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Interview, Steven Caple Jr. -

An Unfathomable Force

 

Steven Caple Jr. with Michael B. Jordan on the sets of Creed II

 

 

Let's just start with a really basic question, right, What got you into film? What is it?

 

What inspired me was watching other movies like everyone else, you know, being moved and connecting with film, you know, when I was a kid, I saw people that look like me on the screen, that's when I really started to get inspired and want to actually make them. So like my mom, she made this, um, she bought us all a video cassette recorder and just running around with it, as a kid, from like seven to eight years old, just learning and teaching myself like filmmaking, you know what I mean? I was just reenacting old films. The one that did I did a lot was bad boys. It was like my favorite.

 

Bad Boys, really?

 

Yes. Random. I know. I'm like, I do dramas and yet bad boys was my favorite film. Um, to be honest though, I felt like I wasn't really an outspoken kid or individual. I know what I'm saying. So like for me, I felt like, oh wow, there's ways to express myself through this art form, as cliche as it sounds and stuff like, so every movie that I kind of write and direct, I find them and make sure that there's a piece of me in there, something that I want to tell, if that makes sense. And so as I got older, um, I don't know, I just started using that, that, that medium, you know, even with my class work, like when I got to college, it wasn't necessarily a major yet. So I was majoring in communications before it became film and all my assignments, I was like, can I figure out a way to, instead of writing papers to tell a story, I'll go out with a camera and film my presentation rather than me sit up there and oh hi, my name is Steven and I'm about to pitch to you, whatever, whatever.  Especially in marketing classes. I took a lot of marketing class too, so it went hand in hand, you know, so I was lucky enough to just be doing that throughout college. And by the time I got to Grad school like I just really jumped into it. And you know, went from being a student to professional, I guess when I came out to Los Angeles.

 

So you were more of an introvert as a kid?

 

A bit. When I'm with my family, I'm not, you know what I mean? Like my family brings out like the goofiness in me, And it wasn't like now I'm still learning how to balance that to the public still even, you know? So like for me, I tried to keep all that internal as much as possible. It's like my wife knows my sister was like my best friend, my mom. 

Like everybody knows how goofy I can be and fun. But like when I'm out there into the world, yeah, yeah. a bit, I'm an observer, you know what I mean? So I sit back and watch and just pick up on things and then learn, you know? And I use that to my advantage in the sense of telling stories, you know? And I listened and I listened very well. You know, even when he talked about your store, I wanted to know why you want to just start this, you know? Um, just to see where I'm at. I understand people. 

 

Sometimes when I am observing, I feel that one the autonomous process takes over, the only thing that I am doing then just observes and nothing else. Does that ever happen to you? 

 

Yeah, all the time. Like you mean like it says like people watching and taking people in. Are you saying observing so much that you never get to your own work?

 

Observing so much that I don't get to my own work.

 

Um, took him to a certain extent, but like the observe and isn't where my passion lies. You know what I mean? So like, so when I'm observing that looks like the first stage to me getting excited as an artist, if that makes sense. So like if I'm sitting here having this conversation, I might be inspired by your hair. You know what I mean? I'm like, his hair is cool man. It works for a man with the Tattoo. The Arrow. Like there's an interesting, I'm thinking about his character. Where did he come from? You know what I mean?  When did it become, when did you decide like I'm going to just be me and so that's the observation and then I can get his character, but I'm like, you know, I need to write this character. But just having that idea doesn't excite me. It's when I put it down on paper, when I see it on screen, you know what I mean? That's what really gets me excited and going. So like I won't get too caught up in not observing stages. You know what I mean? Yeah. Or the research stage. Cause you can live in that a long time and if you're still in that phase and they were supposed to create thing half the time, it's just fear during that project. You know what I mean? Um, it's definitely been projects that I may have left in the observing stage and never brought fully out and it's probably cause I'm afraid. 

 

Um, but why are you afraid of it?

