Jonathan Majors has peered into the dark heart of ‘50s Americana in Lovecraft Country, navigated the stories of lost soldiers in Da 5 Bloods, and showed up at the very end of time in Loki. And that’s all within the last 18 months.
In Netflix’s The Harder They Fall, Majors is looking to build on that trio of breakouts and help revise the history books. Jeymes Samuel’s directorial debut aims to bring prominent real-world Black figures of the Old West into the light, with Majors playing Nat Love, a Robin Hood-style cowboy seeking revenge for the murder of his parents. In his sights? The physically imposing outlaw Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba.
GamesRadar+ recently sat down with Majors to discuss his new Netflix western, the actor’s creative process, and working with director Samuel (AKA The Bullitts).
And then there’s the Marvel elephant in the room. Once Majors gets off his Netflix saddle, he’s set to appear once more in the MCU – this time as the iconic Marvel villain Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, a role that’s worlds (and timelines) away from his turn as He Who Remains in Loki.
While Majors – perhaps wary of Marvel snipers and the ever-watchful eye of Kevin Feige – was reluctant to give too much away, he did touch on Kang being a very different proposition compared to what we’ve already seen on-screen. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
GamesRadar+: The movie opens with the words "These People Existed." I’m interested to know how you took that untold history of Black cowboys and Nat Love and shaped it into what we see on the screen?
Majors: I think the best part of what you just said is "These People Existed." For me, it's about making [that] relevant and bringing the history forward and making it so ‘now’.
So people become curious about who these people were past the two hours and ten minutes that we work.
People who are close to these characters [can] become curious about where they come from and what they do; people who haven’t thought about these types of characters can open up their minds to the scope of humanity and the history that we have in America and abroad.
I couldn’t believe it was Jeymes Samuel’s first feature film – he has such a fantastic singular voice. As an actor, what fresh qualities and perspectives did he bring?
He says all the time ‘I shot this movie in my head 100 times’ – but it does feel that way. Yet, on the day he was down to improv, down to change things and nix things and really pare things down based on the feelings of the characters embodying the moment.
His confidence really allowed for me – and I think the whole cast – to really invest and really push it… to reveal as much as we possibly could. His visionary approach as far as the music goes – he’s a pop culture genius. He is like a walking algorithm of how to make something cool [and] how to make something popular. Yet, at the same time, he’s artistic enough that he can subvert those things and make it all very beautiful.
I read in a previous interview that you’re quite a copious note taker with your scripts. I’m curious to know, for this project, can you point to an example of a note on your script that went from a kernel idea to something in the finished product?
In the prologue – the event that scars Nat physically and emotionally – there are no lines in it for Young Nat. I wondered what was going on in his head because I was never going to shoot that.
I remember writing in the margins [of the script], "I couldn’t do nothing." As he watched this horrific thing happen: "I couldn’t do nothing" in the vernacular of the cowboy.
What would that do to a man? How that would spur an adult on in life? How would that person move? He would be a man of action. He’s always in revolt to that moment where he ‘couldn’t do nothing’ and now he’s trying to do everything he can and is great at everything in response to that one moment that gutted him. That became the driving force of Nat: ‘I can do something now – I’m going to make it even.’
You’ve been filming Ant-Man 3 in London. How has your experience on the set of Loki compared to being in Ant-Man? Especially now you’re in this big Marvel machine. Are you a bit looser…?
I felt pretty loose and free on the Loki set! The MCU and all the powers-that-be are just so open-hearted.
The character is different so you move a different way; my psychology has shifted because of the character. He’s just a different guy. He Who Remains is not in Ant-Man. It’s Kang. But the people surrounding us – the cast, my leading man Paul Rudd – that’s different. Because Paul’s not Tom [Hiddleston]. This is a movie, not a TV show. I’ve been here since the beginning and I came in at the end on Loki.
The Harder They Fall is now in cinemas for a limited time and is streaming on Netflix worldwide from November 3. For more from the streamer, check out the best Netflix movies.