‘When We Rise’ star shoots secret Chicago film ‘Captive State’

SHARE ‘When We Rise’ star shoots secret Chicago film ‘Captive State’

Jonathan Majors and his “When We Rise” co-star, Emily Skeggs. | Getty Images

Taking a break from the early stages of filming “Captive State” in Chicago, actor Jonathan Majors says he “really can’t say too much,” noting the producers’ desire to keep the movie’s plot details under wraps.

“But I can say this,” Majors says. ” ‘Captive State’ is a sci-fi political drama thriller, taking place in Chicago in 2027. The city is isolated by an alien occupation. The film follows a pair of brothers and a cop played by John Goodman. It’s about how we, as a civilization, are dealing with this occupation.”

“Captive State” also stars Vera Fermiga, rapper and actor Machine Gun Kelly and “Moonlight” star Ashton Sanders.

“We’re filming a lot in Pilsen,” Majors says. “They’ve told me that area is kind of like the Brooklyn of Chicago.”

Being back in Chicago brings back happy memories for Majors.

“The first time I was in Chicago marked an important moment at the beginning of my acting training,” he says. “I was here for the Palmer House Auditions” — held at the downtown hotel. “It’s a unified process where all the major conservatories from around the country come and audition prospective students. It was back when I was 18 years old and led to the beginning of my undergrad years at the North Carolina School of the Arts.”

Majors also will be seen in the “When We Rise,” premiering on WLS-Channel 7 at 8 p.m. Monday. He says he’s “extremely honored” to have been cast alongside Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker and Rachel Griffiths in the ABC miniseries that chronicles the birth of the gay liberation movement, beginning with the Stonewall riots in 1969.

Jonathan Majors as Ken Jones on “When We Rise.” | ABC

Jonathan Majors as Ken Jones on “When We Rise.” | ABC

Majors plays African-American activist Ken Jones in his younger years, with Michael Kenneth Williams playing him older.

“Ken was going up against so many things in his life,” says Majors. “To be a young gay man back then was tough. To be a young, gay, black man was very tough. To be a young, gay, black, Christian man was extremely tough. To be a young, gay, black, Christian sailor was damn near impossible.

“Yet Ken Jones, to this day, is still fighting and standing up to and is involved in conversation with those same institutions,” Majors says, referring to the U.S. military.

Majors laughs at recalling the email he got from Jones after being cast to play him in his younger years. “He wrote, ‘I was hoping for Meryl Streep, but I guess I’ll settle for you!’ ”

Since he was born a couple of decades after Stonewall, Majors says starring in “When We Rise” taught him powerful lessons about the gay rights movement.

“I was well aware of the civil rights struggle for African-Americans but did not realize that simultaneously there were other movements going on under the umbrella of civil rights,” he says. “There was the women’s rights movement, the gay liberation movement and the right against racism within the gay rights movement. Being in this series has been so educational for me.”

As for series creator Dustin Lance Black, who won a screenwriting Oscar for “Milk,” Majors says, ” ‘King Black’ is what I call him. He’s a very smart, sensitive, strong gentleman. We bonded because we come from similar backgrounds. We both grew up in very religious households, with very strong military backgrounds. Plus, we’re both Texans, so we bonded over that, too.

“It was his passion and his words that propelled this entire story.”

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