In the forthcoming feature, Devotion, Emmy-nominated actor Jonathan Majors stars as real-life naval aviator Jesse Brown.
Helmed by J.D. Dillard, the film tells the harrowing story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots, Brown and his wingman Tom Hudner during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen. It also highlights Brown’s determination and resilience to forge ahead to become the best pilot the branch had ever seen.
While Brown’s plight ultimately leads to his success, it should be noted that he was able to do so during the Jim Crow era and during a time where Black folks were fighting against being treated as second-class citizens. That notion is something Majors was cognizant of going in and explained to The Root how taking on the role of Brown was a master class in self-control.
“He [Jesse Brown] taught me restraint. I thought I had restraint, but there are times where I can kind of—‘Don’t say that.’ I get all the way there [then], ‘Don’t say that.’ He had such restraint, you didn’t even see it,” Majors said. “But you knew he was feeling it. His capacity for pain, his tolerance for it was great. And I think all of that is probably secondary because the reason he could do that is because he had devotion. He was devoted to something far greater than just being a naval aviator.”
Majors also shared the similarities he could draw between Brown and himself, revealing that the through line was their joint drive for excellence.
“After playing Jesse, I realized he’s a hero of mine. I think one thing we do have in common—if I could say one thing I think we have in common—it’s our drive for excellence. Personal excellence to always do our best,” Majors told The Root. “That’s something I do have, I always want to do my best and I always want to push myself forward. And I think there was something in his spirit that aligned with my spirit.”
“Irregardless of living in my car, irregardless of him growing up in Mississippi; irregardless of them not tryna put me in the right classes so I could get ahead; irregardless of them not letting him go to the right college and telling him to be a janitor and all that shit; irregardless of that, he made it out. We made it out. You made it out. That’s the message,” he concluded.
Devotion, starring Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, and Joe Jonas hits theaters Nov. 23.