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Jonathan Majors’ Pump Up Playlist

ABC’s “When We Rise” star talks nabbing the role of a lifetime and the music that inspires him everyday

Jonathan Majors has quite possibly struck TV gold when it comes to his part as Ken Jones on ABC’s highly anticipated show, “When We Rise.” The 27-year-old actor portrays the gay, black and Christian young activist who becomes a mentor to at-risk youth in the Haight in San Francisco while still balancing his approach his own identity. And the show itself couldn’t come at a better time. 

Today’s political scene basically sets the stage for the show, which highlights the story (and pioneers) behind the gay rights’ movement beginning with the Stonewall riots in 1969. And between that, the black power movement, and the trying times which proved just how vital it became for one to fight for the rights of all humans, one can share in the same feelings of incredulity that Majors does. Point blank, as Majors said, “It’s pretty crazy.” 

Below, we chat with the actor about his character, an upcoming project and what “pump up” playlist you should listen to ahead of catching “When We Rise.” 

ABC/Eike Schroter

What did you find most inspiring about your character, Ken Jones?

How he raged against the machine. Once he found his mission to liberate and educate himself and others he put that into the world by fighting against strong institutions: the US Navy, the black church, the entire population of professionals of San Francisco… The most galvanizing aspect of Ken for me is that he was one man but he took on an army.

Was there any part of the story told in “When We Rise” that you connected to the most?

I connected to Ken’s story coming from a military background and a church background. The label he is given is outsider, someone who’s a troublemaker and isn’t walking the line. And I growing up had a very hard time walking the line as it were. My mother’s a pastor so the religious aspect of what does it mean to be not only a man but a human being. What is it you believe? I came up with at a very young age. And coming from a military background which was strict I came up against what it means to be a man and what that looks like. I came up what it meant to be an artist.

Ken’s character finds love during his effort to make a change. How does love play a part in what you do?

What I love most about Ken is his quiet appreciation and love for people. In every situation he deals with he has a partner or lover who he does this for; it really resonates because he’s doing it not only for himself, but for people he loves. I’m doing it for my daughter, for my partner or for my art.

In the forthcoming feature film “Hostiles,” you play a 19th century corporal who’s recruited by Captain Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) for his final mission. Between this character and Ken Jones, who do you think you’re most like?

When I read “Hostile” at first look, I saw another side of myself, but I think they’re both opposite sides of the same coin. They’re both trying to be free. But one gentleman is feeling oppression from the outside. They’re both so close right now. That’s like picking which kid you love the most.

“When We Rise” has been described as being uplifting, especially through the stories the show tells. What about music uplifts you every day?

I find that for me, music it’s an ancient form of communication and art. You really find out what a person is made out of through music. And I grew up in the church in Texas; gospel; soul; R&B. These are my bones in a way. 

What’s one line to describe your “pump up” playlist?

Consciousness, love and light to help you when shit gets dark. 

Main Image: dirty sugar photography