Lengthy career after Rocky start
If destiny had gone a different way, actor Carl Weathers might’ve been an NFL star.
Or we might know the Rocky star as an R&B sensation. (He performed in bands as a teen and even released a single – a slow jam called You Ought to Be With Me – in 1981.) But injuries and good timing conspired to bring the New Orleans native to screens big and small in a host of memorable roles over 40-plus years.
From the start, the former linebacker with a BA in drama was a man of action. Most famously, he played the irresistibly exuberant heavyweight champ Apollo
Creed, who was victorious, then later lost in a rematch to Rocky Balboa in Sylvester Stallone’s boxing franchise.
He helped Harrison Ford thwart the Nazis in Force 10 From Navarone and faced down the Predator (and lost) alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1988, Weather took things into his own hands in the underrated Action Jackson. The action star then turned to comedy, giving golf tips to Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore (‘‘It’s all in the hips’’) and playing a thrifty version of himself on the critically acclaimed Arrested Development.
He’s currently starring as State’s Attorney Mark Jefferies on Dick Wolf’s latest drama set in the Windy City, Chicago Justice. Weathers, 69, says he was happy to jump into the courtroom.
‘‘It’s Dick Wolf,’’ he says reverently of the Law & Order mastermind. ‘‘You’ve got a guarantee pretty much that it’s not going to be a dog.’’ There was no pivot. The first play I ever did was in grade school, and that was before I was an athlete. I fell in love with acting. What I fell in love with – most actors, I think, would probably say the same thing – was applause and approval. There’s something about that that’s so heady, particularly when you’re a kid.
I didn’t really start seriously into sports until I got into junior high school. I’ve never really thought this through really well, but I think probably as a young boy, you [play sports)]to fit into those groups of guys, and also if you start becoming interested in girls, girls like athletes. They can know about it, but that kind of self-deprecating and offthe-wall [humour] just appeals. Then, of course, Rocky in its own way is such a classic for everyone. It’s such a familial way of bonding. Also, where can you go in the world where you can’t talk to someone about Rocky? It connects people in so many ways because there’s so many aspects of it that they love. It’s a buddy film in a strange way, it’s a love story in a strange way, it’s this physical test of one’s ability to persevere.
When you think about it, all of those elements I just mentioned are elements we all experience in life. Our own disappointments, our own sometimes lack of believing in ourselves, maybe finding something that inspires us and pushes us beyond where we thought we could be.
Ultimately, when you really finally get to a place of enlightenment, what you realise is, you are the greatest competition you will ever face. That statement is one that I think is very, very significant, and it’s understated, but it exists in those movies. You have to push yourself. You have to motivate yourself. You have to find a reason to get up and go on and achieve your dreams, because noone else can do that for you.
– Los Angeles Times
Chicago Justice 8.30pm, Wednesdays from July 26, Three
Carl Weathers plays Mark Jefferies in Chicago Justice.