Steven Caple Jr., who directed “Creed II,” says collaborating in an inclusive environment with black producers, actors and writers behind the scenes for the sequel was “exciting.”
The 30-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, native shared what it was like working with the film’s stars, including Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad and Sylvester Stallone, and the importance of inclusivity behind the camera.
“Here goes these people of color, women, coming together to collaborate on something which I was excited about because I feel like I don’t see that as much on a big-scale project,” Caple told HuffPost. “It’s beautiful,” he later added.
“Creed II” had two black producers; both Jordan and Ryan Coogler, who directed the first “Creed,” served as executive producers of “Creed II.” Caple brought on Juel Taylor, a black screenwriter, who co-wrote the screenplay with Stallone. The film’s story is by Sascha Penn and Cheo Hodari Coker, the latter of whom is also black.
Prior to directing “Creed II,” Caple had one independent feature film, “The Land,” under his belt. The movie was set in his hometown of Cleveland, and was what he called a “love story” to the city. His work also includes short films “A Different Tree” and “Prentice-N-Fury’s Ice Cream Adventure,” and work on Freeform’s show “Grown-ish.”
Caple said that along with excitement, he felt “pressure” taking on “Creed II” after learning he was tapped to direct the sequel for the popular franchise.
Coogler, who went on to direct “Black Panther,” and who attended film school with Caple at University of Southern California (USC), had “vouched” for “The Land” director, Caple said.
And after also impressing MGM studios with his first feature, Caple remembers calling Coogler after learning he landed the gig, saying, “Bruh, you didn’t even tell me that my name was in the hat,” he told HuffPost with a laugh.
Caple has had a passion for creating stories since he was in high school. He decided to pursue filmmaking professionally while in college at a private liberal arts school outside of Cleveland.
After getting accepted into the graduate program at USC’s film school, Caple wrote a script for his thesis that became “The Land,” which got into Sundance.
The writer-director said he grew up watching the “Rocky” movies and later related to the franchise on “another level” with the introduction of the character Adonis, another young black man navigating life and “growing pains.”
“Creed II” follows the coming-of-age story of Adonis (Jordan) his new life with Bianca (Thompson) and his impending battle with Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) the son of Ivan Drago, the boxer responsible for his father, Apollo’s, death.
Working behind the scenes on “Creed II” was a “collaborative experience,” Caple said, adding that there’s a need for more representation in editors, studio executives, producers and writers.
“I think that would be a progressive way of thinking, and moving forward, how we could get more people of color on camera, behind the camera, which generates more stories and different perspectives,” he said.
The “Creed II” director said that he aspires to be able to support the production of films by black filmmakers striving to break into the film industry, which is still overwhelmingly white and male.
“We have many unique stories but we just don’t have the green light to create them,” he said.