Jonathan Majors on the Physical and Mental Challenges of Playing a Boxer in Creed 3

Jonathan Majors on the Physical and Mental Challenges of Playing a Boxer in Creed 3

In 2015, the Rocky franchise got another shot in the ring with the release of Creed, a sequel that saw Sylvester Stallone’s iconic boxer become the mentor to Adonis Creed, the son of his former opponent. Creed 3 is the first film in the saga that really steps out of the shadow of Rocky, with Michael B. Jordan pioneering Donnie’s story into a new era as both star and director.

When things pick up in the latest chapter, Donnie is sitting at the top of the world as a boxing champion and family man. With Stallone sitting this movie out, Creed 3 needed a new and formidable screen talent, and thus, Jonathan Majors was cast as Donnie’s new friend turned rival, Damian Anderson.

Training (and training montages) has always been a vital part of the Rocky franchise, but it is also a reality for the actors on screen. Speaking to Lifehacker Australia while in Sydney, Jonathan Majors said that stepping into the shoes of a boxer in Creed 3 required both physical and mental preparation:

“I have been athletic my entire life, but there comes a point, especially in boxing, where you kind of live in the red line,” Majors explained. “The fight is won or lost in the red line, you know? So when you train you’re always trying to get yourself to that point.”

“The thing that happens in that moment is the mental. The mental gets activated, and you begin to kind of question everything you’ve ever done. Should I be in this room? Did I train well enough? Did I eat well enough? Do I really want to win this fight, or do I just want to survive this fight? And that was one of the keys to kind of unlocking Damian.”

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Jonathan Majors and Michael B. Jordan in Creed 3 (Image: Warner Bros)

Majors added that the training and experiences he went through on Creed 3 equipped him with a mentality he’s taken with him in his own life.

“People say if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. It’s actually quite true. Especially when you’re in those moments,” he said.

“One of the questions I began to ask myself on Creed 3, in the training, in between takes… I was asking, ‘Am I dying now? Like the way I feel, the way my legs feel, the way my head is banging, the way my lungs are on fire, is this death?’ No, this is not death. This is actually life. It’s actually really, really living.”

“So I began to get addicted to that shindig and trying to get to that point. But that mentality, that model of am I dying? It’s kind of allowed me to know when I’m in a good spot, when I’m really growing as an individual.”

In the film, Damian begins as a friend to Donnie, but after serving a long prison sentence he’s eager to reclaim the life he’s missed out on and forges a path in the world of boxing. Eventually, Donnie and Damian find themselves facing off.

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Jonathan Majors and Michael B. Jordan in Creed 3 (Image: Warner Bros)

For Majors, that meant staring down not just his co-star but also his director in the ring, which he said allowed him to be “covered on all sides”.

“We have this saying in drama school. We say, ‘You’re the captain of my ship. If I’m in the scene with you, I can only do what you allow me to do.’ The beauty of that was, most of my scenes are with Michael. And so Damian and Adonis, that intimacy, that connection, I can only do what he allows me to do, you know? So in many ways, just [Michael] being the seasoned and incredible actor that he is, he was directing me through the scene that way.”

The actor has proven himself to be a magnetic presence on screen, particularly of late. While starring in two major franchise blockbusters in the space of a month – that being Creed 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – may seem a massive task, Majors said he wasn’t intimidated.

“[I was] equally excited, and equally honoured to step into both. I am a big fan of the MCU, and what it represents in cinema, and also the Creed and Rocky-verse, and what it represents for cinema and for the culture at large.”

Majors certainly left an impact when he debuted as Kang in Quantumania, but will he deliver another knockout performance as Damian?

Find out when Creed III releases in cinemas on March 2. 

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