How Jonathan Majors prepared to fight Michael B. Jordan in ‘Creed III’

How Jonathan Majors prepared to fight Michael B. Jordan in ‘Creed III’

Although he went above and behind in physical preparation, the rising star says his favorite moments were dialogue-heavy acting scenes.

Christian Holub

Jonathan Majors is a hot commodity in Hollywood right now. Coming off his scene-stealing breakthrough performance in The Last Black Man in San Francisco  and his starring role on Lovecraft Country, Majors has now been unveiled as the next great supervillain of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If that wasn’t enough, the Sundance premiere of his new film Magazine Dreams has some critics betting that he’ll be a factor in the awards race this time next year. 

This weekend, Majors also steps up as the latest challenger to Michael B. Jordan‘s champion boxer Adonis Creed in Creed III. The stakes are high for this film, considering that it’s both the first Creed installment to not feature Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa and also Jordan’s debut as director, so it was imperative that the star secure a worthy antagonist. In order to secure Majors’ participation, Jordan reached out to the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania star personally. 

“I got it directly from the source,” Majors tells EW. “I mean, really directly: He asked for my mobile number, I gave it to him, we FaceTimed, and he pitched me on the film. I knew Creed III was around, and I figured he was directing, since that’s kind of what everyone was saying. He confirmed it and he walked me through what the story was going to be.”

“Ultimately, the thing that got my attention was how he was pitching it, with so much passion and clarity, and that this would be a character coming in who we’ve not seen before,” Majors says. “I thought it was a huge opportunity to join the franchise, and also to work alongside Michael and learn everything he’s experienced in his twenty-plus years of working in this industry.” 

Jordan has been acting on screen since he was a child, starting with his heartbreaking portrayal of drug-dealer-turned-informant Wallace on The Wire before moving on to even bigger roles on All My Children and Friday Night Lights. Majors had a different childhood: As he told EW at this year’s Sundance, he grew up around ex-convicts with ankle monitors, eventually got arrested for shoplifting in his own right, and was later kicked out of his home. Majors found solace in theater, studying at University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts and the Yale School of Drama before making his film debut in 2017’s Hostiles

These differences ended up fueling the fictional characters on screen. Majors’ Damian Anderson is a childhood friend of Adonis who spent more than a decade in jail while the son of Apollo Creed was winning championship belts. Although the bare outlines of the character were in place when Jordan first reached out to Majors, they built the rest together. 

“The character’s name was originally Brandon — it was completely different,” Majors says. “There was a vehicle, but the vehicle had no paint on it and it had no wheels. We just knew who was going to drive it. The design of it was essentially very Mary Shelley.”

Creed III

Jonathan Majors in ‘Creed III.’

| Credit: Eli Ade/MGM

They got additional help from original Creed director Ryan Coogler. Although Coogler was too busy reconfiguring Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s death to spend much time on the set of Creed III, he connected Majors with his friend D’Angelo “D’Lo” Louis. 

“I just know a lot of people who have been in and out, some people who have been more in than out, and got to speak to them,” Majors says. “This fellow named D’Lo, who’s Ryan Coogler’s best friend, he was more or less my consultant and diviner on the piece to make sure we were always within the lines of the truthfulness of what it would be like to be an incarcerated man at this time.”  

Another part of the preparation was physical. Anyone who’s seen a trailer for Creed III knows that both Majors and Jordan built lots of muscles before their climactic ring fight. In the classic tradition of Rocky, the new movie boasts training montages showing the excruciating lengths both Adonis and Damian go to in advance of their battle — including Majors pulling himself up tall ropes on the beach purely through upper-body strength. 

“The ropes were a very inspiring choice,” Majors recalls. “It was not mandatory, I was not even asked to go up the rope that way. But when we got to the beach, I looked at it and thought, Why not? I think I can, I think I can. So when they said ‘action,’ I just went up. That was a pretty great moment.” 

But despite the intense physicality of Creed III, Majors says his favorite moments with Jordan were the quieter ones. In particular, he calls out the scene where Adonis and Damian attend a record label party hosted by Bianca (Tessa Thompson) as a highlight of the shoot. 

“I think the acting scenes, when it’s just me and him chatting, like at the record label party, those are just fun,” Majors says. “That’s where it’s most intimate, because we’re acting. We both really love this thing, we both dedicated our careers to it, and now we’re getting to spend time together in it. Those moments are quite special.” 

Creed III is in theaters now.

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