'Creed III': Michael B. Jordan Reflects on Ryan Coogler's Mentorship During Directorial Debut (Exclusive)

The third film of the 'Rocky' franchise spinoff opens in theaters on March 3.

Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut has been a long time in the making! The 36-year-old pulled double duty as director and star for the highly anticipated third installment of the Rocky spinoff franchise, Creed III, and according to critics, he excelled on both counts.

"It feels good, it feels like people are getting the work, you know? They understand what we're trying to say, what we are doing and it feels good to be understood a little bit," the star tells ET's Nischelle Turner. "Especially when it doesn't always happen this way, not even in the third installment. I just didn't have expectations of the love for what it was, but we use that as fuel and we just try to be truthful and tell the best story we could."

The film picks up four years after the events of Creed IIfinding Adonis (Jordan) and his wife, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), comfortably successful in their life as they happily raise their daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent) -- who was born in the previous installment -- in Los Angeles. Amid this bliss, Adonis is surprised by the arrival of an old friend and former boxing prodigy, Damian (Jonathan Majors).

The duo was arrested and taken to a Los Angeles youth detention center when they were younger, but Adonis is the lucky son of a former heavyweight champion who was taken in by his father's widow. His journey led him down a path to fame and wealth while Damian was left in prison for 18 years, showing up after he "just got out last week." 

Driven by a sense of guilt, Adonis welcomes Damian into his life only to quickly realize the other's intentions aren't as pure as he thought. While Adonis recalls the two "were like brothers," Damien prefers to remember that he was "the best... But I never got a chance to prove that."

The film takes viewers on a torpedo of emotions as the two kindred spirits clash, threatening their brotherhood as Dame's hunger for the fame he feels owed grows. 

Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr. directed the first and second films, respectively, with the former remaining as executive producer for both sequels. Coogler also shares story credit with Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, the duo who also penned the screenplay.

Coogler and Jordan share a close friendship, garnered after working together multiple times, including on the acclaimed Fruitvale Station and Black Panther films.

"[The directing] interest sparks back [to] Fruitville Station when I first kind of saw a guy, up close and personal, that looked like me, directing, commanding the set," Jordan shares, adding that although Coogler was filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever while he was filming Creed III, the veteran director readily made himself available for any "911 phone calls." 

Stil, Jordan says Coogler wanted to allow him the space to "let me do my thing" and make his mark on the franchise that has become so personal to him. 

Thompson, who has been by Jordan's side from the first franchise film, tells ET that she felt "this tremendous amount of pride" seeing the critics and reviewers respond positively to the film and Jordan's direction. "It's not [all] about what critics say, obviously. In these movies, I think first and foremost are really for the audiences... it's what we make the films for. But I just know there's a tremendous amount of pressure for Mike coming into the third installment," she explains. "And also coming in as an actor, there's this idea, like, 'Can he direct this?' So I think that early sort of validation, even though we weren't reading reviews but we could tell from the faces of the people around that it wasn't bad."

As for what it was like having her co-star as a director, both Thompson and Majors have nothing but praise for Jordan.

"You know what's funny? Some of the things that Mike is as an actor, he really brought to directing," Thompson reveals. "It's interesting when you've known someone for a really long time and you have this idea [...and] inclinations of things that they might be. I always sensed that he would be a good leader and it was really nice to have my suspicions confirmed. He's always been [the] kind of an actor that comes on set and people are genuinely very happy to see him, which is not always the case... The fact [that] I think he could do that as a director as well, that he's inside making a very good film [and] he's also trying to make the experience a very good one for me -- that, I think, is really unique."

Majors recalls how joyous the set could be, sharing a moment towards the end of filming a montage that Jordan was excited by, and when filming was finished, "that boy came around that corner just like, 'Ooooooh!' My brother's happy, my director's happy because we can all feel what we were doing. You know what I mean? Like, the montage was a part of the Creed/Rocky world, like we gotta do the montage." 

"When he came out and I saw my man, I saw his face and was like, 'Oh, you happy with that,'" he recalls, smiling.

With such a successful experience under his belt, it's no surprise that Jordan is ready to tackle the next project. The actor asserts that, despite the pressure of helming a film, he would do it again with no question.

"I was so comfortable with the story, the character [and] world... I had my handle on the character, you know, that was the only guy that I played three times before, and over the course of, like, eight or nine years," he explains. "That was a big chunk of my career and the changes and the growth that I was going through. So, to be able to deliver those lines and maybe work out some of my s**t and his s**t at the same time, that's what actors go for."

Jordan previously shared a similar sentiment during a private trailer screening, saying he decided to take over the reins for the third film because he felt it was "the perfect time" after his extensive experience in various roles throughout "over 20 years" in the industry. 

"I finally got to this place in my career where I wanted to tell a story and not just be in front of the camera, not just execute somebody else's vision," he explained. "And having a character that I've played twice before, you know, it's been seven, eight years living with this guy. So to be able to tell a story of where I believe Adonis is at, and also at 35 years old, I had a lot to say as a young Black man [about] my life experiences and how I could actually share a piece of myself with the world through these characters and through this story."

"I was talking to Ryan Coogler back when we were doing Creed and he was just like, 'It's never the right time. You just gotta jump in the deep end and go for it,'" he added. "So, I just felt like it was the right time."

Creed III hits theaters March 3.


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