The Creators & Cast of ‘CREED III’ Reveal Behind The Scenes Details On The Critically Acclaimed Film
On March 3rd, the third installment of Creed, the new iteration of the Rocky franchise, hits theaters! This time the film is directed by lead star, Michael B. Jordan, the first time he takes his talents behind the camera. The cast of Creed III also includes Tessa Thompson, Wood Harris and Phylicia Rashad, Micha reprising their roles from previous films, and Jonathan Majors entering the fold as a worthy friend turned foe in this film’s epic battle.
Additional stars of Creed III include veteran actress Selenis Leyva, and a breakout performance by newcomer, Mila Davis-Kent. Ryan Coogler returns to the film as one of the producers, after producing both previous films and directing the first film in the series. Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin wrote the screenplay for the film.
We recently got the opportunity to see the film and experience the triumphant story on the big screen in an exclusive screening. Creed III is stunning visually, sonically it is incredibly pleasing, tying in some of Los Angeles’ finest artists in the first film in the franchise that is set entirely in the City of Angels.
We caught up with the cast of Creed III to talk about the new film at their recent global press conference. On hand were Michael B Jordan (Adonis Creed), Tessa Thompson (Bianca Taylor), Jonathan Majors (Damian “Dame” Anderson), Mila Davis-Kent (Amara Creed), Wood Harris (Tony “Little Duke” Evers), Selenis Leyva (Laura Chavez), Ryan Coogler, Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin.
Here’s the highlights from that conversation with the cast of Creed III, discussing the film, their roles, influencers and so much more.
Michael B. Jordan on getting ready to direct the film and Ryan Coogler’s influence
He definitely had a lot to do with it. He told me that I could direct. I think there was a moment where I was in awe of what he was doing. There was a time when seeing a Black man around my age, that I knew well or was getting to know at that time–commanding a set, while filming Fruitvale Station. Him telling me ‘Mike, you know, you can do this too.’ That was where the first seed got planted in my head that maybe I could do this one day. I didn’t know where it was gonna be, I didn’t know what movie I was going to step behind the camera on, but as we did Creed, and Creed II came along, and Stephen jumped into the director’s chair, I had that experience. And as we grew, the third one seemed like the right time to step into the director’s chair.
I think preparing to shoot this movie Ryan had a lot of thoughts, he was a great sounding board for me. So was Jon Favreau and Bradley Cooper and Denzel Washington. Those were some people I tapped into to get their thoughts as well. I really wanted to talk to actor-directors, knowing that was going to be a big challenge for me. Being behind the camera and in front of the camera simultaneously. Those people had a lot of success doing it, some of those their first project as a director as well, so that kind of helped me with what to expect–even though there was nothing they could tell me that could really prepare me for what to expect. It’s just one of those things were you have to be there. You have to live it and get through. The hardest thing I’ve had to do thus far, but also the most rewarding.
Michael B. Jordan did clarify that Ryan Cooger did not tell he that he should direct this one, it kind of came organically. That said, he sounds like he’s all but certain to step into the director’s role again in his career, probably sooner than later.
Tessa Thompson on her role as Bianca this third time, with Michael B. Jordan offering up the direction
I think something I’ve always really enjoyed about making these films, and that began with Ryan and our work together, is I feel like I’ve always been invited to really be a co-author and to be a part of the collaborative process of building Bianca together with them. So it feels like I’ve gotten to continue to do that. I think the interesting thing over making these films over the course of nine years, I think the thing that I have found so fascinating is the ways in which our growth, our personal growth as people gets to be communicated inside of the characters in a way. And that is a very unique thing. I mean we’re separate in a way, but I think, some of the things that our characters are contending with and some of the things that Mike, and I are contending with personally, we get to explore in the context of these films. And I think that’s something that is really a gift.
Jonathan Majors on taking on his character, Damian “Dame” Anderson, and how he shaped the character to make it his own
I think the most ancient quality that was put in by the homies, was this aspiration for freedom and not just physical freedom, but mental freedom. And that’s what never changed, that never shifted. That was the thing that I went, ‘OKAY, that makes sense to me.’ They baked it in, Mike saw it, we went after it. You know, it’s something that it’s the most universal quality in the piece. Second to that was brotherhood, I think, and that brotherhood becomes paramount because that’s connected between our hero and me. So those two elements and the changing of the name is all about implication. His name was originally Brandon, and then Mike came with Dame. OK. Dame right, it’s wrong, Damian. And then whatever that generic last name was, it was up in the air to be changed, potentially. And I said, well, how about Anderson?
Anderson is my maternal last name. It’s my mother’s last name. One of the highlights of the experience was when Mike said yes to that. And then when I walked in, you know, the day of fighting and yeah, we’ve done all our prep and I’m still, you know I’m in a Rocky movie mode, I’m in the Creed movie, I’m about to fight. Like, go be. You’re a little nervous. There’s a little something going on, but you look out there and you see, you know, Adonis, you see Anderson. And that type of implication that type of like, oh, we’re here now. This is me. This Is Us.
Tessa Thompson on balancing the strength and the delicateness of her character
I actually was really interested in this time around getting to see a softening from her. I think something that’s always been interesting, and I remember Ryan and I would have conversations on the first one was like chipping away at this exterior that was outwardly very, very tough and guarded in a way, and I think over the course of the films we’ve seen that soften. I think motherhood is something that softened–has softened her tremendously.
I think so often there is this idea, particularly of black womanhood that has to do with strength, that we are the pillars of our community, that we are the backbones of our family, that we lift our men up. And that’s beautiful. And that is very often true, and also it is not hard earned, you know, and it’s not easy. It feels like an honest portrayal of her that she gets to also unravel some.
