“Creed III” actor Johnny “Yahya” McClain knows family is everything.
McClain— a double world champion boxerfilmmaker and actor — experienced the death of his older brother Marc McClain on December 27, 2021.
Five days later, his mother – Nisaa Seifullah – died. Both deaths were due to complications from COVID-19.
And just five days after that in Atlanta, he received an audition for his role in “Creed III”.
McClain wasn’t in the mood at first, but then changed his mind.
“I was like, ‘You know what, my mom would be really mad at me if I didn’t at least try,'” he told HuffPost. “There’s a reason why everything is like this, so I have to go.”
McClain plays coach Damian “Dame” Anderson (played by Jonathan Majors) in the film, which hits theaters Friday. The actor describes the film as a “comeback story” that takes audiences on a roller coaster of emotions.
The role, with which he felt “100% at home”, takes place in an environment designed by the director and actor of Adonis “Donnie” Creed Michael B. Jordan, who cast authentic people for the film, a- he declared.
McClain said the “complete focus” he saw from the Majors as the two worked together inspired him in his own career.
“His total focus, his total disregard for anyone who is there when he is in his mood, when he is there, ready to do his thing. And be able to block everything. It was amazing,” the actor said.
“I used it in my very next audition. And in my very next audition, I finally booked the role in the (Starz series) ‘BMF’ after auditioning multiple times and not getting it… and I booked several things after that,” he continued.
McClain’s role in “Creed III” a movie he calls the greatest boxing movie of all time, stems from his experience in the world of boxing and sport.
McClain is the ex-husband and former manager of Laila Ali, and he was involved in creating the Ali and Jacqui Frazier fight in 2001 – the first time a women’s fight was the main event of the pay-per-view.
The late Roger Mayweather, an uncle of Floyd Mayweather Jr., was once his coach. And McClain trained Julius Erving III, son of the great Julius “Dr. J” Erving II, in boxing. Further down the family line, his niece, Konnor McClainis a member of the United States Women’s National Gymnastics Team.
McClain himself was the World Boxing Council’s Continental Americas Light Heavyweight Champion in 1995 and went on to become a two-time World Boxing Union World Cruiserweight Champion.
McClain, who fell in love with the sport aged 10, recounted one of his first professional fights against a man who shot his older brother and previously beat him as an amateur.
His brother reminded him of where he was shot before the fight, McClain recalls, and it filled him with rage as well as a commitment not to lose the fight. McClain said he broke his right hand two weeks earlier.
“(My opponent) was bigger than me and I had a hand but he shot my brother so I fought him and beat him,” said McClain, who was coached by Roger Mayweather at the time.
McClain then broke his left hand in the second round, and when he went to ringside corner, Mayweather gave him a task: “Slap that MF.”
“So I went over there and slapped him and won the fight by decision, it was a four round fight,” McClain said.
McClain also has a passion for boxing on the big screen, and his role in “Creed III” is not the first time he is in a “Rocky” movie.
The actor appeared for a “wink” in the 2006 movie “Rocky Balboa” where he was knocked out by Mason “The Line” Dixon (played by Antonio Tarver). Tarver’s character re-enacted the fight in his vehicle later in the film.
The actor said Majors, as a new challenger in the “Rocky” world, showed persistence on another level while making the new movie.
McClain revealed that Majors, and others on set, would do push-ups every day. The majors went further, he said, blasting them after several rounds of work glove.
“Now he’s done five or six laps in a row doing mitt work,” McClain said. “Then when we stopped he jumped down, still had his gloves on and did 82 push-ups in a row.”
Majors showed remarkable commitment to his roles, tell Variety last month that he had a diet of more than 6,000 calories a day for his character in the Sundance film “Dreams Magazine” as well as for the pre-work and post-work of “Creed III”.
McClain also noticed Majors’ disciplined commitment to his diet and saw how far Majors – and Jordan – took their fight scenes.
“It was amazing how hard they went, how long they did it, how many times they did everything,” McClain said.
“Majors is a real animal. It’s a beast. He’s a great guy. He works hard. Both did.
McClain said the audition for his latest role ‘Rocky’ was “a perfect moment” for him, as it helped him forget the deaths of his two family members, who also embraced his love for the sport. .
His mother took him to the boxing gym when he was 10 years old. His brother, once a boxer, later became a footballer and coach.
They attended all of McClain’s fights, and his family once went to see “Rocky” together.
McClain thinks audiences will revel in Jordan and the Majors’ performances in “Creed III,” whose release date has been pushed back to a meaningful day for him: March 3, his late brother’s birthday.
He plans to honor his brother and mother at a sold-out screening of “Creed III” —– where he also hopes to screen one of his shorts — in his hometown of Las Vegas that day.