Rocky’s Apollo Creed Actor Dies at 76: Who Was the Man Behind the Glove?

By: Michael Legg | Last updated: Mar 21, 2024

“You’re gonna have to go through hell. Worse than any nightmare that you’ve ever dreamed. But in the end, you know you’ll be the one standing. You know what you’ve gotta go. Do it. Do it!” these were the words delivered by Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed in the hit film franchise “Rocky.” These sentiments have stood the test of time and perhaps take on new meaning now after Carl Weathers’ untimely death.

Before Carl’s death on February 1st, 2024, Weathers was perhaps most known for his iconic work as Apollo Creed, but Weathers’s work in entertainment spans decades and he remains a beloved figure recognized worldwide and across generations.

Carl Weathers: Behind the Glove

Carl Weathers was born on January 14th, 1948 in New Orleans, Louisiana, and made a successful career in Hollywood but behind the scenes struggled with serious heart-related health issues for many years. Carl was the oldest child of David and Lucille Weathers and their teachings played a big part in how he dealt with his struggles and successes.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons / the Explosion Jones press room / © Luigi Novi.

While Carl’s father is most known for instilling wisdom and a hard work ethic in him, his mother is known for playing a significant role in providing support and encouragement for his early interest in the theatre, but he didn’t start his career the way you would expect.

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College Football Career

Carl started his impressive college career at Long Beach City College, and became a force on the defense as a defensive end. He would go on to transfer for San Diego State in 1968 and 1969.

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Source: SDU Athletics

Weathers experienced a lot of success at San Diego State and he was a part of an undefeated run and won the 1968 championship. Even during his time as an athlete, Carl still emphasized the theater arts during college.

Carl Weathers Thirst for Theater in College

While Carl was not tearing it up on the gridiron, he majored in theater arts at San Diego University. He would go on to star in a few campus theater productions. His most notable performance was his portrayal of Pylades in “Orestes”, an iconic Greek tragedy created by Euripides.

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Source: University of San Diego's Shirley Theater / https://www.jcj.com/project/shiley-theater/

His time at San Diego State not only allowed Carl to focus on his athletic career, but also created an avenue for his passion for acting.

Professional Football Career

After a dominating and successful college career, Weathers moved on to a professional football career. Weathers was not drafted, but did sign as a free agent in 1970 by the Oakland Raiders.

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Source: 1973 Topps Football Card

While he played defensive end for San Diego State, he would transition to linebacker for the Raiders immediately. He would move on to play for the CFL’s BC Lions in 1971, just prior to retiring from a short career.

Small Acting Parts

Before claiming the iconic role as Apollo Creed, Weathers appeared in small roles on Friday Foster and Bucktown in 1975. He also appeared in a few television commercials and TV shows like “Good Times,” “Kung Fu,” “Cannon,” “Starsky and Hutch,” and “Barnaby Jones.”

Source: Friday Foster (1975) / American International Pictures

Weathers’ role in these films contributed to his early acting career before achieving widespread recognition for his portrayal of Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” franchise.

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1973: Married Mary Ann Castle

During Weathers’s time starring in minor roles, Carl married Mary Ann Castle in 1973. During their marriage, the couple had two sons together, Matthew and Jason.

Source: NBC News Segment / Still-frame

Despite being a star in Hollywood due to the Rocky movie series, he was able to keep his personal life out of the spotlight. Because of this, the specific reason behind their divorce is not public.

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1976: The Iconic Portrayal of Apollo Creed in "Rocky"

Carl Weathers’s most significant achievement came from Rocky, in his role as Apollo Creed. Weathers was able to portray “The King of Sting” perfectly as a charismatic and tough opponent who turned friend of Rocky Balboa.

Source: Rocky IV Film / MGM

Weathers’ audacious move to critique Sylvester Stallone’s acting during his audition for the role ultimately impressed the filmmakers and secured him the coveted part. His performance injected humanity and empathy into the character,

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1979: Reprises his role as Apollo Creed in "Rocky II."

Given the major success Weathers had portraying Apollo Creed in Rocky I, the company brought him back to work in Rocky II.

Source: Rocky Film Franchise / MGM

Weathers role in Rocky II was pivotal given the rematch to Rocky after the first tight fight. This rematch adds a layer of depth to both characters and the overall plot of the movie series.

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1982: Appears in "Rocky III" as Apollo Creed.

Carl Weathers would go on to be a major actor in Rocky III, and not as Rocky’s opponent. Apollo Creed turns into Rocky’s trainer after Mick passes away during the movie.

