

care. Left: Ce­cilia Hart and

James Earl Jones

at­tend the 70th An­nual

Tony Awards just months be­fore Hart’s death in

2016.

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