Chicago Justice: Carl Weathers proves why he is a man of action

Carl Weathers plays Mark Jefferies on Chicago Justice.

Carl Weathers plays Mark Jefferies on Chicago Justice.

If destiny had gone a different way, actor Carl Weathers might've been an NFL star (he played for San Diego State and logged time on the gridiron as an Oakland Raider).

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 pleading slow jam called You Ought to Be With Me — in 1981. YouTube. Do it.)

But injuries and good timing conspired to bring the New Orleans native to screens big and small in a host of memorable roles over the course of his 40-plus year career.

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From the start, the former linebacker with a B.A. in drama was, naturally, 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 "Italian Stallion" 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 literally and finally 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. In 2016, he navigated an alien invasion on the sci-fi drama Colony.

But sitting in a French cafe in Venice on a recent morning, the still formidable actor is also clearly adept at getting procedural. 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.

Chicago Justice is the latest ensemble drama set in America's Windy City.

Chicago Justice is the latest ensemble drama set in America's Windy City.

"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."

You were an athlete, but had you always been interested in drama too? Or was there a pivot point where you realized that acting was the true, or additional, calling?

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.

Carl Weathers says he was drawn to Chicago Justice because of the level of quality a Dick Wolf production represents.

Carl Weathers says he was drawn to Chicago Justice because of the level of quality a Dick Wolf production represents.

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.

When people stop you on the street, does it run the gamut of your roles?

It depends on demographic. The age says it all. If they're a millennial, Happy Gilmore and Arrested Development. That's the gold standard for them.

More than four decades after the original Rocky, Carl Weathers and Sylvester Stallone have remained friends.
KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/REUTERS

More than four decades after the original Rocky, Carl Weathers and Sylvester Stallone have remained friends.

They don't even know about Rocky?

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They can know about it, but that kind of self-deprecating and off-the-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 realize 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 no one else can do that for you.

Chicago Justice 8.30pm, Wednesdays from July 26, Three

 

 - Los Angeles Times

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