Jonathan Majors Talks Preparing for ‘Avengers: The Kang Dynasty’ With Director Destin Daniel Cretton, Why He Wants to Play Dennis Rodman
If it seems like Jonathan Majors is everywhere lately, that’s because he has been.
Michael B. Jordan shared the first official look of Majors as boxer Damian “Dame” Anderson in “Creed III” on Monday morning, but Variety caught up with the actor over the weekend at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Gala and the Newport Beach Film Festival honors.
When the topic of his whirlwind few months came up, Majors summed it up simply: “It’s just the season,” he told Variety’s Angelique Jackson at Newport Beach on Sunday.
Well, it certainly has been Majors’ season. The actor was honored at the festival with an Artist of Distinction award for his role in “Devotion,” in which he portrays pioneering fighter pilot Jesse Brown, the Navy’s first Black aviator. Following that part, the actor has a stacked slate of films in the works, including his eagerly-anticipated arrival as Kang the Conqueror in Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” due out in February.
At the Academy Gala on Saturday, Majors shared his excitement about joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Variety’s Marc Malkin, saying, “Every time they call and say, ‘Hey, we need you for this,’ it’s another miracle.
While he just aims to take his Marvel duties “scene by scene,” it’s not lost on the actor precisely how “epic” is it to be part of these films. “Every time there’s an event about it or something breaks about it, I go, ‘Yeah this is real,’” he said.
The first time he saw himself as Kang, Majors “couldn’t quite believe” it was him on screen. “Because he looks different than I do. He is a different man than I am. He used all my material, but he’s a different cat,” he cracked. “When I first heard the trailer, I didn’t recognize the voice, and he was narrating the whole thing. I was like, ‘What is that?’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a great line. That’s a bar; that is a bar.’ And then they showed who it is and I was like, ‘Oh, oh, oh, okay, cool.’”
The world has yet to get their first glimpse at Kang — save for lucky fans who saw the trailer at Comic-Con and D23 — but everyone has seen the actor’s recent physical transformation, courtesy of his ab-tastic Men’s Health cover, which exploded on to the internet last week. The recipe for those: “Work. Time. Prayer. Rice and chicken, six times a day” he quipped, noting that the training wasn’t “hard,” but it was like an event. It was a year-and-a-half of his life with a regimen of “Wake up, workout, act, sleep, repeat.”
As an integral part of Marvel’s Phase 5, Kang’s road leads to 2025’s “Avengers: The Kang Dynasty,” recently announced to be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”). At the Newport Best Film Festival on Sunday, Majors confirmed he and Cretton have already begun having conversations about the story arc.
“Well, we just had a few chats. We spoke for a very long time,” Majors shared. “He’s an open mind. He’s an open heart. He and the work that he does is grounded and that’s the most important part about it.”
He then explained why Cretton’s approach is so paramount.
“We’re dealing with myths: what is a ‘Kang’? What is a movie? You know, what is an MCU movie? What does that mean? What’s that look like?” Majors observed. “Those are the questions we are asking, but all of that works when it’s grounded and really, really really, tucked into the given circumstances of what’s going on between these people and what we can illuminate for ourselves as a species.”
Even the question about what makes Kang — who is set up to be the MCU’s new primary antagonist — a villain is in question. “What is a villain?”
Following his MCU moment, Majors will star as an amateur bodybuilder in “Magazine Dreams” and then play opposite Willem Dafoe in “The Man in My Basement,” the film adaptation of Walter Mosley’s bestselling novel. The Emmy-nominated actor is also circling the chance to play Dennis Rodman in Lionsgate’s “48 Hours in Vegas,” about the then-Chicago Bulls star’s infamous trip during the 1998 NBA Finals.
“His character as a man is one that is unbridled,” Majors said of Rodman, explaining that questions like “What is to be free? To make your choices, regardless of the impending consequences?” are what he most loves to explore.
“He’s eclectic. He’s an open mind. He’s an open heart. And, selfishly, you want to play a role like that, because it’s gonna push you to that place,” Majors explained. “Jesse Brown teaches me things about my soul and spirit. I know Rodman’s going to too, and I’m just looking forward to getting into it.”
For now, though, Majors is focused on “Devotion.” The film, directed by J.D. Dillard, made its world premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival and has been flying across the festival circuit ever since, earning rave reviews at every stop.
“My brother, the president of Newport [Beach Film Fest.] pulled me aside and he’s been very complimentary about the film. He said that his father was in the Navy, and that he loved that it was a true depiction of it,” Majors shared. “When I looked at his face, I felt that he meant it. He’s a middle aged, beautiful man from a different background and myself, and he’s being touched by it. So I go, okay, that’s what we want to do.”
Majors was joined at the event by Dillard, who presented him with the award, and his co-star Christina Jackson, who was also honored as one of Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch.
Majors was even more excited for Jackson than he was for himself. “I remember how we worked on the set together — her excitement, her focus, her willingness to try,” he explained. “I’ve been watching her for a long time and so I’m glad everybody else is waking up.”
“Devotion” hits theaters on Nov. 23.
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