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‘White Boy Rick’ Star Jonathan Majors on His Two Movies at the Toronto Film Festival

On Friday night, on his 29th birthday, Jonathan Majors found himself as a breakout actor of the Toronto Film Festival. He had two movies premiering at the same time — in “White Boy Rick,” he plays a dope-dealing kingpin, and in drama “Out of Blue,” he’s a college professor specializing in parallel universes.

Majors, whose credits include the ABC mini-series “When We Rise” and “Hostiles,” is now shooting a starring role in the upcoming HBO show “Lovecraft Country,” as a 1950s war veteran searching for his father. Majors spoke to Variety about his career so far.

What made you want to become an actor?

My mother is a pastor, and I played a lot of sports. I come from a long family of pastors and teachers and farmers and Southern roots. And we just talk a lot. But specifically watching my mom and my cousins in the pulpit, the way they would talk. Also, my football coach, who I sound a lot like right now. He was perpetually hoarse. He would rally a group of boys on the football field in Texas, 110 degree weather, and he’d just talk to you. I’m a theater guy. All my education is in theater. I studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for my undergrad. And then I went to Yale School of Drama up in New Haven. I got plucked out of Yale my last semester. And here we are.

Who plucked you out?

Gus Van Sant and Dustin Lance Black [for the ABC mini-series “When We Rise”]. They put me on track, whatever this track is. I was going into my final year at Yale. I got a phone call from my manager, asking me, “Would you leave school for this?” I read the script and I was like, “Oh man, let’s go for this.” And so I did.

What was the most challenging part of playing Johnny Curry in “White Boy Rick”?

Hopefully, when people see Johnny, because he’s a drug dealer and coming out of the gate, I didn’t want to play the stereotype: young, built black man plays gangster. But I think what people will find it that Johnny is the stereotype, but he’s also an archetype and also Barack Obama. That’s what makes him human. He’s the father figure in the film. He takes care of an entire community.

Your other Toronto role is very different. How did you get in the head of a college psychics professor for “Out of Blue”?

Most of my characters, I walk them through museums. I physically go to a museum. So I went to the Natural History Museum. I watched a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books because that’s what he does.

You’re not shooting “Lovecraft Country.” Are you still able to audition for other parts?

We’re locked in, as we are doing the show. But we have a couple other things on the docket.

VARIETY PORTRAIT STUDIO AT TIFF

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