Michael B. Jordan has gone Hollywood in the best way possible. Not only did he add directing to his starring duties for Creed III—the latest edition of the "for us, by us" spinoff of the iconic Rocky franchise —but he also invited EBONY's February 2023 cover star Jonathan Majors to the party. Just from looking at the trailer, it’s clear that the result is magical.
Adonis “Donnie” Creed’s is now retired from boxing and settling into the role of husband, father, and businessman when the reappearance of his childhood friend Damian “Dame” Anderson, fresh off serving nearly 20 years in prison, forces him to face buried childhood trauma. Dame, it turns out, is not trying to reconnect but, instead, wants the life he believes Creed has stolen from him.
“The stakes are high,” Majors shared during the film’s premiere in Los Angeles. “Let’s say you want to get across the street in five minutes, you take your time. If you want to get across that street in two minutes, you move a little bit faster. For Dame, he’s got to be champ now.”
Dame’s presence brings up feelings of regret or survivor’s remorse in Adonis and even causes tension between him and his mom Mary-Anne, played by Phylicia Rashad, as well as his trainer Dukie, played by Wood Harris. “I think it’s one of those things of feeling like somebody’s who has made it out of the circumstances of his environment and succeeded and having friends and family [who have not] and asks, ‘why not them?,' why couldn’t they have made the same choices or gotten the same lucky breaks,” Majors explained. “I felt it was good to have that conversation and I’m glad it’s resonating with people.”
That’s no doubt due to the presence of the young Dame and Adonis in the film. At the premiere, Spence Moore II, previously best known as Chris Jackson on All American, shared how pivotal seeing a young Dame is to Creed III. “I don’t think that a young Dame shows you that he’s really a villain,” he explained. “I think it's a lot deeper than just what people think and that's why I love the fact that the span from the first time you see Dame to the second time you see Dame is so long because it really shows that a lot goes into the kid that you used to see into the grown man that you now see in the story later in the film.”
Majors and Jordan were also critical to building that rapport and consistency between the younger and older versions of Dame and Adonis. “Jonathan that’s big bro,” says Moore. “He always just made me feel welcome.”
For one of the early fight scenes, Moore recounted how “right before my scene, he literally hops into the ring and we had this moment where he’s almost transferring the spirit of Dame into me….it was such an epic moment for me and it just helped me know that connection-wise, we’re here and he had me no matter what.”
Thaddeus Matthews, who plays young Adonis, also shared how Jordan poured into him. “He always talked to me on set and made sure that I could really just catch his swag and bring that on camera,” he shared. “One day he actually took me around in a Ferrari and just gave me a bunch of game.”
Speaking with EBONY via phone, Tessa Thompson, who plays Donnie's wife Bianca, shared how her character and Donnie are “in a point in their relationship that's probably familiar for a lot of couples that have been together for some time and are parents. I think they're trying to navigate their own personal aspirations and balance their coupledom.”
Throughout the Creed franchise, Bianca has struggled with her hearing. To preserve what she has left, she has now pivoted to songwriting and producing. Being a great mom has also become a priority. Because their daughter Amara, played by adorable scene-stealer Mila Davis-Kent, is deaf, American Sign Language is a fixture throughout the film.
“What felt really important to us is to normalize it,” Thompson shared, also referencing Jordan. “She is a child who happens to be deaf and so you see her parents speak ASL. Their home is really structured around making it feel like home to her and being a home that she can navigate as a deaf child.”
Signing on the red carpet at the premiere, Davis-Kent, who was cast through a nationwide search, shared how seen she feels by Creed III. “This film is encouraging for the deaf because it shows representation. So Creed III actually has a real deaf person from the deaf community, from the deaf and Black community. Adonis and Bianca really learned American Sign Language for their daughter Amara so I feel that they were able to really show what deaf culture looks like and people can actually see that in the film, which is very amazing.”
According to Thompson, Jordan’s transition behind the camera was seamless. “It didn’t feel all that different. Somehow, I didn’t feel like I lost my scene partner. It felt quite natural,” she shared.
“This is his directorial debut, of course, but he’s been working since he was nine. And I think when you’re an actor and you’re on that movie set, you’re privy to the filmmaking process. I think the real big change I felt is just a sense of pride every day I saw him doing his thing and doing it so well, which is not to say I didn’t feel proud before when he was just my acting partner.”
As for his directing style with Creed III, Jordan has not hesitated to share the genre that’s impacted him most. “I just found ways to incorporate my passion and love for anime,” he said. “A lot of the brotherhood between Damian and Adonis resonates throughout anime culture in general.”
When he shot Creed III, he said he had no idea it was the first sports film shot with IMAX cameras. “I didn't know that going into it. I just thought, ‘okay, how many cameras is going to make it feel bigger and feel like you're right there in the ring with the fighters.'”
From the beginning Creed has always tried to really make its boxing world as real as possible. And this one is no exception. In addition to seeing familiar boxing faces like Canelo Alvarez and Yahya McClain, as well as sports streamer DAZN and Showtime’s long running All Access series, there’s notable sports personalities like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, as well as the strong presence of spirit giant Hennessy, which is also a fixture in boxing.
With Creed III, Jordan, who just received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, hasn’t just created an entertaining addition to the storied Rocky franchise. As the first Black actor to direct a multimillion-dollar franchise in which he stars, he is a trailblazer. If that weren’t enough, he is also the Creed franchise third consecutive Black director in an industry where those opportunities are still not as plentiful as they should be for Black directors. But Jordan, who has long distinguished himself from the most famous Michael Jordan of them all, is taking it all in stride and creating his own lane.
“I’m just living trying to build a legacy of my own.” And that he has.
Ronda Racha Penrice is the author of Black American History For Dummies and editor of Cracking The Wire During Black Lives Matter.