Jonathan Majors on His Transition from Athlete to Actor

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Actor Jonathan Majors

“Acting is really an approach. It really ultimately is an approach, for me at least, to how one views the world and how one exists in the world.” – Jonathan Majors

Many people got their first introduction to actor Jonathan Majors with his appearance as Marvel Comics supervillain Kang the Conqueror, a role he will reprise in 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and sure-to-be many other Marvel movies. However, Majors has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed roles in film and television, even earning an Emmy nomination for his role on HBO’s Lovecraft Country. He spoke to NPR about his decision on becoming an actor, and why acting naturally is so central to his craft.

Majors notes the distinction between being yourself and acting and when it’s important for an actor to use his or her creativity:

“But a thing about acting is that acting is really an approach. It really ultimately is an approach, for me at least, to how one views the world and how one exists in the world. You know, acting is such a – but, you know, people can say it’s subjective, you know? And, like, it kind of is. But, like, a punch in the face is a punch in the face. You know what I mean? Like, it is what it is. Like, real is real. And there’s a certain amount of expense – spiritual, emotional expense that comes with the work sometimes. You know, it doesn’t call for it all the time. Sometimes the scene is walking down the street, you know? And you can do that, you know? You don’t got to do nothing for that. Just walk your ass down the street, boy. OK, cool. You know? Just don’t get too creative. Just do it, you know?

“But then there are times when a role or a world or a project or a moment requires something of you that you’ve got to give because it’s going to give back. And they don’t teach that in drama school. They just don’t teach that in drama school. You know, they can act like they do. They don’t, you know?”

Though Majors initially played sports in school, eventually turned to acting. He remembers, “I played football and basketball… And then after a while – it’s interesting how it happened. Like, I quit the basketball team. I never threw up, and I threw up one day in practice. And I took my jersey off. And I just gave it to my coach and said, I think I’m done now. And I remember going home to my mom. I said, Mom, I quit the basketball team. She said, what? (Laughter) I was like, yeah, I quit the basketball team. She was like, OK. And then that was kind of it. Then I was theater this, theater that, you know, playing Third Murderer in the Scottish play.”

So why did Majors gravitate from sports to acting? According to him, acting felt more natural to him. He explains, “When something comes natural in a way, you can then push yourself more because you fired off enough, like, dopamine in your brain and be like, I like this enough to stick at it – you know? – ’cause I do think acting is extremely athletic. You know, it should be. There’s a discipline to it, to all art forms. But to acting – an independent discipline that you must have in order to, I think – that I apply, right? I use my athletic discipline to my work, you know, in order to achieve certain things. Some things are technical, you know? Like, keep your elbow in, follow through, and that’s how you shoot a free throw. You know what I mean? Push to the end of the line. You know, go to the punctuation. That’s just technical, you know, but it’s the same type of discipline.”

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