 

It can be for many different reasons. That's what I was going to get to next. It could be for like, you never done anything like that before. I never told a story about the guy with the long hair, you know what I mean? Or I'm not sure about it just yet. So let me shelve it just for a moment too. I mature enough to tell the story or want to come. They are, I fully understand what this person's going through or um, yeah, you just have varying abilities. Like I said, for me, if I, if I shelve an idea or something that inspires me, it's usually because, uh, I'm not there yet from a story or I haven't found the story yet. This moment needs to happen if that makes sense. Oh right. But yeah, if you're, if you're not making the content though, you're too caught up in its early stages. I think people are just scared to fail, which is a huge scare. 

 

While observing, at what point do you know or decide that all right, this is an interesting character and I am going to paint this character in my own way. What's that process like?

 

It could happen early on, like doing like a first meeting obviously where you are like, I think I can, I can write this character or when you're starting to develop their story, if it's a story about your character, its just you, I'll figure out where I can take you. You know what I mean? That feels organic and raw to you. If I don't have that, then I'll figure out when, when is that more than I can build this kind of just, do, you know what I mean? Whatever it may be, a genuine dude who's down to earth, he started his own company, when do I want to tell that story? And then when I get to the keys, usually the keyboard..

 

Oh, you play?

 

..not the keyboard, sorry, the uh, I know, right? The typing or writing, um, a pad. So that kind of keyboard, uh, that's the other phase. You know, I just kind of jog down ideas and they start to form in a line in my head and then I started to see things and then I get music involved. Then I get visuals involved, I get colors, you know what I mean? And that's why I really started to dive into it. Sometimes that happens before I write and sometimes it happens during, you know what I mean? So it was like different places. Um, I haven't figured out a set way to approach every project. I mean, I feel like everyone's kind of fallen in my lap differently or had a picture of getting made differently.

 

So you never decided on a specific way of approaching a particular project?

 

This is the first feature I did, the second one - I did it because it was, they came to me for Creed II. Like I didn't necessarily go to them. So that was interesting, but that was challenging because I, you talk about like the observing stages. I didn't get to sit much in it. You know, it was like I got the job and like December and I was in prep January six. Oh, you know, so, and we had to rewrite the script so I didn't have enough time to dream in the subject matter dream and that world and started being like, oh, what if I did this when I did that? I kind of had to be like, all right, I had a thing tactical in a way, you know, like how do I get this done? How do I finish the movie? How do I still add a little spike? Like it wasn't like enough time to like really soaking this. I'm glad it came out the way it did. I would see as an artist you look at it and think of all the ways you could've brushed it differently or use the different colors or areas, but um, I dunno man, like I'm glad people dig it.  That was the tough part is the expectations that people already wanted something. So there's already sort of like a format, a structure for it and I had to figure out how to fit in it.

 

Did you work closely with Ryan? 

 

He was busy with Black Panther. So at first he read the script, gave notes and suggestions, then he did Black Panther press like it came out right where it's was about to go, like, get into shooting. Okay. Um, so he's busy with Black Panther and then I worked closely with Mike (Michael B. Jordan) more than anything cause he was also from the first one and a producer on this one. And Sly, you know, that was Ryan's advice to make sure, you know you listened to Sly (Sylvester Stallone) because Sly has a lot of insight. 

 

Since you said you couldn't paint it exactly how you wanted to, and I don't want you to break it down to the details but I am curious about what part of Adonis' story you would have worked on differently? 

 

I would have found ways to explain. It's not even his story actually. It's more so Bianca's story. I wanted to figure out ways to get into her storyline a little bit deeper, just to add more layers to it. I mean, she definitely has her main arc, and she definitely plays a role in his life. She's not just like, okay, I'm just tagging along. Like now I've got a career, but we had some stuff that went that we shot that I felt like I wanted to be on screen, but I just didn't have the proper time executed in a way I wanted it to.  So far as Adonis, I wanted it to be more than a revenge story. So there was ways of like, you know, uh, adding something more to this fight rather than just revenge. You know what I mean? Um, I think I did an okay job in portraying that. You know what I'm saying? Like I felt like I did all right in the sense of it was about his legacy. He was more worried about that. Not necessarily like shit my dad died, I got to kill him now. It was like, no, like when people think of death when they think of my last name, my father when they think of my last name. I want to change that and how we are remembered necessarily.  So it became more of an internal thing than just the external thing.

