Celebrating The Flamboyant, Hilarious, Powerful Career of Carl Weathers

Carl Weathers didn’t play Apollo Creed nearly as much as he was Apollo Creed.

While “Rocky” was primarily about perseverance and the romance between Rocky and Adrian, the classic film (and its next three sequels) is something far lesser without Carl Weathers bringing that cockiness, trash-talk, and overall 5-star villain-turned-brother to life. When I think of Apollo Creed, the first image that comes to mind is him dancing in American flag trunks with an American Flag top hat as James Brown sings “Living In America”. The first quote I think of is “Time to go to school!” I seriously doubt any other actor in history could have played the Yang to Rocky’s Yin the way Carl Weathers did.

It’s funny to me that both of those things come from “Rocky IV“. Because I think Carl Weathers was at his best in the original movie. And not that he was subtle or subdued in the slightest in the original, but by “Rocky IV” he was more outrageous than ever. And lots of times that is a turn-off. In less capable hands, this role could have turned into a cartoon. But Carl Weathers was too good an actor to let that happen. He played flamboyance to mesmerizing perfection. I could repeatedly watch his “entry” into the ring to face Drago.

And I dare say the “Creed” follow-up films to “Rocky,” which has reached unprecedented heights for the series, would never have been the hook for these new movies if Carl Weathers didn’t play Apollo so well. Michael B. Jordan is one of the great, captivating actors of this generation. But for this role, he got to stand on gigantic shoulders.

Carl Weathers Post-Rocky: Who Knew Apollo Could Be So Funny?

Being such a huge “Rocky fan” and growing up in the 70s and 80s, this is who Carl Weathers will always be to me, first and foremost. However, I am thrilled to say that he was such a talented actor, he was never typecast. And we got to witness him showing off in a variety of other performances.

The same guy who was larger than life in one of the most iconic dramatic film series ever was the same guy who was ROTFL funny in smaller roles like Chubbs in “Happy Gilmore” and himself in “Arrested Development”. The crazy thing is, that Carl Weathers shared the big screen first with Adam Sandler. Who is insane and always the center of attention. Then on the small screen, he dialogues with some of the zaniest characters in sitcom history, like Tobias Funke.

And neither time is he even remotely eclipsed. He steals the scenes himself. How many guys my age have ever said, “Just tap it in”? That’s all Carl Weathers. And how many actors in the world could stand behind Adam Sandler and do the “It’s All in the Hips” scene? “Happy Gilmore,” for how stupid it is, is a fantastic movie for guys like me. And Carl Weathers was a huge part of why.

Carl Weathers was Apollo first to me and mine, but he was so much more than that

And even though it’s less well-known, then there’s him telling Tobias not to throw a bone away, because he could get a stew going. Or he and Tobias winking constantly at the camera while talking at Burger King. Since this show was groundbreaking in how meta it was. Much like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” Carl Weathers makes the comedy here look so easy and effortless. Or opposite guys like Sandler, Jim Carrey, or Will Ferrell. But it’s just as LOL funny.

And even though this would be equally as unknown, his one-episode turn in “Psych” also proves the comedic excellence Carl Weathers could summon at the drop of a hat. There’s a little bit of Apollo in this role, and a little bit of Chubbs. But it’s mostly Carl Weathers. Pure, unadulterated Carl Weathers. Telling Gus he won’t give him a handout and accusing him of eyeballing his watch. Or, the best: Him telling Shawn about him being a psychic, “We don’t mess with the devil; you better ride that goat with someone else.” Tears of laughter after multiple viewings.

And more could be said about Carl Weathers in “Predator” and “The Mandalorian”. And even, to me, “In the Heat of The Night” (which was the favorite show of one of the men in my church who just recently passed away). Carl Weathers always brought his personality and A-game to every project. He was a treasure of an actor.

And his career is worth celebrating.

Gowdy Cannon

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married over 8 years and have a 4-year-old son, Liam Erasmus, and a baby, Bo Tyndale. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chick-fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

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