Jonathan Majors: 13 Things To Know About The Hollywood Heavyweight

As far as Jonathan Majors' career is concerned, 2023 is a year for the books. With the release of Marvel's blockbuster film "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," his Kang the Conqueror became an instant fan-favorite. Squaring off with Michael B. Jordan in "Creed III," the actor garnered kudos from critics, while the flick kicked butt at the box office. Next up? "Magazine Dreams," a drama about a self-destructive bodybuilder that's already generating buzz: Following the film's screening at Sundance, the audience gave him a standing ovation. 

Majors landed his first on-screen role in ABC's 2017 miniseries "When We Rise" while still a student at The Yale School of Drama, but it was his turn as a young artist in 2019's "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" that really captured Hollywood's attention. Spike Lee then hand-picked the actor to play the son of a Vietnam War vet in his film "Da 5 Bloods." "He's on the brink of major stardom," the venerated director told Men's Health

In 2021, Majors earned an Emmy nomination for his performance as Atticus Freeman in the HBO Max horror series "Lovecraft Country." He also led an all-star Black ensemble in Jeymes Samuel's 1890s Western, "The Harder They Fall." On the personal side, Majors wasn't born with a silver spoon, and he had some tough times before he found himself on stage. These days, he has plenty to celebrate. Here are 13 things to know about the Hollywood heavyweight.

Jonathan Majors says theater saved him

Jonathan Majors was raised in Dallas, Texas, along with his two siblings, by a single mom. "Our father, who loved us dearly, just kind of disappeared one day," Majors recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. "And he resurfaced 17 years later." The "Creed III" star said his family struggled financially and dealt with housing insecurity, and he made a habit of shoplifting when he was a kid. He also got into fights at school, and one of those physical altercations landed Majors in juvenile detention. 

Fortunately, that turned out to be his entrée to the acting world. "While in there, I met a few people – and the last angel that appeared to me was Ms. L.J. She taught theater arts," Majors said in The Guardian. The actor, who remembers being a particularly sensitive teen, told WWD, "Ms. L.J. really picked up on me. She would help me channel it into this theater thing. And that became my secret weapon," he explained. "It was my way of kind of staying cool, staying calm and exploring the world."

In a separate chat with Rolling Stone, Majors reflected on how going all in on theater after changing high schools changed his trajectory for the better. "I did what I was doing because I loved my mom and siblings and wanted to do something for 'em," he said. "So, yeah, it straightened me out. Straightened me out good."

He is an Ivy League grad

Before moving to New York or Los Angeles to try to break into the acting world, Jonathan Majors got serious about studying his craft. After high school, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated in 2012. He took a year off before going to the Yale School of Drama, which boasts many high-profile celebs among its alumni, including Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, and Lupita Nyong'o.

While Majors is proud of his MFA degree from the revered Ivy League institution, he puts as much weight into real-world experience as he does in formal training. "There's no such thing as a classically trained actor," the "Loki" actor told The Hollywood Reporter. "It just means that you have the tools, it means you've put in the time; there is no cookie cutter to it. Some of us for a fact have had adventurous lives pre-Yale or before making a cool film."

In a 2020 chat with The New York Times, Majors recalled his days before Yale, performing in summer stock productions in North Carolina, always knowing in the back of his mind what his endgame would be. "A mentor said something to me along the lines of, 'You'll get out, you'll do a sitcom, you'll do Off Broadway.' I said to her, 'That's not what I'm here to do.' My intention was always to share my experience and my gifts on the largest stage possible." Mission accomplished, Majors. 

When We Rise was Jonathan Majors' breakout role

Jonathan Majors landed his first on-screen role while he was in his last year at Yale. The acclaimed team behind "Milk" — director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black — were ready to cast Majors in the 2017 docuseries "When We Rise" the moment they saw his audition. "We watched the tape, and we were like, 'Holy crap' — he's already shot two more feature films," Black told BuzzFeed. "He's going to be a giant star." The show, which stars Debra Winger and Guy Pearce, explores the Gay Liberation Movement that took place in San Francisco in the 1970s. Majors plays Ken Jones, a gay Black Navy veteran who became a leader of the LGBTQ rights movement.

Majors almost didn't take the gig because he didn't want it to interfere with his school schedule. Fortunately, it all worked out. As he told Paper, "So the school, after some negotiation and arguing and debating and prayer and just communication, ultimately, they had me do all my work satellite."