 

Was that your input? 

 

It was my input. It was good talking to Mike and figuring out where he was at his life and how he felt, you know when he's compared to the Will Smiths and Denzels of the world, like, what do you want? You know what I mean? It's like their legacies there is, I'm trying to figure out what to do my own path. Right. Boom. There you go. I'm gonna try to put that into the movie. So that way the film is personal to you, I can relate to that for sure. I think many people can. So I felt that way step into this film. Like, Dang, I gotta make it a little different cause Ryan did it this way, so we all had that kind of thing on our shoulder, you know? So I was like, that's cool you use that and try to put it in the film because it was it from my honest place. Um, so that it comes to those kinds of conversations. I guess if that makes sense. The same with Tessa was like I want everything to feel as real and authentic as possible. So you sit down with these guys and chop it up about life where they're at in their personal lives to see if there's something here to connect to. Sometimes there is, sometimes there's not, sometimes we were just swimming around the ballpark of what the story could be. Try to make it fit. That's my, that was my approach on this one cause I didn't have enough time. 

 

Are you coming back for the next one? 

 

Uh, I don't know. I don't know yet. I think, I think we definitely all want to do another one. Mike wants to, the studio does. I think we just want to make sure it's right. I may, I mean that to direct. I don't think I'll direct next one, no, but if they want me on it as a producer or a writer, I may.

 

To be honest I am really curious about Bianca's story and I wanna know how you go about it.

 

There was a scene where she's performing in her hearing went out during the set. We deleted it from the movie, but there was a scene, she was on the Jimmy Kimmel show and she was singing.

 

Oh yeah, that's the one. I saw Tessa's interview with Jimmy Kimmel.

 

And he's like here's my movie, uh, Jimmy Kimmel is amazing, man. But no, uh, yeah, we cut that scene out of the film because timing and I felt like it was, it was done and it was a cool scene, but I wanted to treat it right because the subject matter is so sensitive.  I didn't want to overlook it then became too much, cause then you had her losing her hearing. Then you also had for some people spoiler alert the baby's not hearing -  I had so much focused on that, that was like, I can't rush that scene. Yeah. I want to make sure that you know all the right moments were not saying that so you have to cut down on certain areas and make that one pop. But you know, I planted some stuff for the future stuff with Tessa. I planted some stuff in the script with the baby, you know. So I think there are definitely ways to go with the film and the franchise and still keep that grounded like this character pieces, you know, in a fresh way. So yeah, if not three, I might want to come back four or five. I got a few ideas.

 

In the first script, were they supposed to have a baby or did you put that in? 

 

They were. They had a baby. But then I'm like, man, we were thinking about taking it out and then, I was like, let me talk with Tessa, talked with Tessa and then Tessa's like, I don't want to have no baby. She told Mike she ain't gonna have no baby there. Why? Because of her career. Why? Because she also didn't want to be a woman just walking around with her line was like swollen ankles and making sandwiches all day. Like she doesn't want to be portrayed that way. Yeah. And I was like, damn, that's an interesting perspective to look at it. You know, like you don't want to betray that. Let me say that on screen. You know what I'm saying? And that became like the arc in a way, we're going to have a baby because it was always there, but I was like then all the stuff that we're having issues with so far, it's like, it's gonna mess up my career. It stakes to Adonis Creed because his storyline and he has to, he has a baby now. So next time we fight he has more to think about, you know, so like all that kind of came into place. So it felt like it was needed. The deaf part was my idea. Like I was like, I think the baby shouldn't hear. I think that'll keep you grounded. I think. I think people can like that's a hurdle to overcome. Even though the baby's not broken, there's still can live without the hearing it and that's it. And that's Adonis Creed thinks that his world is tough, his baby's about to go through some stuff, so get your stuff together cause you're gonna have to be there for this family. 

