Creed 2 plays like the dark, emotional reboot of 1985’s Rocky IV, a description that doesn’t quite do justice to just how well this film works. The sequel to Creed—with director Steven Caple Jr. stepping in for Ryan Coogler—sees Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) feeling the pressure of the light heavyweight championship around his shoulder, the same belt his father once defended. With his fiance Bianca’s (Tessa Thompson) star on the rise as well, Adonis’ life is upended when the man who killed Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), arrives in Philadelphia to announce the latest challenger for the belt: His son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Against the advice of his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Adonis takes the fight, and what follows is basically a Shakespearian tragedy told through stiff jabs and workout montages.
Before Creed 2‘s November 21 premiere, Collider hopped on the phone with star Michael B. Jordan. In this 1-on-1 interview, we discussed the different ring entrances Adonis performs throughout the film, the “guerilla filmmaking” of the movie’s desert montage, how much the constantly rising star can relate to Adonis’ pressure in the spotlight, and more.
Collider: There are actually two fights with Viktor Drago in this movie, which means there are two different entrances for Adonis. What were your thoughts on how you wanted to play each entrance to showcase where Adonis was at that point in the story?
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: Well, you actually have three entrances. Wait, no, goddamn, you’re right [laughs]. There’s a lot of conversations around these entrances, so that’s why I’m like, I don’t even know where to start. Obviously, the first fight is the fight we all feel like Adonis shouldn’t be taking. You layer on notes of false confidence. Fake it until you make it. He’s in front of his hometown, on the east coast in the Barclays Center. He’s a hometown hero, lot of crowds. But it’s The Death of Superman, you know? He’s getting beat up in front of his people and there’s nothing that anybody could do about it.
The second one is coming from a place of “I” to a place of “we”. That’s his family, that would be the difference in that fight. We found out his “why,” why he fights. To have Bianca sing her song, walking him out, with the biggest level of support they can have for each other. I thought the symbolism of it was beautiful.
There’s a really intense montage out in the desert, I think it was shot in New Mexico. What can you tell me about filming that?
JORDAN: It was guerilla filmmaking, honestly. It was independent film at its best. We were scrambling. Here, there, moving cameras. I’m sure we broke a million union laws. But it felt good. It like going back to my roots, like my early days of making films. We scrambled around, we did whatever we had to do to get the shot. We had limited amount of time. I think we got it good, I think we got it done.
What does the move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in the film mean for Adonis?
JORDAN: We really want to follow what Adonis would be doing. He moved to Philly to find Rocky, to get a trainer. He accomplished that. He spent time there and found his girlfriend, Bianca, she was there for her career. And then Adonis is from California, you know? We wanted him to eventually go back home. Also, for Bianca having a lot of labels [in LA] it would be good for her career. Obviously, there’s the family element with Rocky, not wanting to leave him by himself. Those are the natural reasons for Adonis to move from Philly to LA. We thought it was only right to take him back home.
What can you tell me about working across from Florian Munteanu, who is not only a first-time actor but this legit fighter playing such an intimidating presence?
JORDAN: Man, he’s not intimidating, he’s soft as a teddy bear. He is the nicest human being on this planet. Such a sweet guy. Once we met, it was a lot of fun. He was very humble, very eager to learn. He showed up early, asked tons of questions. I gave him as much advice as I could. With the boxing there’s a mutual respect for one another, not wanting to hurt each other. He learned a lot from me in the sense that, I think he might have assumed I was a Hollywood actor in certain ways. He was walking gingerly the first few weeks we knew each other. But once we hung out, e got to know each other a little bit. The first time we actually hit each other, I think you learn alot about somebody who can take a punch. We definitely caught each other a few times, but it was nothing but love.
When you are filming those in-ring scenes, how do you keep that same level of intensity when it’s like take six or seven?
JORDAN: You just do it [laughs]. I don’t know, it’s like the things that you’re doing, the movie that you’re shooting is getting ready to be immortalized by film. Everybody’s going to watch it on this huge movie screen, so I think the motivation is doing a great job…you’ll find the energy from somewhere.
One of the themes of the movie is the pressure that comes with attention, Adonis’ pressure to live up to the weight of being the champion and Apollo Creed’s son. How much can you relate to that as someone who is bouncing from franchises like Marvel to the Rocky movies, living in the spotlight like this?
JORDAN: I can relate to that, yeah. Constantly growing, constantly learning from the experiences I’m placed in. Heavy is the crown, you know? It’s one of those things where I’m in the position I’m in and I just got to own it. There’s no hiding away from the hard work or the responsibility, it is what it is.