Prior to "When We Rise," Majors had only acted on stage and in student films. Needless to say, he learned a lot about filmmaking and acting on camera on that set. "It was, essentially, like being around strangers doing something that I felt I was equipped to do but had not been tested in any way," he said in Paper. Clearly, he adjusted quickly. After the series' release, W magazine dubbed Majors "the one to watch."

The Last Black Man in San Francisco was a game changer

Jonathan Majors received a Gotham Award nomination in the Breakthrough Actor category for his turn as Montgomery "Mont" Allen in the 2019 film "The Last Black Man in San Francisco." The movie, which stars Jimmie Fails, is based on Fails' real-life story of growing up in the gentrifying Bay Area city. Majors, who plays a young artist trying to help his friend reclaim his family's home, felt an instant connection with Fails.

"There were deep things that were going on in his life that we would just sit and have breakfast and talk about," Majors told The Hollywood Reporter. "Things that I've experienced, what it is to be young, gifted and black — or in my case, young, kind of gifted and black — issues [of] trying to be a young man in the world." The movie won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and was lauded by critics. 

Majors traveled to San Francisco to read for the role, but at the time, he couldn't afford a hotel room. "I'm like f*** it, I'll just walk around San Francisco at night running lines," the actor recalled to Variety. "[But] my new manager called them and somehow convinced these guys to let me stay and give me a room, and put her credit card down." When he met with director Joe Talbot, Majors said he was greeted with open arms. 

Spike Lee didn't make him audition for Da 5 Bloods

When Spike Lee invited Jonathan Majors for a meeting, he didn't ask him if he was interested in reading for a part in his 2020 film "Da 5 Bloods." As Majors recalled to Entertainment Weekly, after posing a few questions, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and director simply said, "You got the role, man." The Netflix movie explores the experiences of Black soldiers during the Vietnam war. The story is told through the eyes of four veterans who return to Ho Chi Minh City to bring back the remains of one of their fallen comrades.

Majors plays David, the son of Delroy Lindo's character, one of the veterans who grapples with PTSD. The two men have a complicated and sometimes contentious relationship. "David carries the youth, he's us," Majors said in EW. "He's visceral, he's a body, but he's also so full of heart and light. He's the guy who has a different experience from the other fellows."

As for working with the director he's admired since childhood, Majors told W magazine that he's never "felt so understood by a director in such a quiet way, especially from a male director." The "Hostiles" actor added, "He might hate me for saying this, but Spike has a sensitivity to him, when the moment's needed." "Da 5 Bloods," which was released in the wake of the protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, struck a raw nerve. "As anti-racism protests continue, the firebrand filmmaker returns with one of his best ever movies," wrote NME.

The actor received an Emmy nod for Lovecraft Country

Jonathan Majors received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the HBO Max supernatural thriller "Lovecraft Country." He plays Atticus Freeman, a Korean War veteran searching for his missing father, while grappling with racism in America. "The racial trauma that he carries, it is almost like breathing," Majors explained to The New York Times. "And the thing that makes him special or different is that he refuses to just get along with it."

In an interview with GQ, Majors recalled one particular scene from the series that hit a little too close to home. "It's almost as if Texas was happening in 'Lovecraft Country,'" he said. "You get pulled over by the cops. They harass you. They call you a n*****. ... I've experienced that day." The show, which also stars Jurnee Smollett, was produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, and created by Misha Green.

Majors was honored to play Atticus and be a part of the game-changing series. "To bring a full-blooded human being that is complex and honest and, in some ways, unseen — to bring the unseen to the screen — that's the ticket right there," he told The Hollywood Reporter. The acclaimed series only lasted one season, with some critics not sure what to make of it. "Exuberant, messy and impossible to define," wrote Michael Hogan for The Telegraph, who added that Majors gives "one helluva performance."

He is the star of the western The Harder They Fall

Jonathan Majors stars alongside Zazie Beetz, Idris Elba, and Regina King in the 2021 Netflix drama "The Harder They Fall." He plays outlaw Nat Love in the Western, which is set in the 1890s and features a predominantly Black cast. "It's something we haven't seen before; we've not seen it with this much aggression, with this much grace, with this much Blackness, we've just not seen it," Majors told Variety.

It was the first time the actor's name was at the top of the call sheet of a movie, and it wasn't a responsibility he took lightly. "I'm never there to make you feel safe. I'm always there to challenge you, but I also want to make you feel secure," he said of leading the stellar cast. "Safety means you won't fall; security means you won't stay down. And that's something you have to offer when you're working in a scene."

