Michael B. Jordan can’t get enough of Atlanta. From the monstrous hit “Black Panther” to the upcoming Netflix series “Raising Dion” to the highly anticipated flick “Just Mercy,” his work keeps bringing him back to Atlanta.
“I just left like four weeks ago, and I’m coming right back,” he said.
The New Jersey native doesn’t mind making his way down south, though. When it was time to start his press tour for “Creed II” this month, Atlanta certainly had to be on the list. The movie will be in theaters Tuesday, Nov. 20.
“Whenever I make a stop here and spend some time, I love it,” he said.
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He expressed even more passion for the boxing movie when he was in the city to promote it. The sequel to the 2015 smash is an extension of the massive “Rocky” franchise created by Sylvester “Sly” Stallone in the 1970s. Fast-forward more than 30 years, and the spotlight shines on Jordan’s character, Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s deceased opponent-turned-friend, Apollo Creed.
The eighth installment of the series follows Creed as he faces off against Viktor Drago. The fight is arguably the champ’s biggest match to date, because his opponent is the son of Ivan Drago, the man who killed his father during a match more than three decades ago.
But it’s not just a physical fight. It’s also a mental one.
“Adonis still feels like people owe him something,” Jordan explained. “He’s looking for validation in a lot of places he shouldn’t be looking for validation from. I think his mind state, especially in the beginning, is revenge. The fight is opening up old wounds of his father being killed. Being publicly humiliated like that, I think Adonis felt like it was his responsibility to take that head on.”
Creed isn’t the only person dealing with past trauma. Viktor Drago, played by Florian Munteanu, is no stranger to heartache either. He, too, is following in his father’s footsteps, while attempting to find his own voice.
“That’s the easy part, being aggressive and being angry,” said Munteanu, a real-life boxer from Romania. “Bringing those emotions to the table, especially if you’re a big guy, was really hard in the beginning. The director, Steven Caple (Jr.), wanted real pain, so we wanted to be as authentic as possible.”
Caple said he wanted “to make the film really emotional.” It was important to elevate the stakes and apply pressure — something the filmmaker said he has experienced. Although Ryan Coogler sat in the director’s seat for the first “Creed,” Caple was tapped for the second one.
“I was in Los Angeles doing a TV show called ‘Grown-ish’ when I got a call from my agent about the studio being interested,” he remembered. “It was like a weird moment between excitement and a little bit of anxiety. … I had my thoughts and reservations, because the first ‘Creed’ was really good. But then I met Sly and Mike B. Talking to them relieved some pressure.”
“We just jumped into the deep end on this one together,” Jordan said of Caple. “He came by my house pretty late in the process. He was asking the right questions, and we clicked.”
But filming the movie didn’t come without its challenges. The fight scenes were especially difficult. Capturing a slew of characters across multiple cameras made Caple’s job complicated.
“The amount of stories to tell was insane. If it was just the fight, it would have been easier. But everyone had a little character arc,” Caple said. “It was tough trying to catch all that through boxing itself and finding the spaces to say this is his or her moment.”
Now that the movie has wrapped, he and Munteanu are striving to relish in their achievements.
“I’ve learned to be reflective on everything that has happened — bad and positive,” Munteanu said.
“I’m learning to find balance. I feel like I’m in the moment now,” Caple added. “I’ve been able to find time to kind of pull back and Zen out.”
As for Jordan, everything is still moving at a fast pace. In addition to several new projects, including “Wrong Answer,” a flick about the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, he’s also working to tell more stories with his production company Outlier Society.
He said he’s always thinking a few steps ahead and hasn’t stopped to reflect on all his accomplishments thus far.
“That’s something I’ve always battled with taking the time to really enjoy,” he admitted. “That’s why I’m starting to document things a little bit more now, because there is going to be a time where I wish I enjoyed this moment. But I’m cool with giving that up for the work that I want to do. Maybe there will be a documentary 20 or 30 years from now, and I’ll be able to reminisce with people I really care about. That’s good enough for me.”