 

Did you derive the family aspects of these characters and the film itself from your own personal life? 

 

No, yeah, completely. The Dragos, for sure.  Like being pressured by your father. When my dad was around, he pressured me a lot. He wanted me to play basketball. Um, we had a rough relationship. So all that's in the dragon story a bit. And then, uh, we create himself. I felt like I knew that guy at that age. You're worried about your legacy? Uh, I have a wife. We're talking about having a family in the near future. So these are things I'll do We have a baby now that, uh, and then, uh, the proposal scene too was something similar to what I had to go through. The sense of like, get down on one knee. She like saying, is this real? Like it doesn't go as planned. It was like all that. I didn't get a door slammed in my face, but like it was, everything was planned perfectly up until that moment where I couldn't even get my speech out. Like I know the nerves of that. It's so I was like, man, I really want to do a proposal scene and that wasn't in the script. I wrote that based off of a kind of like my experience. Um, what else? There are a few other moments. 

 

Do you ever feel vulnerable sharing your stories like that let alone base moments in film off of your personal moments? 

 

Yeah, you want that. I want, I wanna feel vulnerable. I want the audience to feel vulnerable. You know what I mean? That's the goal. Like especially the movie that's all about machoism and I being a tough, their shirts off, everybody's fighting. I need everybody in that vulnerable state. You know what I mean? Cause like when you're vulnerable, people connect to them. When you're tough, there's a shield there. So there's a bit of like no one's really like that in real life and if they are, you're probably not friends with him cause you could never connect cause it's like you're vulnerable in some way. So like if I can keep that as a director throughout, then I have a passion for like the scenes that I'm doing and the projects that I'm doing. Because like not as a piece of me in there and I know there's a vulnerability there, but it goes back to the first question you asked. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming back to connecting, why do you think it's so difficult for us to connect with another human being? 

 

That's an interesting question man. That's an interesting question. I haven't really thought about that. I feel like it goes back to fear of like, like you said, kind of being vulnerable. Yeah, cause you got to let people in. Sometimes I have to communicate. You can never talk to somebody, but right now we're at a time where a lot of people talking at each other and no one not really listening, especially with like racial tension was going on politically, et cetera. Just before you came, I was looking up that girl. What's her name? Oh, she's like a hoarder. She's a pro-trump. And she's hashtagging like build that wall. She's like been hot lately on a role where everybody kind of followed her and I was like, why are we even following this woman? They're like, I know people tried to talk to her to have this kind of conversation. If you follow her on twitter, she just be saying some like crazy stuff. Yeah. That's like building or none of that. I'm like, man, this is like super rude, man! Are you not looking at what is doing to other people and their families? 

 

I was like, yeah, I dunno man. I don't know. Like I appreciate culture, which, you know what I'm saying? So like that's how I, that's why I love America. You know, the sense that like, I can talk to you right now. Public Place. Now, I mean, before it wasn't like that we probably wouldn't been allowed and a have, you know what I mean? Let alone a black business, let alone, um, be able to use the bathroom in a public place. Um, so how much we have grown we have grounds that are, it has been a core part of the world that was listening at certain times, but right now, I don't know, I think it's just probably fear, fear of having to, I don't know, lose something. Like, are you afraid to lose power? Why do you feel like your views are the only one that matter?  Is everything to them labeled like when I see these terrorists or like, you know, immigrants are dangerous, Is that the only thing that you see and how do you want to see that? Because there are people who are dangerous who are definitely on this side, but definitely Americans could definitely point out white males and white females who do crazy stuff that we're citizens of this country. When you consider them sort of like they get a pass, you know what I'm saying? 

