Michael B. Jordan is 28 years old, meaning the actor wasn’t around when the original classic Rocky came out in 1976. “I was definitely a fan, but obviously didn’t have the opportunity see a lot of the movies in the theater,” says Jordan in Miami Beach on a press tour for Creed, the seventh and seemingly final notch in Rocky’s belt.
“I was able to kind of re-fall in love with all the characters.” In the film, Jordan stars as Adonis Johnson Creed, the illegitimate son of world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who died at the hands of Russian beast Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in 1985’s Rocky IV. Jordan plays a 30-year-old in this film, so to not give any major spoilers away, let’s assume he was in utero at the time of his father’s death, OK?
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To prepare, the Fantastic Four star re-watched all the Rocky movies, to fully understand the depth of the tough-as-nails underdog boxer from Philadelphia (Sylvester Stallone).
The pressure was on.
“To step into this world, yeah, it was intimidating,” Jordan admits. “Everyone knows Rocky. Everyone loves Rocky. It’s one of those things you don’t want to mess up.” Jordan already had some experience with being the newbie: In 2009, the California native was cast in television’s football drama Friday Night Lights. He appeared in seasons four and five, before the show ended in 2011. “[The show] was already a well-oiled machine,” Jordan says. “So I kind of felt that same anxious nervousness walking on set on Creed like I did back then.”
Adding to the nerves: The not-so-small matter of getting into the shape of his life. Jordan got an able assist from working with actual professional fighters, including his costar and on-screen opponent, English heavyweight champion Tony Bellew, who makes his big-screen debut.
“Having people in the industry gave this film the authenticity,” says Jordan, who gained 24 pounds of muscle over the course of the shoot. “They wouldn’t give me a pass. If I did a move that looked unnatural, they would call me out. It really kept me focused.”