Michael B. Jordan has a habit of putting in overtime to train for his action star roles. It’s not just hours in the gym to build the right physicality. He also studies different disciplines like dance and fighting techniques to drive the performance home. That dedication carried him through Without Remorse, where he plays an elite Navy SEAL named John Clark who becomes an operative for the CIA.
“My father’s a Marine, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who serve and have served,” Jordan says over Zoom from Los Angeles. On top of starring in Without Remorse, he also worked as a producer. “I wanted to show up on set knowing as much as I could about the job and what it takes to be in the special forces.”
The movie is based on the best-selling book of the same name by espionage author Tom Clancy. Given his family connection to the military, Jordan felt especially driven to bring authenticity to the acclaimed property, so he consulted with a slew of military advisors, like Buck Doyle, a decorated Marine veteran. For the fitness elements, he once again enlisted long-time trainer Corey Calliet to build a grueling combat-preparedness program.
Men’s Journal spoke with the actor about his Without Remorse weapons training and workouts, plus setting his sights on Creed 3.
Men’s Journal: What were your initial thoughts on Without Remorse?
Michael B. Jordan: Back in the day I loved playing Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. I got pulled into those universes as those characters, living through those scenes. Putting this project together felt like everything came full circle. That, as well as having a father in the military. I was really excited at the prospect of playing John Kelly. I loved the opportunity to give a fresh take to this guy, making him a little more modern to represent the world we live in today.
Without Remorse is a hugely technical film. What did that entail?
The training aspect was key, and we had a few months. I was honored to work with Buck Doyle, especially out on his ranch for our shooting practice and weapons work. That technical training helped give me the foundation I needed to embody the character from a dramatic standpoint, since that part was down from day one. I wanted to live it. There was a huge water component too. I worked with a great group of military divers, learning how to deal with high-stress situations while submerged, like weapon and gear malfunctions. It felt good to be able to do it and handle myself.
How about the weapons training?
There was a comfortability with guns I had with my dad being a Marine. I’ve been to the range and held guns before I had to for work, and I’ve done gunplay in previous roles as well. In this project, Without Remorse was about taking those skills and sharpening them. I found it enjoyable getting to put that time in. I have a lot of reverence for what people in the special forces do and their ability to keep their head when things go wrong. I respect their drive to keep their fellow soldiers safe before themselves. Buck really sent me through it. The man was not easy on me by any means.
How was training to play a SEAL different from a boxer?
I worked with my physical trainer Corey Calliet, who I’ve worked with on six movies at this point. We’re both obsessive when it comes to the work, and there’s no way I’d rather have it. Once we set our minds on a certain physique, there’s no stopping us. It’s important to me that my physical body represents the character I’m playing. That means the workout plan needs to be different and reflect where he’s coming from. John Clark isn’t Creed. I got the biggest I’ve ever been in Creed II. This was about looking like a fit Navy SEAL, and nothing else. That’s why it was great to have Corey, along with Buck, helping me get there.
Did you continue to train while the movie was filming? How difficult was it to get those sessions in?
There were workouts happening all the way through. There were a lot of shoots going down at night, which means we would come off set at four or five in the morning and go straight to the gym to train for another two hours. That meant I was catching sleep during the early parts of the day so I could wake up in the afternoon and do it all over again. We were fully locked in.
Did your training regimen hinge upon a particular exercise or style?
We were doing circuit training, so there were a lot [of exercises], but the burpees were not [something] I looked forward to.
That bad, huh? How many did Calliet have you do?
How many? Shit. They were always lying to me. I think trainers are the biggest liars on the planet. It’s always, “One more,” then there’s a dozen more. The recovery was an extremely important part of this project, as well as meditation. To be perfectly honest I probably wouldn’t repeat this situation again in the sense of how little recovery time I had. I rode the wheels until the wheels fell off on this one. I would do a much better job at making time [for recovery] the next go-around. My mind was running sharply, but my body was wiped.
What scenes did you find the most challenging?
The water work was the hardest. There’s a plane crash in the water, and I have to hold my breath for minutes on end—and perform. It’s a scene I was initially very excited about, fell out of love while filming, then came back around to loving it when we were done. It was incredibly strenuous and arduous to get through, but so satisfying when we got done. I felt incredibly accomplished because it was so challenging in every sense of the word.
The door is open for another movie with John Clark. Are you interested?
I would love to play John Clark again, and doing a real Rainbow Six movie would be awesome. I’m looking forward to gaming a little Rainbow Six soon, doing a little throwback play.
People are excited for the next Creed movie. When will you start training?
I’ll start getting ready for the next Creed by the beginning of May, and getting back into that training mode again. It’s the next project I’m filming. I’ve been on a little break with my diet, eating anything and everything. I’ll be back in the gym with Corey, and hoping to bring something to the screen even better than last time.
Without Remorse premiers on Amazon Prime on April 30.
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