Jonathan Majors and Aunjanue Ellis on being “instigators of truth”

IN Reunited, Awards Insider hosts a conversation between two Oscar contestants who have collaborated on a previous project. Here we talk The harder they fall star Jonathan Majors and King Richard actor Aunjanue Ellis, who previously appeared together in the 2020 HBO series Lovecraft Country.

When Jonathan Majors‘s face appears in the Zoom dial with Aunjanue Ellis, she immediately lights up. “Nephew!” she says in greeting. The couple seems dizzy by seeing each other (“I can not stop smiling,” says Ellis), and it’s clear that they have a close bond after working together on HBO’s Lovecraft Country, the latest fantasy series set in the 1950s, in which Majors played a man searching for his father, and Ellis played his aunt (hence the “nephew” nickname; Majors calls Ellis “aunt”).

Vanity Fair brings them together over this Zoom call to talk about what they’ve been doing since the show was shockingly canceled after a season. Majors, 32, took on the role of Nat Love, a cowboy on a revenge mission, in Netflix’s stylish western That They fall harder, while Ellis, 52, played Oracene Price, the mother of tennis phenomena Venus and Serena Williams, and Warner Bros. ‘ King Richard. Together they talked Vanity Fair about how it felt to see Lovecraft lose on another season that portrays real people and how they use their art to tell the stories they have always wanted to see.

Vanity Fair: What do you remember from the first time you met?

Jonathan Majors: It must have been a table reading, but I remember the first time I noticed Mrs. Ellis. We shot and that must have been the scene [in the first episode] in the kitchen. The stage is set up where she needs to be [going] at me. But I remember she was so sweet and a little bubbly. And then suddenly there was no more. The scene would begin and it was gone. And I thought, “Oh, well, it’s an incredible actress with an incredible depth, but also a real human being.” Which is not to say that actors are not, but for the most part, something happens in the game where people can just walk away. I think what I noticed about my aunt and my friend is that there was such a warmth in her and such a mastery of space and instrument.

Aunjanue Ellis: The table read was my first real awareness of Jonathan. I know I was a bit in a corner. Wherever you were, I really did not see you. I only heard your voice, so you were like this voiceless body. I just remember thinking when that reading happened, “What a fresh air.” It’s like how you hear a song that you’ve never heard in your life, but then one day you hear it, and all of a sudden it’s on repeat, and that’s all you’re listening to for the next seven days. It’s like, “Where was I before this song?” And that’s how I felt about Jonathan. I thought, “Where was I before I heard this man say those words and say them the way he said them and just be so alive in what he was doing?” And I just went – I want to swear a little bit – I thought, “Who is that damn man? Who is he?” That’s what I remember thinking. And that impression lasted pretty much the whole time we were recording. I never felt like I was with a rare person.

Another season was underway, and then HBO decided not to move on. And I’m curious, Aunjanue, you’ve been involved in a lot of shows over the years, but how did it feel to find out that the story would not continue?

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