Who Plays Viktor Drago? 'Creed II' Breakout Star is Florian Munteanu

When thinking about the stars of the Creed franchise, the first names that come to mind are typical Michael B. Jordan, the dazzling actor who stars as the lead Adonis Creed, and Sylvester Stallone, who is, obviously, the iconic boxer-turned-trainer Rocky Balboa.

However, there is a new star among the troupe whose name will likely be on everyone's lips once viewers get a glimpse of the skilled and power-packed punches he delivers in the new movie, Creed II, released Wednesday.

Florian Munteanu stars as the menacing Viktor Drago, son of Rocky's biggest foe Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). While the Romanian native already has an established name as a professional boxer, the film marks Munteanu's first big screen role.

Munteanu spilled the beans on his first movie-making experience and what it was like being a professional boxer in the ring with Jordan, a professional actor playing a boxer.

Were you a fan of the Rocky franchise before you got involved in the project?

Absolutely! Who isn't? Even my father was. I grew up with the movies and the movies motivated me—actually inspired me to start with boxing and start working out to get in shape.

How did you get involved in the film?

I got the offer to audition for the role. I auditioned with a few specific scenes they sent over. Every time I'd send over an audition tape of one scene, they'd be like, "We like that. We want you to do another scene." I sent them videos of my training and pictures, and that stuff helped because they knew I was big, I was tall, I had the ability to box and I was able to speak English. They liked the accent. I was the Eastern European type of guy they were looking for. After sending audition tapes I got a call saying Sly wanted to Skype with me. I'm not really the type of guy to get nervous. The adrenaline kicks in and you know now's the time for you to do what you have to do, but maybe I was a little bit nervous the first five seconds when I saw him on the screen. It was just me realizing, "Oh shit, this is happening. This is really Stallone in front of me." But I kept doing what I needed to do and he liked me and decided to fly me in. I convinced Steven [Caple Jr.,], the director and here we are.

Being that you already had a career as a fighter, were you already in the perfect condition for the role? Did you have to do anything extra to physically prepare?

Well, I had to drop weight. Even though I look very very big on camera, I had to drop weight to look super shredded. Mike is naturally smaller than me and we wanted to make [our physique] look equal—as equal as we could. So as a heavyweight belt, he was coming up to about 190, 195 pounds while I was dropping 20, 25 pounds to like 225.

Was it challenging trying to drop weight?

I'm very disciplined about training, about my work and all the physical stuff, but one thing I'm not disciplined about is my diet. We talked a lot about dieting. I had to follow a specific regimen and it was hard. I never ate as much as I wanted to. After I ate the portions I was allowed, I was still hungry all the time. It was such a process, but I got through it.

You're a former professional boxer while Jordan is only a movie-trained fighter. How was the experience being in the ring with someone you knew wasn't a professional fighter like you?

It was interesting, definitely interesting. First of all, I have to say Mike is a good athlete in general. He adapts very fast to specific things and that's a good trait for an athlete. In the beginning, I was kind of worried. Boxing is a tough game. You cannot play boxing. It's not like basketball or any other sport. You actually get punched, so it's a tough sport. You have to take a lot of punishment. Even in this type of project, you cannot fake it. You're blocking a lot of shots to the body, to the head. Of course, it's all about control but you still feel the punches. I was worried about him being a pussy, but he is definitely not. He's a real man. It would have made it really awkward and hard for me to deal with him if I would have punched him to the ribs or something and he blocked it, screaming and shouting all the time. He took some real shots. I'm telling you he took some real shots from me and didn't say anything. He kept going and going. That just made working with him more inspiring because he is a true hard worker. A guy in his position who has proven his worth already, I thought maybe he'd lose his work ethic a bit but that definitely was not the case. I knew I had to give 1000 percent because I didn't want to take this chance for granted, and seeing him, a big star, doing the same and more was definitely inspiring.

Watching your character, it doesn't always seem like he wants the fight with Creed as much as his dad Ivan Drogo does.

That's a good observation. That's exactly what's happening.

How did you prepare to portray the dynamic of that type of father/son relationship?

When I was preparing for the role, I got the script and I was going over scenes with Steven, and I was telling him about my whole life. We tried to use all kind of different moments and people to connect to the scenes for the role. For example, if we talk about the relationship between me and my father, that's a pretty dope relationship. That's my best friend. He's my mentor. I have a really great relationship with him. He was always on board for everything I've done. He was always like, "Do what you gotta do. Do what you wanna do. I will always support you." So in this specific case of Ivan and Viktor's relationship, I took from my relationship with my mom. I also love her, but she always wanted something different for me and she always wanted to guide me in how she wanted my life to be. She always saw my life through her eyes, so we haven't always been on the same page on a couple of important things. I took from that to get in the right mindset for those scenes.

Should people empathize with Viktor?

Absolutely. You know he's the bad guy because, like Rocky told Donnie, "This kid was raised in hate." So he doesn't know better, but at the end of the day, Viktor is a family guy. All he wants is a family, supportive people that he loves. He lost his mother, and he would love to have his mother back in his life but he knows she's different than him. She doesn't want to be around him because she loves him. She's only around him because of the fame, the money and the spotlight is back. [Viktor] wants to see his dad proud. That's why he fights. He knows that his dad likes it and that's maybe a way of redemption for his dad, so he does everything that seems to make his dad happy. He's not fighting for money, for fame or the titles. He's fighting for the right things in life, for family and it shows. I definitely think people will feel for him.

Where does the nickname Big Nasty come from?

[Laughs] That's a childhood story. I boxed my whole life and when I was around 12, 13 years old, me and a few of my friends boxed at the same boxing club. After school, we'd always go to one friend's house [before practice] and we'd wait there. One friend had an X-box, and we'd play a game called Ultimate Fighter and we created our own characters. For some reason, when we had to choose a nickname for the character, they chose Big Nasty for me. I'm pretty sure they didn't even know what it meant back then, but that's what they chose for me and it kind of stuck with me. I've used it throughout my whole life.

This is such a highly anticipated film and it's your first at that. Are you ready for whatever happens next?

I don't think you can really prepare for that. That's a new kind of level of attention that comes after you and you can't prepare for that. But I'm a guy who, in general, is pretty humble, pretty grounded and like I said before, things don't get to me that much. I'm not feeling nervous about anything. I'm kind of prepared—I guess as prepared as I can be. I don't know the amount of whatever is coming my way, but I have good, caring parents who have my back. I have two very close brothers, one if which is here with me [in the U.S.] to keep an eye on me and make sure I don't become too much of a diva or arrogant. If you have people that have your back and really love you and really care for you, then all is fine.

What's the next type of film you want to do?

I don't want to do those monotone action movies. I feel I have so much more to give. That's why I was so happy Steven created this character and it was a very complex character, showing a lot of emotions and a lot of heart. I wanna keep going with that. If it comes down to movie roles I'd like something like Wolverine or Bane [The Dark Night Rises, 2012], characters like that. I don't wanna do monotone stuff and action movies where I'm just being the muscle. I wanna do more. I wanna show more of my abilities.