Ryan Coogler on being able to see the film come together from the outside
It was great to watch Mike work and it’s super rewarding to be able to support filmmakers. It gives you a different type of creative fulfillment, and I love it. So, I was always happy to get the text messages or to come by. It was a very satisfying experience to be involved in, to help him realize his vision.
Selenis Leyva on how her character, Laura exudes a powerfulness that she also relates to
You know, I’m a Mama. I’m a Mama bear, and I protect the people I love. And when there’s conviction, when there’s, you know, passion, you go for it. And that’s what I loved about this character. She was written so well and thank you guys. I love that this movie, although when people think about a boxing film, they automatically think male, and the power of the man. But here, the power of the women also exists in this film. From Mila’s character to Tessa to Laura. So I love that. I love that it’s well-rounded and powerful. Black and Brown people doing their thing.
Ryan Coogler on his relationship, friendship and partnership with Michael B Jordan after 10 years of working together
Over 10 years relationships change. People change, you know, and what was best about working with him when we first started has shifted now. Now is the fact that you know me really well. So I think that adds like an added color that comes with that. So, when you know somebody and you see them do something new and it gives you a different type of joy. Like when I first met him, I knew he could act, you know? And so it wasn’t like, oh, man, Mike did a great job acting, like it’s not a surprise, you know? But now seeing him? Or can he do a sports film, you know? Can he do action movies? You know what I mean? Can he direct? You know, like, in seeing the growth and seeing him knock it out the park with any and each thing, not without struggles. You know what I’m saying? Not without going to the mat and having to get back up, it’s a really, really like I keep you using this word, but it’s satisfying. It’s rewarding. You know, it’s affirming.
Felt this way about Tessa, felt this way about Jonathan, and they talk about authorship, but I’ll meet them and say, I think this person is a director, you know what I’m saying? Like they acting now, but I can see a world where you know, directed by Tessa Thompson, and directed by Jonathan Majors. You know what I’m saying? And me as a filmmaker, I get excited about these movies because I want to watch them, you know? To see this happen, it affirms that suspicion I had about this creative, you know ten years later, like, ‘Oh yeah, he had it in him’, and that’s fantastic. And to be a part of it. Man, forget about it!
Keenan Coogler on co-writing the screenplay after previously working on the previous films in other roles
I used to make fun of him cause I thought he was making the whole thing up cause we shared a room at the time. At my parents house And sorry buddy, he was working on the script, literally from the idea in his head and he would talk about it and then he would go out and have these telephone conversations with “Sylvester Stallone.” And he would talk on the phone and he would go down the street and you just see him pacing up and down the Street talking. And I thought he was making the entire thing up, cause like no fucking way!
No way would Stallone even answer that phone call, right? And then I worked on the movie. So, if you watch Creed I, I’m literally underneath the ring in pretty much all the shots. So, Ryan had to set up a little village that would be underneath the ring so that we wouldn’t have to Sprint off camera every take. And that was me. That was me underneath there, watching these guys create this character. But the funniest part, honestly, has been watching the character of Adonis change hands, but the entire time, everybody who has has implicated themselves in this character. They’re growing up with them in real time and it’s really interesting because I’ve been working with these two for, you know, over 10 years now and we’ve all sort of grown up with this character. So, the scenes get super emotional because everybody is implicated in them. You know, when Adonis is struggling, it’s hard not to imagine where that came from. You know, and I really love that this character has always been, like, equal parts Mike and Ryan, and Mike’s been a Big Brother to me from day one. To now sort of be tethered by this actual character that people respond to. It just makes it that much more fun to write the character. And I’m a genre guy. So like I came on the first day trying to pull Mike’s references out of him. I know he likes anime, but I know he’s not gonna always lead with that in these big scary rooms. I was the one that was like, no. Tell them it was from episode one of this and we liked it, and we went to put this in the movie and we believed in it.
Jonathan Majors on his personal inspirations for Damien “Dame” Anderson
First and foremost, it was my step dad. The idea of freedom I spoke about earlier, my stepdad was locked up 15 years before he got with my mom and then raised me up. So the ankle monitor situation, the PO, you know, I was the kid that was like to make sure Dad got home on time, you know, before the parole officer. I watched it. I watched that happen. My step dad, Joe, I’m gonna say his name. He tried out for the Dallas Cowboys. I’m from Dallas. Almost made it, almost made it to the Cowboys. He was in the second round. I watched that aspiration. I watched that hustle, you know, I watched that dream that he had! That young boy that had the aspirations to be more, to be free. So that’s a big part of it, probably 50%.
And then we had the brother Ryan’s best friend, Delo. He actually had experienced very much the life that Dame had experienced. You know, I got pictures of Delo standing, and how he stood. There’s a certain decorum to the lifestyle that Delo still walked with, talked with it, and I could check in with him. At the time of the day, every time we saw each other, it was us talking that shit you know. It was like, yeah, I was like, boom, we was in it! That was paramount, I think as far as inspiration. Yeah, I watched all the Rocky films, but it was very clear to me that the only thing that was really important was who Adonis was in this third installment. And how to antagonize this character? How to help this character continue his hero’s journey? And so I studied Adonis and I studied Mike and I saw everything. I saw his values and us being brothers, you know, being close friends, how our values have to be similar and how we went after it had to be different. And so that is a lot of the film, all relational for Dame. Dame lives and dies on his relationship with Adonis Creed. Everything else is set decoration. You know it’s all about him. And so that was the most fertile, I think, inspiration.
Creed III is in theaters now! Be sure to check it out.
Main Image: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Stringer | Getty Image
Additional Images provided by MGM
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