In 2020, when I first interviewed Jonathan Majors, he was on the cusp of making it big as an actor and becoming a household name. With a few pivotal projects under his belt and more already lined up, I wanted to know how the Cedar Hill–raised actor decided which roles were right for him. “I look for what responsibility the character has in telling the story,” Majors said at the time. “If you remove the role from the story, can you still tell the story properly? And if the answer is no, then I’m interested.” Even then, his policy was no small roles. Now, over the span of two weeks, he’s in two A-list projects that will solidify his arrival as a full-fledged movie star.
As Kang the Conqueror (a version of whom he played in the last episode of the Loki TV series), Majors is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest supervillain. Even with Majors on the roster, it was a struggle to get invested in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. His role was at odds with the movie—he was playing an important figure in an unimportant story. The plot, in which Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang attempts to rescue his family from the quantum realm while preventing Kang from escaping it, just never felt that captivating. Majors didn’t appear as Kang until more than halfway through the film, and even then, his assured performance felt stifled by the disjointed narrative (and that outfit). It was a poor introduction to Kang, one that didn’t fit the magnitude of the menace his character should be.
It wasn’t until the end credit scene—when (spoiler) a stadium’s worth of Kangs from across the multiverse gather to plot their next moves—that I finally felt something Marvel may not have intended: an urge to root for the bad guy. Majors had been willing to walk out of a meeting with Marvel executives, so if he’d decided to stick around and say yes, it made sense that it would be for a role as multifaceted as the multiverse. Maybe Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, slated for 2025, will give Majors the space to fully embody someone who calls themselves “the Conqueror.”
What felt missing from his role in Quantumania was a bit of clownery. A 2022 New York Times profile of Majors explores “the clown,” a method of physical acting that he learned at Yale School of Drama that taught him how to imbue his characters with a sense of fearlessness and ease. “The clown is the unsocialized self,” explained Christopher Bayes, one of Majors’s former professors. “If we can get out of that social body, what is left behind is a kind of beautiful playfulness and audacity.” And it’s what anchors his role as Damian “Dame” Anderson in Creed III. (The film hits theaters March 3, the same day the Texas Film Awards will honor him with a Rising Star Award.)
In the third installation of the “Rocky” reboot, Majors’s audacious Dame is the perfect foil to Michal B. Jordan’s more polished Adonis Creed. After the two are separated during an explosive incident in their childhood, Adonis goes on to boxing championships and stardom before retiring into the business side of the sport and settling into his role as successful family man. Meanwhile, Dame has spent eighteen years honing his rage and his body behind bars. He’s become an unsuspecting threat to all that Adonis holds dear—primarily the story Adonis tells himself about the kind of person he is.
At first, Dame is charming and empathetic, able to connect with Bianca Creed, played by Tessa Thompson, on what it feels like to see someone else living out your dream. In the ring, he’s cocky and loose-limbed, taunting and dancing around his opponents and shamelessly sneaking cheap shots, doing whatever it takes to win. Dame is a reflection of the turmoil that has tormented Adonis since childhood, his pain manifesting as a more unhindered version created from already losing too much of his life behind bars. There were times when Jordan’s directorial debut felt a bit heavy-handed—like when the ropes of the ring turn into prison bars—but Creed III still manages to push the franchise further.
With two more Marvel movies and a thriller opposite Willem Dafoe on his calendar, Majors’s star is only continuing to rise. But I’d like to see him in a role with different stakes. Majors himself has said he wants to star in a romantic comedy. To which I say, it’s about time. The playfulness, charm, and intensity he brings to his roles would translate well in a romance. Don’t you want to see what it looks like when a clown falls in love?