Creed III marks the first time Michael B. Jordan sits in the director’s chair. The actor has decades of experience on a set thanks to being a child star in movies like Hardball and shows like The Wire. It was only natural that he was bound to pick up a few tricks along the way, and the curiosity to one day be behind the lens. Not only did he have Creed director and longtime collaborator Ryan Coogler on speed dial, but he also had other famed actor-turned-directors in his corner to walk him through the process like Denzel Washington, Jon Favreau, and Bradley Cooper.   

Jordan has lived in the Creedverse, as he calls it, for eight years. The first film dropped in November 2015, but he worked hand-in-hand with Coogler and Sylvester Stallone to craft the story. Now at the reins, Jordan had full control of where he wanted to take it. His choice to focus on his character Adonis Creed’s backstory was not one Stallone agreed with. It was reported that the actor wouldn’t be reprising his role as Rocky Balboa as he had in the first two films because the story had gone down in a different direction than he would have liked. “What it was is Michael is telling a story, highly personal, but there’s no room for me,” he told The Independent. “In other words, it’s about his [Adonis’] family, about his dilemma, and about his journey that has nothing to do with boxing.”

While Stallone was incredible for connecting the originals to the first two Creed installments, Creed III is so thoroughly packed with so much tension, emotion, and excitement that it’s easy to forget Stallone’s absence. When Jordan is asked if he felt any apprehension about adding this story and these emotions to a sports film, he confidently shrugs it off, saying there was never any doubt in his mind. “Not even a little bit. I thought it was natural. I didn’t think about that at all actually,” Jordan tells Complex. “It just felt like it was a natural evolution of the story and the character and that’s what we went with.”