Carl and Silvester appearing as Apollo and Rocky ; Source: Rocky III Film / MGM

Weathers’ portrayal of Apollo Creed in “Rocky III” contributed to the dynamic and emotional depth of the story, showcasing the evolving relationship between Creed and Balboa throughout the film.

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Second Marriage to Rhona Unsell

Carl’s second marriage to Rhona Unsell began in February of 1984 and went through 2006. While their marriage lasted for 22 years, they did not have any children together.

Source: newburghcity

Similar to his first divorce, the specific reason for their divorce has not been mentioned to the media.

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1985: Stars in "Rocky IV" as Apollo Creed.

Carl Weathers played the role of Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV.” In the film, his character, Apollo Creed, faces a tragic fate during an exhibition match with the formidable Soviet boxer Ivan Drago, portrayed by Dolph Lundgren.

Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed ; Source: Rocky IV Film / MGM

This event sets the stage for the film’s central theme of revenge and redemption, as Rocky Balboa, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone, seeks to avenge Creed’s death by facing Drago in a high-stakes boxing match. Weathers’ portrayal of Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV” is a significant and emotional part of the movie, contributing to the dramatic tension and impact of the storyline.

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1987: Portrays Dillon in the film "Predator."

After the conclusion of the “Rocky” series, Carl went on to pair up with Arnold Schwarzenegger and star in “Predator”. Weathers portrays his character perfectly as a United States Army soldier transitioning into a role within the Central Intelligence Agency.

Source: Predator Film / 20th Century Studios / Lawrence Gordon, Davis Entertainment, Silver Pictures, American Entertainment

Weathers character, Dillon, is ambitious and morally ambiguous, which only adds to the complexity of the movie. Carl Weathers role in the film was a fantastic way to showcase his acting talent outside of Rocky.

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1988: Action Jackson

After Carl’s time on Predator, he went on to take the lead role as Jericho “Action” Jackson in the film “Action Jackson”. Despite the overall negative reviews of the movie, many critics of the movie raved about Weaters’s performance as the lead role. This role showcased his star capabilities.

Source: Action Jackson Film / Silver Pictures / Film poster for Action Jackson - Copyright 1988, Lorimar Productions

This movie helped create a great opportunity for Weathers to lead his own franchise. Weathers performance showed his ability to carry an action film on his own.

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1988 Image Awards NAACP

In 1988, Carl Weathers earned his first nomination award for his role in Action Jackson. This nomination was for Outstanding Actor in a Motion picture.

Source: Source: Action Jackson Film / Silver Pictures / Scene from Film

Unfortunately, Carl lost the award to another young and upcoming star actor: Denzel Washington.

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1988-1994: In the Heat of the Night

While working on Predator and Action Jackson, Weathers played a prominent role in the hit television show In the Heat of the Night. Weathers portrayed Hampton Forbes, who was the new police chief of Sparta, Mississippi. His involvement in the series, which was filmed on location across Atlanta and held production in Georgia, allowed him to showcase his acting abilities in a different light, moving away from the action-oriented roles for which he was previously known.

Carl Weathers, Carroll O'Connor as their respective characters ; Source: In the Heat of the Night YV Series / IMBD / NBC/CBS

The role in the film was pivotal for displaying his versatility as an actor, and even expanded from the action genre. This role also allowed him to work alongside seasoned actors and gain valuable experience in the television industry, contributing to the overall development and diversification of his acting career.

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1996: Appears in "Happy Gilmore"

Aside from Carl’s role in Rocky, his role in Happy Gilmore as Chubbs Peterson may be his most iconic and famous roles. Chubbs plays a golf legend who becomes Happy Gilmore’s mentor in the movie.

Source: Happy Gilmore Film / Happy Madison Productions, Inc. / Universal Pictures

The director of the movie, Dennis Dugan, reflected on Weathers’ unique casting process and described him as a “really sweet, nice, terrific guy” who was incredibly humble.

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2001 Sparks Directing Career

Carl Weathers’s first job as a director came from the television show “Sheena”. “Sheena” is an American action-adventure television series based on W. Morgan Thomas’s comic book character Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and it updated the title character to the 21st century. The show starred Gena Lee Nolin as Sheena and John Allen Nelson as Matt Cutter.

Source: television show “Sheena” / tvtime

Weathers directed episode 16, known as Jewel. Cutter is manipulated by Shena into helping to her recover a tribe’s sacred jewel.

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2002 Eight Crazy Nights

Eight Crazy Nights was the first opportunity for Carl Weathers to appear as a voice role. Weathers role was the GNC Guy, and was considered to be a relatively minor portion of the movie.

Source: Eight Crazy Nights Film (2002) / Happy Madison Productions / Distributed by: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing

While his role in Eight Crazy Nights was not a major role, it did allow him to add to his diverse body of work.

