Jonathan Majors has achieved a great amount in his short career. Despite being 31 years old, Majors has only actually been a film actor since 2017, where he received his first on screen role. Since then, he has rapidly risen to prominence, starring in critically acclaimed The Last Black Man in San Francisco, the newest Spike Lee joint Da 5 Bloods, and most recently as Atticus Tick in the HBO series Lovecraft Country. We were lucky enough to speak to Majors in promotion for Lovecraft Country where he discussed black masculinity, his commitment to his craft, and the uncovered stories his character of Atticus has been able to explore.
All three of Majors’ most prominent roles so far share a beautiful commonality. In conversation with the New York Times he described Lovecraft Country as the final part in “a trilogy exploring black masculinity” alongside the previously mentioned Da 5 Bloods and Last Black Man in San Francisco. When examining these roles, you find a trio of strong black protagonists who show vulnerability, contain multitudes within them, and show a deep degree of intelligence and wit. These are protagonists who break down the walls trying to prevent black characters from overcoming the stereotypical box they are placed in.
When we probed Majors on the topic he claimed that “what was established [in Lovecraft Country] with Atticus Tick is that this man can change into so many multitudes, right? He is a man of intellect. He is a man of heart. He’s a son, he’s a lover, he’s a soldier. He’s an adventurer, he’s all of these things. And he’s male and he’s black! I was in a conversation with somebody and they say, yeah, those three guys, they’re all different, but their war is the same while their mission is different.”
Similarly, his other pair of roles in the trilogy feature characters that rail against the idea that black men in film can be pigeonholed into one stereotype as they have been for so many years by Hollywood. Majors went on to state that he believes that these characters are “corrective and an anecdote to the toxic masculinity, but particularly a black masculinity that society has put on, in many cases, black men, and also the willing chains that me and my compatriots put on ourselves. The limitations we put on ourselves that we must behave a certain way. We must think a certain way. And so these three fellows and finally, Atticus, allow us to expand that [idea of how a Black man must act or think]”.
The character of Atticus Tick is fully formed and multifaceted as a result of, not only the outstanding writing, but this way of thinking about the character from Majors. Later in the same press junket, Majors went on to describe the detailed process of research he went through to prepare for the role. As well as reading a variety of books, including Lovecraft Country of course, he spoke of how he tapped into his Grandfather’s experiences in the Korean war and used that as inspiration for his character. This is further compounded by his utter commitment to the role, to ‘getting the shot’. Within the junket he described how “there was a moment where Leti and I had to almost drown… we had to go down come up and keep pushing it and pushing it and pushing it, and that last time we went through I thought ‘this is it, shows over guys, Atticus is gonna drown here, and we’re all gonna go home and that’ll be the end of it’. But we wanted the shot.”
It is this utterly fearless commitment to his craft that really makes Jonathan Majors stand out from amongst the pack. He is an incredible actor, and his roles in the aforementioned trilogy on Black Masculinity seems to have paid off – with a sure to be highly paid gig with Marvel rumoured to be in the pipeline.
In the meantime however, he continues to star in Lovecraft Country which is set to finish October 18. Majors is fantastic in the role, and he gave us a rallying cry as to the importance of the show’s story, and Tick’s place within that: “We are revealing an entire part of African American culture, of what it was to be part of [speaking of Tulsa] an affluent, educated, forward moving community, that’s a beautiful thing to show that that has happened, it wasn’t just a ‘Harlem renaissance’. Then we show that and show what happened to it, the humanity of that, that they were thriving and then they were massacred. That in addition to the experience of the forgotten moments, that’s what this show really highlights. The forgotten moments, the fact that Atticus Freeman is literally a war veteran from what they call the forgotten war. We are bringing all of these things to the forefront. As we bring these memories back we begin to expand the history of what the African American experience is.”