The ousted Marvel actor gave a major TV interview to show his side of the story — but experts question the impact this could have on his sentence and his career.
Jonathan Majors is working to save his reputation and career in giving a Jan. 8 interview declaring his innocence ahead of sentencing, in a move that experts see as risky legally and professionally.
The Creed III and Marvel actor was convicted by a jury in December on reckless assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor, and harassment in the second degree, which is a violation. The charges stem from an incident inside a car on March 25 in which Majors’ ex-partner Grace Jabbari testified that she saw a text on his phone suggesting he was cheating on her and grabbed it from him. She said the actor then injured her, including prying her finger from the phone and striking her head as he tried to take the phone away from her and later threw her back into the car.
Majors faces up to a year in prison for these charges and has already suffered a staggering career fall as a result, with Marvel Studios firing him as the lead of an upcoming Avengers movie (and an untold number of other appearances) just hours after the verdict. Meanwhile, his would-be awards contender Magazine Dreams remains in limbo at Disney-owned studio Searchlight.
But Majors’ talent agency, WME, still reps him, and his agent, Elan Ruspoli, was one of the witnesses the defense team brought in to testify on his behalf. At the time, Ruspoli said Majors called him daily, including on the morning of March 25, when Majors tried to gain entrance to the locked bedroom area of his apartment (Jabbari, who was inside, testified that she did not hear Majors trying to enter). Ruspoli testified that Majors sounded “beyond concerned.”
Majors’ interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America (a corporate sibling of the Disney studio that dropped the actor) marks the first time he has spoken out since his conviction in December, in what he said was an attempt to “be brave and take responsibility” for his own story. Majors did not testify during the trial.
In the interview, Majors denied Jabbari’s version of events, adding that he had never hit a woman or been a participant in domestic abuse in any of his relationships. Noting that he did not know how Jabbari sustained the injuries, he said he had “no question” that he was not the cause. His only responsibility, he argued, was being in the car and the relationship.
“I shouldn’t have been in the car. I shouldn’t have stepped out of the relationship. I shouldn’t have been in the relationship,” he said. “If I’m not in the car, none of this is happening.”
However, with Majors still facing sentencing Feb. 6, this strategy could backfire. Cary London, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney at Shulman & Hill, notes that it is “very unusual” for a defendant to do an interview between conviction and sentencing, with most avoiding such a move out of fear that it could negatively influence the judge’s decision. Many observers, including London, did not previously believe Majors would go to jail, but the interview presents a new factor to consider.
But she says the public perception may have outweighed that risk for Majors. “From a purely legal standpoint, it would be more wise to wait to give a public statement until after sentencing. But Majors is likely balancing other factors such as public relations and his future career opportunities,” Mangels says.
During the interview, Majors was asked whether he believed he’d work in Hollywood again. “Yeah, I do. I pray I do,” he said.
But, as one crisis PR expert speaking anonymously says, doing this interview could also be a very “high risk, low reward strategy” for Majors’ career, given that the sentence is still incoming and that any bad news on that front will likely outweigh any positives the interview might produce. That’s not to say Majors will never be able to launch a career comeback, but this source believes that it’s unlikely he’ll be able to move the needle on his career, particularly with this interview, in the next few weeks. The crisis PR expert adds, “You can’t rebuild your house while the hurricane is still raging overhead.”
This story appeared in the Jan. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.