A Guide to Getting Into Jonathan Majors
A primer on Jonathan Majors movies and TV shows as he takes on Kang the Conqueror and Creed 3 going into 2023.
If you’ve sat through the previews of any movie within the past few months, you’ve probably heard or seen the name Jonathan Majors. One of Hollywood’s most exciting young actors, Majors is set to have an incredible 2023 with his upcoming slate of work that includes Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Creed 3, and Magazine Dreams.
Although it may seem that Majors popped up overnight and became Marvel’s highly-anticipated Kang the Conqueror, he actually already has a pretty strong catalog that speaks to his rising popularity. Having starred in several critically-acclaimed films and TV shows since 2017, it’s through these previous roles that Majors has shown his versatility as an actor.
Whether it be portraying the late LGBTQ activist Ken Jones on ABC’s When We Rise or outlaw Nat Love on Netflix’s The Harder They Fall, Majors has proven he can transform a role and make it into his own, resulting in the breakout moment he is having this year.
For those hoping to get a primer on his work, we’ve got you covered. Although this doesn’t cover everything Majors has done up until now, it highlights most of the main shows and films that he’s become known for. By the end, you’ll be a full Jonathan Majors expert (sort of) and a fan. Here’s a guide to getting into Jonathan Majors.
1. When We Rise (2017)
Majors got his start on the small screen with the ABC mini-series When We Rise, which tells the story of the gay rights movement in 1970s San Francisco. Majors plays a younger version of the late Ken Jones, a San Francisco activist and United States Navy veteran.
In the show, Majors captures Jones’ journey from being uncertain about participating in the possible LGBTQ rights movement to becoming a leader in it. Through Majors’ portrayal, we see the doubts and struggles Jones had, and how he overcame to confidently lead various events and protests.
2. The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
Produced by A24, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a semi-autobiographical film of actor Jimmie Fails, who portrays himself as he attempts to reclaim his childhood home that was taken away from him and his family by gentrification. Jonathan Majors plays his best friend and confidant Mont Allen, as they search for belonging in a rapidly-changing city that grows more and more unrecognizable each day.
Majors portrays his character with such vulnerability and understanding, with the most notable part of his performance being a play that he writes and performs in honor of a friend of his and Jimmie’s. Though eccentric and eclectic, Allen represents a tenderness and truthfulness that grounds the film, unafraid to incite much-needed conversations that aren’t being had by Jimmie or other members of their community.
3. Lovecraft Country (2020)
Jonathan Majors stars as Atticus Freeman in the HBO series Lovecraft Country, an adaptation of Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name. The show follows Atticus and his family as they travel through 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. Along the way, they must face supernatural creatures from Lovecraftian mythology, along with the real-life racial horrors of Jim Crow laws.
Majors shines as Freeman, bringing a powerful performance to a character tasked with facing these physical and psychological horrors. Freeman is an incredibly compelling protagonist to watch throughout the show’s journey, especially when we learn that he’s the descendant of a very significant mythical figure, a revelation that only adds to the sci-fi horror atmosphere of the popular but since-canceled show.
4. Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods is about four retired Black Vietnam veterans who journey back to the war zone where they fought to find the body of their fallen squad leader and buried treasure. Majors plays David, one of the veteran’s sons who accompanies them on their mission.
As the young blood of the group, it’s interesting to see how Majors engages with the old vets, especially David’s father, the PTSD-stricken, Trump-supporting Paul (played by Delroy Lindo).
The Morehouse college grad isn’t anything like his father or his friends, which is most notably apparent during one of the film’s most stressful moments. But it’s that difference that brings a levity to the ensemble and the film as a whole.
5. The Harder They Fall (2021)
Netflix’s The Harder They Fall is a classic Western directed by Jeymes Samuel. Featuring Majors alongside big names like Idris Elba, Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz, the film pays homage to classic Sergio Leone films with its story of revenge and redemption in the old West.
Majors shines as Nat Love, a character determined to avenge the death of his parents who were killed in front of him as a child. His story is one of pain and loss but also hope, as he embarks on a quest of bloody, violent closure, taking down anyone who stands in his way.
6. Loki (2021)
Loki follows the popular Marvel character’s journey across multiple universes, realities, and timelines, in an attempt to save the sacred timeline from destruction. In the series, Majors portrays He Who Remains, who doesn’t physically appear in the show until the final episode. But when he does, it’s such a subversively delightful play on an alternate version — or variant as they’re referred to in this latest MCU phase — of Kang, the character he’ll be portraying in Ant-Man: Quantumania.
He’s charismatic and playful, a noticeable departure from the more stoic Kang we’ve gotten teases of in Quantumania trailers. The role serves as a tease of the versatility that Majors will be displaying as Marvel’s new big bad, but it’s also one of the best MCU performances so far, with Majors stealing the show until the episode’s end.
7. Devotion (2022)
One of his more recent films (which deserved a lot more attention, honestly), Devotion is a biographical war drama that tells the story of Navy fighter pilots Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner.
Jesse Brown, played by Majors, was an African-American from Mississippi who became one of the first elite U.S. Navy fighter pilots during World War II. He was also the first Black Naval Aviator to die in the Korean War. His wingman was Tom Hudner (played by Glen Powell), a fellow fighter pilot who was so devoted to his friend that he made courageous decisions to try and save him.
Majors and Powell bring a chemistry to the screen that will make you believe these two fighter pilots’ bond is unbreakable, as they stick by each other and learn what it means to be brothers-in-arms.
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Where He Who Remains is eccentric and whimsical, Ant-Man’s Kang the Conqueror is cold and merciless. Here, Majors plays the supervillain with simmering intensity, calmly threatening our titular hero to do his bidding when they finally come face to face.
Finding influence in Shakespeare’s Othello (specifically antagonist Iago), Majors transforms Kang into an intimidating and manipulative force for his big screen debut, cementing him as one of the MCU’s most compelling antagonists so far.
Honorable Mention: Saturday Night Live
Since most of Majors’ work would be considered drama or action, his recent role as Saturday Night Live host on the sixth episode of season 47 offers up something much more lighthearted and funny.
In this episode, you witness him transform into different characters in almost an instant. With his versatility here, it’s no wonder Kevin Feige has so much faith in Majors, having said there’s “nobody’s shoulders I’d rather be putting the Multiverse Saga on than his.”
The other great part of Majors’ Saturday Night Live appearance is that it showcased a little known fun fact about the actor: that he’s had clown training in the past. Taking up the training during his time at Yale, Majors talked about it during a conversation with Australian news and talk show The Project, saying: “Clowning is something special. It allows you to go to a place that is unsocialized, a bit wild, a bit zany. It lets you take off your daily armor and play.” That is exactly what he did while hosting.
Ashley K. Smalls is a Ph.D. student who studies and writes about race, media, and digital fandom. You can talk pop culture with her on Twitter and TikTok at: @ashleyksmalls