 

I think it's, it's going to be everywhere in the world. It doesn't need to start building walls and like secluded people. I think that's actually the time we start to listen to have a conversation and figure it out. Um, I feel like, I mean that's like parenting one on one when you're talking to a kid, I feel like, you know what I mean? It's like if your kid wants to do something, nothing like first thing you should do is probably lock them in a room and be like, no, you can't do that. Yeah. Talk to them and see what's going on. You know what I mean? So that way they can keep you above me. You understand where they're coming from and maybe there's a solution. It's a little bit, cause my next film I'm working on right now, I sort of filmed a Legendary called ByAll with the writers from Creed.  without giving away too much, it's like what if police didn't exist. And so it was like, so don't we take matters into our own hands, right? So it's a little primer primitive that at times, but we have to sort of create a system and so we trained the system as citizens, but it becomes like an Uber App. So it's like a twisted, like Black Mirror episode. But target to a feature and as we're like figuring out the story and putting it all together because it was just the eight page story that we sold and now we're making a script. So we were just talking about like the real issue, the difference between policing and problem solving, right? Policing. There's no listening, policing, just orders and commands and do what she's supposed to stay in control of a situation, put order to things. 

 

Problem solving is going to take a little bit more your bigger standard and time maybe. So it started to get like that became like our theme and yeah, that's what we're moving forward with. But that's the stuff that like I gravitate towards, you know? So yeah. I don't know if the answer is, I don't even know how it got that deep, but yeah, that's a, Oh, you're talking about communicating. So I think that film might tap into it a little bit. Creed definitely did too. In the sense of like communicating with the people around you. Creed wasn't listening. The first fight he had, he was like, Nah, I want to do, he had his mind set, girlfriend was like, wait, you're taking the fight, like fiance, what do you mean you are taking the fight? Then, later on, you know, he had to listen and that, that second conversation was different, you know, and she listened to him. 

 

She understood that he was broken. That's why her responses and make sure you beat them this time. You know me, I got your back. So it was like that's their version of communicating, right. Um, I don't know man. Yeah. I don't know. I don't have this solution. I think just immediate, the solution really is just listening. I just, I don't know why people wouldn't want to and I think it's from personal gain, to be honest. Like I'm looking at her and I am like, oh she got 1.5 million followers on her Instagram.Oh, she's getting paid off of doing it, I guess what she's doing, she just calls and stuff because it benefits her in a way, yes. It makes her look good and there's people that follow that and she may start to think, start to believe in herself so far as like having a cause, you know what I mean? Like and it's like no, just going to people who agree with you. Those are just other fearful people. Um, I dunno it gets deep, but yeah, I don't know how to solve that one.

 

Another thing that I'm curious about right now is, how are you researching for ByAll?

 

Yeah. Oh yeah man. You look up anything from what's going on politically to how I run Uber Apps. You know what I'm saying? You look up like, No, legit. That's how big I, a lot of us do conversation too. You know what I mean? Like what do you think about the police? What do you think about what's happening and what can we do to change that? In terms of police, would be things be better or things be worse? Um, but a lot of that, you know, it's a deeper conversation because like, but you do sort of need something cause there are people out there who would take advantage of that for sure. There's police now. There's still multiple crimes being committed. So mad if there wasn't. So you're telling me that regular dudes going gonna come to me and tell me don't do that. Cause you could get a few bucks on it on an app that's like for, you know what I mean? So it was like, Dang. So that's, and that's what we want to explore. Like what if people got what they want in a way.  Then it starts to pose the question on the people now who are we then, you know, we got rid of that system. So that's what I'm hoping people walk out of the theater with the conversations I'm having with the writers, it's going to be controversial, maybe a little it. 

 

It's kinda like, I'm pretty sure he's going to start and it like it's going to ignite a really intense dialogue about who we are.

