The film premiered in Newark and the city celebrated a prodigal son.
As the Thanksgiving nationwide premiere of Creed II draws near, promotional events are pinpointing black locales across the map, from Atlanta, to Brooklyn, to Los Angeles and, of course, Philly.
Earlier this week, The Shadow League was in attendance at a red carpet and screening in Newark, NJ. Among the honored guests were star Michael B. Jordan, who hails from Newark, director Steven Caple Jr, Newark Mayor Amiri Baraka and many lucky citizens of Newark.
Just a couple of years ago, Caple came down to The Shadow League’s offices to discuss his debut feature film, The Land.
He was immediately taken aback when reminded of this full circle moment on the red carpet.
The Shadow League: It hasn’t been that long since your first feature film. Now you’ve put your mark on a classic American story. What’s that been like?
Steven Caple Jr: It has been a very short time for me. The last time we spoke, I did my first feature, The Land. Then I started writing my next feature. I wasn’t thinking about directing Creed II at all. It wasn’t even in the peripheral at all until I got the call from Sly and Ryan (Coogler). I went to school with Ryan. So, for us to be able to work together on this project, and to collaborate with Mike and Sly…I’m speechless, man. I’m just trying to take in this moment. I’ve been working these two years with my head down. Not looking up.
You know how when you’re on a treadmill and you don’t look up because you don’t want to see how many miles you’re running? And you’re hoping it’s three or four miles, but really it was really far? Well, I’m sprinting now and I Just feel really blessed and I hope people enjoy the movie because we worked so hard on it.
TSL: Ryan Coogler is a helluva act to follow. Did you feel any pressure to perform?
Steven Caple Jr: A lot of pressure, man. And he killed the first one! For me, it was like I had to find my personal place in this franchise so I could make it my own. I can’t compete in his lane,and I can’t compete in Sly’s lane. They’ve got two different styles.
I was able to find scenes and moments that felt true to me, and felt true to the characters Adonis and Bianca. And Ivan Drago has this father element to him, I mess with those things in my other films. So, it was easy for me to kind of pull from that. It was just me going back to my roots, trying new stuff, failing…that’s kind of who I am.
TSL: What was it like working with too bright young stars like Tessa Thompson and Michael B. Jordan?
Steven Caple Jr: They were great. I love working with them. Their chemistry was real. When I met both of them, I immediately thought ‘Y’all gonna make my job easier.’ Ryan did such a good job casting them, so for me to collaborate with them? Or find new places to take these characters? They are not complacent by any means.
They love to challenge themselves and find new stuff to do and we just kept working and talking about scenes, and that ends up coming out in the film. That way, we can get something fresh. We don’t want to be stagnant.
TSL: What would you say about your expectations for the movie?
Steven Caple Jr: I really hope that everybody can see everything that we put into it. That this is more than a just a fight movie.
As is often the case with red carpets, reporters become so thirsty that content cannibalism is a frequent happening. Also, I already knew there was high probability that Michael B. Jordan would be whisked through by PR folks. So, to that end, I got to ask him the one question I was certain others would not. A question only a Jersey guy could ask of another Jersey guy.
TSL: I’m from Jersey, too. Trenton to be exact. As I’ve gone throughout the world via my craft, I’ve realized that the passion of people from Jersey is often misconstrued as something other than what it is. What advice would you give a young person who came up in similar circumstances as you about navigating this industry?
Michael B. Jordan: I think you do it by going out with the greatest intent. I think that you can be passionate and be smart about it, like playing chess, making purposeful moves. No wasted movement, for the most part. And, knowing everything counts.
Also, listen to your gut. Intuition is a very important thing. You find your north star and it’ll point you in the right direction. For the past ten years, I’ve been doing a good job with that and it’s been working out for me.