‘Devotion’ Star Jonathan Majors on the Untold Stories of Black Excellence

Majors’ groundbreaking naval pilot Jesse Brown in ‘Devotion’ exemplifies Black ambition, including his own:

My characters are sometimes men who I want to be.


In Sony’s Devotion, Jonathan Majors stars as Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator to complete the Navy’s basic training program. Set in the months leading to the Korean War, the film — directed by J.D. Dillard and adapted from Adam Makos’ nonfiction book by screenwriters Jake Crane and Jonathan A. Stewart — also stars Glen Powell as Tom Hudner, a naval lieutenant assigned to be Brown’s wingman.

The film follows the pair as they train for battle and learn the tricky (and dangerous) challenge of landing a plane on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Their professional partnership soon evolves into a friendship so strong that they are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect each other, on the ground as well as in the air.

For Majors, playing Brown was a highlight in his burgeoning screen career. While he has appeared in revisionist period dramas like The Harder They Fall and Lovecraft Country (earning an Emmy nom for the latter), Devotion called for more grounded work and a detailed understanding of Brown as a real-life figure who, Majors says, perfectly encapsulated the notion of Black excellence.

What about the project — and Jesse Brown as a character — did you first connect with?

I’m from Texas. Where I’m from, we say that we were “born in the mud.” Jesse Brown was, too, and that’s one thing I attached to the first version that I read. The more I read, the more I realized this guy is quite contemporary.

He’s trying to maintain excellence in a society that is really built against him. That, in and of itself, is a high level of difficulty. Honestly, it’s a Black character, and it’s real.

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DEVOTION Trailer ~ Video via Sony Pictures Entertainment

Synopsis:

Based on the book by Adam Makos.

Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the harrowing true story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War.

Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.

Directed by: JD Dillard; Screenplay by: Jake Crane & Jonathan A. H. Stewart.

Produced by: Molly Smith, Rachel Smith, Thad Luckinbill and Trent Luckinbill.

Executive Producers: JD Dillard and Glen Powell.

Cast: Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell, Christina Jackson, Thomas Sadoski and Joe Jonas.

In theaters November 23rd.


Devotion by Adam Makos

Synopsis:

Devotion tells the inspirational story of the U.S. Navy’s most famous aviation duo, Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, and the Marines they fought to defend. A white New Englander from the country-club scene, Tom passed up Harvard to fly fighters for his country. An African American sharecropper’s son from Mississippi, Jesse became the navy’s first Black carrier pilot, defending a nation that wouldn’t even serve him in a bar.

While much of America remained divided by segregation, Jesse and Tom joined forces as wingmen in Fighter Squadron 32. Adam Makos takes us into the cockpit as these bold young aviators cut their teeth at the world’s most dangerous job—landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier—a line of work that Jesse’s young wife, Daisy, struggles to accept.

Deployed to the Mediterranean, Tom and Jesse meet the Fleet Marines, boys like PFC “Red” Parkinson, a farm kid from the Catskills. In between war games in the sun, the young men revel on the Riviera, partying with millionaires and even befriending the Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Taylor. Then comes the conflict that no one expected: the Korean War.

Devotion takes us soaring overhead with Tom and Jesse, and into the foxholes with Red and the Marines as they battle a North Korean invasion. As the fury of the fighting escalates and the Marines are cornered at the Chosin Reservoir, Tom and Jesse fly, guns blazing, to try and save them. When one of the duo is shot down behind enemy lines and pinned in his burning plane, the other faces an unthinkable choice: watch his friend die or attempt history’s most audacious one-man rescue mission.

A tug-at-the-heartstrings tale of bravery and selflessness, Devotion asks: How far would you go to save a friend?

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