The film picked up four trophies at the African American Film Critics Association Awards, including Best Picture, Best Ensemble, and Best Director for Jeymes Samuel, also known as singer-songwriter The Bullitts. Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, and Samuel shared another award for Best Music. Speaking to GQ, the director said Majors was a big part of the flick's success. "The film is just a really beautiful portrayal of Black people in the Old West. And at the top of that mountain is Jonathan Majors," Samuel said.

Jonathan Majors plays a trailblazing aviator in Devotion

In J.D. Dillard's 2022 drama "Devotion," Jonathan Majors stars as Jesse Brown, the U.S. Navy's first Black pilot. The film follows Brown and his wingman, played by "Top Gun: Maverick" actor Glen Powell, as they practice maneuvers on an aircraft carrier in the lead up to the Korean War. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Majors shared what he believes made Brown tick: "Jesse is devoted to flight. He is devoted to being a soldier, he's devoted to being a husband."

"That's a superpower. I think he got so far because he was not just trying to be the first Black naval aviator," Majors added. This was his first real-life character, and the actor met with Brown's family members before filming began. "Pam, who's his daughter and Daisy, who's my wife in the film, had just passed on," Majors told Variety. "It's no secret that I have a daughter, my child, so I connect to that. And to sit with that family and to hear [stories] — this is actually the first time it's a different responsibility."

In one gut-wrenching scene in the movie, Jesse looks in the mirror and cries as he verbally denigrates himself. Gearing up for that particular day of filming, as Majors told Screen Rant, was not easy. "A lot of that, particularly for someone who moves through the world as a black male in America, is not far from the surface," he said. 

The actor is 'a marvel' in Magazine Dreams

The accolades have been pouring in for Jonathan Majors' performance as an obsessive bodybuilder struggling with his inner demons in 2023's "Magazine Dreams." Vanity Fair labeled his turn as Killian Maddox a "terrifying wonder," while The Guardian called the actor "a marvel." And Majors couldn't wait to take on this heavy role. "The script was just so incredible, and Killian was so impossibly vulnerable, impossibly human," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "And I thought, OK, so what'd it take to do it? You know? And I was like, 'This is gonna be hard!'" It definitely was. 

Majors, a football player in Texas, had already gotten into fighting shape for "Creed III," but the regimen he went through for this transformation was next-level. At Sundance, Majors shared with Audible's Variety Studio that he consumed over 6,000 calories a day for several months, and worked out three times a day. "I'm playing Killian Maddox... Playing him you don't f*** around," he said. 

On top of the physical demands, playing the troubled character took an emotional toll on the star as well. "Sometimes Jonathan would break down after a scene and we would need 10 minutes. We didn't say much," director Elijah Bynum told The Hollywood Reporter. "I usually just kind of hugged him and let him kind of come back to Earth and then he would pull himself together and we'd move on to the next."

MCU fans love to hate him as Kang the Conqueror

After taking on a number of acclaimed dramas and making a name for himself in Hollywood, Jonathan Majors joined the MCU.  The actor, who first appeared as Kang: the Conqueror in the Disney+ series "Loki," headed to the silver screen with 2023's "Ant-Man And the Wasp: Quantumania." "I mean, [seeing the poster] was probably one of the few moments where I'm like, Holy f***. This can't be real," Majors told Vanity Fair. "I'm pretty slow to excitement, but I was like, Oh, it's on." He will reprise the role in several more Marvel films.

For the third installment in the "Ant-Man" franchise, director Peyton Reed wanted a powerhouse villain to tangle with Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). And to play a powerhouse villain, they needed a powerhouse actor. "We looked at a lot of Kangs, but I cast Jonathan because he had it all," Reed told The Hollywood Reporter. "He's physically imposing. He is one of the most exciting actors I have ever met and worked with. He's just a force of nature." 

It goes without saying at this point, but he beyond nailed the part; Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige told Entertainment Weekly that Majors' Kang is an instantly classic character. "He's the highest-testing villain we've ever had in any of our friends and families [screenings]," Feige shared. 

Jonathan Majors calls Michael B. Jordan his 'best buddy'

In 2023's "Creed III," Jonathan Majors plays Damien "Dame" Anderson, a longtime friend of Michael B. Jordan's Adonis "Donnie" Creed. After getting out of prison, Dame, who is also a boxer, is ready to face off with Donnie.

