Jonathan Majors had a breakthrough role as Montgomery Allen in 2019’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco. He’s ridden that acclaim to notable roles in Spike Lee’s recently released Da 5 Bloods, playing David, the estranged son of Delroy Lindo’s character Paul.
Lovecraft Country, a psychological horror series based on a novel by Matt Woodruff and developed by Misha Green, is Majors’ latest project to debut, and hits HBO this weekend. Executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, the eerie show depicts the parallels between foreboding Lovecraftian horror and the racism of the Jim Crow south, a dark legacy whose impact can still be felt today. Majors took some time from filming his latest project, The Harder They Fall, to talk about the persistence of racism, working with industry elder statesmen, and why not being active on social media is kind of a flex.
The following interview has been edited and condensed.
Jian DeLeon: Hi Jonathan, what have you been up to?
Jonathan Majors: I’m in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’v been preparing for a film for the last six months and hanging out with my dogs.
JD: Nice. What film are you working on?
JM: The film is called The Harder They Fall. I came here in February, we [stopped production] in March, and then we just came back up last week.
JD: In a previous interview you talked about going through boot camp to prepare for Da 5 Bloods. You seem like a creature of habit.
JM: Yeah. That’s exactly right. I’m a person of balance — all things in moderation, including moderation. The rituals and routines are so important because when it’s go time, it’s full-on chaos., and the more order you have in your preparation, the more chaos you can invite in…otherwise you might not know what the fuck is going on when it’s go time.
JD: Speaking of not knowing what’s going on, let’s talk about Lovecraft Country. I’m a few episodes in and have so many questions. I like how the psychological horror applies not just to fictional monsters, but real ones too.
JM: The psychological horror elements of the piece are kind of subversive in a way, because the monsters. show up when they show up.And we start from the top, in the mind of Atticus. From the very beginning we’re in his head. And in many ways that’s the most threatening and the most terrifying place to be — because when you’re in your head you’re isolated, you’re by yourself. That can really fuck with you. One of the ideas that we really play with, and I think one that everybody in general is afraid of, is what is reality?
That’s one of the cool things about the story. H.P. Lovecraft is right in the middle of two other psychological horror titans: Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. We’re not even talking about PTSD and all the shit that soldiers in general go through, let alone what a Black soldier would go through in the Korean war. So to move to the Jim Crow South with that point-of-view, you’re always under attack. You have to watch your back, your side, your front, your left, and your right at all times.
JD: What’s eerie about that is how current that still feel. A lot of the things that are happening that are portrayed in the past actually isn’t that long ago, and reflects the paradigm we’re still living in. That’s the most foreboding part of it — things haven’t changed as much as we would like to think.
JM: You’re onto something there, because those who can forget the past live a very privileged life. The past is a living thing. You own it… That’s the cool thing about the story — that you got to take the crookeds with the straights, as August Wilson wrote in a play called Fences.
And when you do behave with the ancestors alongside you, with your historical triumphs and failures right beside you, with you, you then don’t make those same mistakes. That’s the only reason we’re killing Black folks now.
JD: I understand you and Courtney B. Vance are also both Yale alumni?
JM: Oh my god, I never thought of that in my life. Mr. Vance and I are both Yale school drama alumni. He left a few years before me obviously. That’s quite a special relationship…it’s quite rare to find somebody that shares your artistic lineage and DNA, and is also such a great human being, and is willing to allow you to witness them work. So yeah, that was an absolute pleasure and honor to scrap with him, and to live and love with him throughout the season.
JD: Speaking of elder statesmen, what was the dynamic like between you and Spike Lee during Da 5 Bloods?
JM: Spike’s been at it for a very long time. I think I remember him saying to me, “I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive.” And it’s true, because Do the Right Thing came out in 1989. I was born in 1989. So yeah, he’s a veteran. He’s very playful, and he has a way of keeping it very current.
JD: What was it like to work with Jordan Peele and JJ Abrams on Lovecraft Country?
JM: They’re the lions of the industry right now. And it’s interesting because when you work with producers, [they don’t have their] boots on the ground every day. What you kind of see is you’ll see a script and then you’ll see the edits to a script, and now that I’m starting to see the actual product, you can see where Jordan has really laid his signature down. You can see where JJ has really put his signature down. What ends up happening is this beautiful chorus which makes up Lovecraft Country. I’ve seen five episodes now, when you watch it there’s such an eerie tone that’s very familiar, which makes it even more terrifying.
JD: What other things have you been doing to maintain your sanity during this time?
JM: I got my two pups. I’m 30 years old, but I probably live the lifestyle of a 70-year-old man. I wake up very early, I exercise, I go to the same restaurants, I order the same thing. That’s quite boring, actually. I’m quite embarrassed to say all of it, but it’s my truth. And that routine allows me to kind of metabolize any new information that comes in very critically, and I stay very peaceful.
JD: I admire that you’re not very active on social media. It was hard to find your Instagram, and I don’t even think you have Twitter. It’s cool to not have so much to go on before an interview, but also allows you to see a character as a character, and not just an expression of the actor.
JM: Right, right, right. It gives everybody a fair shot, you know? That’s the thing man, I made my tea, I sat down, and I was just waiting by my phone for you to call so we can start the interview. I’m a stranger to you, and I think that’s such a beautiful thing. I feel you can’t really have intimacy if I know everything.
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