×

‘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

More Film

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

  • Javier Bardem Dune

    Javier Bardem in Talks to Play King Triton in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Javier Bardem is in talks to play King Triton in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. Harry Styles is also in early talks to play Prince Eric. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • UglyDolls

    STX Tries to Put Flops Behind It as It Searches for Star Executive, Fresh Capital

    After a series of film flops and an aborted initial public offering, STX Entertainment is battling mounting skepticism that it can survive in an increasingly unforgiving movie business. As it hustles to find $500 million in fresh capital, the company, which operates in the red according to financial disclosures, is simultaneously hoping to attract a [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

  • 'Cats' Teaser Trailer: See Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift Unveils Feline Moves in 'Cats' Behind-the-Scenes Teaser

    Taylor Swift fans finally get to see some of the results of all those years spent studying her roommates Meredith and Olivia — and also, not incidentally, some time with a choreographer — in a new behind-the-scenes teaser for the movie “Cats.” The three-and-a-half-minute featurette has footage of Swift striking crouching feline moves as well [...]

  • CGR’s Immersive Premium Format Set for

    Immersive Theater Technology Set for US Debut in Los Angeles

    French multiplex company CGR Cinemas has selected the Regal LA Live as the first U.S. theater to use its Immersive Cinema Experience technology. The ICE format will be unveiled in the fall at the downtown location in a partnership between CGR and AEG. The companies made the announcement Wednesday but did not reveal which title [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content