The "Rocky" franchise is no small deal, and Majors' pride in the third installment of the "Creed" trilogy is palpable. As he told Moviefone, "There's no way to prepare yourself for 'Creed III.' You got to come in with your dukes up. ... These are familiar characters being looked at in a very different way." While working on "Creed III," Majors formed a real connection with Jordan, who also directed the flick. "We created a brotherhood during that film: you sweat together, you bleed together, you cry together, laugh together. It's a whole process," the "Black Panther" actor wrote in Majors' 2022 Time 100 Next entry.

Speaking to ET, Majors confirmed he and his "Creed III" costar are in fact BFFs. "We have a very amicable relationship, that's my best buddy," he said, adding they can talk about anything from Marvel movies to girl troubles. "He's my brother," the "Magazine Dreams" star added. The film has been praised by critics, most notably for Majors' scene-stealing turn as Dame. The San Francisco Chronicle declared, "As of this moment, today, Jonathan Majors is a movie star."

Jonathan Majors is a proud girl dad

In spite of his skyrocketing success, Jonathan Majors has managed to keep his personal life out of the spotlight. In his interview for Vanity Fair's 2023 Hollywood Issue, the "Devotion" star said, "I am a private individual... It's about the work, how you do your work." 

That said, every now and again, Majors will open up about his daughter, who lives with her mother in Atlanta. As demanding as his work schedule has become, he makes a point to spend as much time as possible with his child. "We like to shop together, read books," he told Mr Porter. "Road Dahl, 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events.' ... I have her memorize poetry." As reported by Insider, during a press junket for "The Harder They Fall," Majors talked about how his daughter inspires the projects he takes on. 

"I just want to make her proud and do things that she could look at and go, 'Yeah, that's the way that goes — I understand why he did that,'" the actor said. "Or at some point she will watch [my] films and then she'll see Regina King and she'll see Zazie Beetz." Majors added that even though he tells his little girl she can do anything she wants to do, it's also important that she sees Black women living out their dreams and being TV and film stars, too.

The actor's star continues to rise

In a 2019 interview with Variety, Jonathan Majors opened up about how he paid his dues in the business. "Eight years of steady acting training nonstop ... three years in the profession," he said. "And I'm still in the apprentice mode and I'm still watching everybody and learning." Clearly, Majors isn't an apprentice anymore, and many critics who once referred to him as a "rising" star now confirm he's already there.

The "When We Rise" actor feels fortunate to have worked with a legendary filmmaker like Spike Lee so early in his career, and he also supports up-and-coming creatives like "Last Black Man" actor/writer Jimmie Fails and "Lovecraft Country" creator Misha Green. "It's just as important to me to work with my contemporaries, as it is to work with those who have blazed the path before me," Majors told Entertainment Weekly.

"I never want to make something for the sake of making it. If we're not expressing something new or pushing something forward, that's for somebody else," he added. Speaking to Vanity Fair about his career trajectory, Majors said the actors he looks up to are seasoned theater vets including "Castle" actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson and "The Wire" star Michael Potts. "Those are the actors that I grew up watching. I'm aspiring to be that," he said. "I think a lot of folks are going short when they should be going long. But I'm very happy with how everything is going."

Jonathan Majors may be in legal trouble again

On March 25, 2023, Jonathan Majors was arrested in New York after police responded to a 9-1-1 call from his girlfriend, who claimed he struck her. "The victim informed police she was assaulted," an NYPD spokesperson said, per The Guardian. "Officers placed the 33-year-old male into custody without incident. The victim sustained minor injuries to her head and neck and was removed to an area hospital in stable condition." 

Majors and his girlfriend reportedly got into an altercation in a taxi when she spotted another woman texting him, and she tried to grab his phone. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Priya Chaudhry, the actor's lawyer, said her client — who was charged with suspicion of strangulation, assault, and harassment — is "completely innocent and is probably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows." The attorney also claimed Majors' girlfriend "was having an emotional crisis, for which she was taken to the hospital." 

Chaudry added that the woman reportedly took back her accusations, and her legal team has the documentation. Years after Majors' time in juvie, this brush with the law seems out of character for the morally centered star. It also comes as he's riding the biggest career wave of his life. Two weeks earlier, he and Michael B. Jordan gave a special shoutout to "Auntie" Angela Bassett (who lost out to Jamie Lee Curtis), as they presented at the Oscars. One day before his arrest, Searchlight Pictures announced Majors' long-awaited film "Magazine Dreams" will premiere in December 2023.

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