 

But it could be a hit and miss. I'm going for the hit. I was there, but like it's so challenging in a way that it scares me when we talked about like, why are you scared of that shit? Scary going to a project like that, I don't want know police gonna feel, so like I don't know how people, but I'm fearful of it I don't know if it's going to take me a month, two months to get on paper finishing. I was going to take me half a year or two. We'll take whatever. Oh, I'm a keep poking at it. It may not be perfect. It's not going to have a solution. Uh, and that's what people probably wouldn't want to go to the movie forward. Some people want that solution. I never want solution the movie, I just kind of want to pose a question, you know, and that's, I do like Creed. It's a good film and makes you feel good. It's a semi solution driven. Like it gives you a, uh, a resolution in a sense of their story, but the baby's still deaf and that's the shot in the movie on like, look, there's still a thing that happened to go through, so everything's not perfect. Like you think, you know? And that's what was good about creed one, he lost the matchup so everything wasn't perfect. 

But internally you got something but everything wasn't perfect. And I love films like that. And so this one's going to fight in the same way. All my feelings in that way. Actually, what are my short film I had none of them is like everyone's kind of, even this one, it was like, I need, the studio's going to want an image that are like everyone's holding together at the end and everything's happy. But I was like, but my nugget is at the baby's still deaf.

 

You left that in there.

 

I left that and I was like, yes, you can look at this beautiful images, his family, but then they still have a journey to go through with this baby and that can lead you to two and three and four. But, but it's also like, it felt real, like it wasn't the perfect studio movie would have been baby can hear. Yes. That's how I like to look at life. It's also the problem of life. 

 

How are you, like, what do you think your legacy is going to be like?

 

 

Good question, man.

 

As a husband, you know, like, holistically. 

 

Oh yeah, As a husband I think I'm going to be amazing. A husband and father and all the, yeah, I can't wait to have kids. I'm all about family. So like, oh, I can't wait. Um, you know, knock on wood, God, it gives me, um, beyond that, uh, careerwise I think I'm going to have my ups and downs and prepare myself because it's just the way I think and who I am. I want to challenge myself or make films like ByAll and make films that people are like, what the hell? This doesn't fit the norm and I'm going to try things that may fell and I'm a go for it. I know that requires ups and downs, and as an artist I know I'm just going to grow even through those failures. Even though is going to be times where I keep a journal, it's going to be times where like, look dude, there was times where you are happy you did succeed even though you are in the falling place right now. 

 

So I can always look back at those moments and say, all right, I'm just sending there the bottom part right now. You know what I mean? But yet I know when I get a family, the kids and all that, like everything was going to be more important as long as I'm succeeded in that world because that's how my mom looked at things. A lot of things hit as hard as a family, but she always deposit it. She always find a way to put food on the table and a roof over our head. That's what accomplishment. Like now I look at her like, Ma, you know, uh, there's certain things you had to give up. The sacrifice in the world, like your dreams. You want to sing, he wants it done and you have me. And it doesn't matter to her when she sees me doing what I love, she's like fulfilled on another level. That's why I'm so excited to take her out tonight. My agency gave me some tickets to a show that she likes, that's cool cause I don't watch it. So I am gonna take her. But um, but my mom does that in ways. Um, and so as a family I think that's going to be huge. But I don't, I don't know. I can't really pinpoint what, how people are going to perceive me. I just hope that I don't care. That's really cause it, cause people are gonna feel so many different ways. Like I just like this is my social media followings gone up since the movie obviously. And it's like, man, some people are like fans. Some people can't stand me because it wasn't enough rocky or was whatever reason. Like he didn't knock him out at the end. It's always going to be a reason and they'll go in and so I'm like, you know what? You know, that's why I don't look at it as much. That's why it comes to just close out. That's why when you're inboxing me and the thing, I'm like, damn, I miss three days. Sometimes I got to step away because if I start to listen to that, I'm absorbing their energy. So, um, I don't know how people look at me. I just hope that I'm able to stand on my own too and just be like, Oh, if I keep pushing and keep trying.

Interview Excerpt - Steven Caple Jr.
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