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2004 The Shield

Carl Weathers guest work on The Shield occurred from Season 2 to Season 6. His role as Joe Clark is considered to be one of the most memorable guest stars who appeared on the show.

Source: The Shield TV Series (2004) / IMBD / FX

Weathers’ performance in “The Shield” demonstrated his ability to portray complex and compelling characters, adding to his diverse body of work in both film and television. This role allowed him to display his talent in a different light, further solidifying his reputation as a respected and versatile actor in the entertainment industry.

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Final marriage to Jennifer Peterson

Carl Weathers married Jennifer Peterson in 2007.  Jennifer Peterson is an award-winning creative content producer, director, and writer, known for her work on projects such as the 2000 short film “Pumpkin Hill” and the annual Hallmark show “American Rescue Dog Show”.

Jennifer Peterson and Carl Weathers at Toy Story 4 Premiere / Live Coverage / Youtube / FabTV

The marriage between the two was short lived, ending after just 1.7 years.

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2009-2010 Brothers

Carl Weathers appeared in the TV series Brothers as the character “Coach” Trainor. The show featured him in the role of a high school football coach and father figure to the main characters.

Source: TV Series Brothers as the character “Coach” Trainor / IMBD / Showtime

Michael Strahan, who played his son in the series, expressed his respect and admiration for Carl Weathers after the actor’s passing, highlighting the impact of their on-screen relationship.

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2019 Hawaii Five-O

Carl Weathers directed yet another television episode, this time on the hit television series “Hawaii Five-0. This episode came from season nine, episode eleven, and is titled Hala I Ke Ala O’i’ole Mai. The overall narrative of the story is as follows: having buried Joe on his Montana ranch, Steve welcomes Danny, Junior, and a whole team of surviving SEALs to avenge Joe, after having bloodily beaten Omar Hassan’s whereabouts out of his Copenhagen lawyer Gregers Thomsen.

Source: Facebook / Hawaii Five-0 Australia / Season 9 / Behind the Scenes

The trail leads to his Laotian casino connection, so Steve and Catherine take on his cash henchman there. Meanwhile, ordered to stay back home, Adam, Grover, and Tani investigate the disappearance of a bag of bones found abandoned in a storage locker where the teens -including a cousin of Noelani, who called her- who bought it a blind auction were killed to steal it back.

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2019: Joins the Star Wars universe with a role in "The Mandalorian."

Quite arguably the most interesting and different role Weathers played came late in his career. Weathers played the role of Greef Karga for nine episodes over three seasons of the hit television show, The Mandalorian.

Carl as Greef Karga Source: The Mandalorian Series (2019) / Disney+

This role provided him with an opportunity to be creative in a more complete way than he had been prior to the show, as he not only acted in the series but also had the opportunity to direct an episode, allowing him to showcase his multifaceted talents. Additionally, his role as Greef Karga in “The Mandalorian” allowed him to connect with an entirely new generation of fans, further expanding his audience and recognition.

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The Mandalorian Directing Role

While Carl Weathers is mostly known for his role as Greef Karga, he is also known for directing portions of “The Mandalorian”. Carl began working his director role as one episode in the second season, and continued this role into the third season where he completed two episodes.

/ Carl as Greef Karga ; Source: pinterest / David Thibaut/ The Mandalorian Series (2019) / Disney+

Fans and viewers have highly praised his work, with many expressing admiration for his ability to blend action with emotion effectively. His episodes have been so well-received that there have been calls for him to direct a “Star Wars” film, highlighting his success as a storyteller within the franchise.

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2021: Emmy Nomination

Carl Weathers’s final Emmy nomination came from his role as Greef Karga. Weathers received the nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor.

Carl Weathers speaks at the Calgary Comic Expo 2015. ; Source: Wikimedia Commons / Youngjim / CC BY-SA 4.0

In an interview, he stated, “For me, what it means is that what I did was worthy of a nomination. It also probably means that I remain on the good side of enough people that my nomination would join ultimately…”. This nomination was a significant recognition of his talent and contribution to the series, and it reflected his continued impact and relevance in the entertainment industry.

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2022: Directing FBI

Weathers continued his directing career by directing the fifth episode in the fifth season of FBI, titled Flopped Cop. The episode was written by Thomas Kelly and aired on October 18, 2022.

Source: FBI (TV Series) / S5.E5 ∙ Flopped Cop / IMDB / CBS

This show revolves around the team’s investigation into the murder of a wealthy accountant who was killed for secretly testifying against a notorious drug lord. The episode delves into the team’s efforts to unravel the circumstances surrounding the accountant’s death and the subsequent developments that arise during the investigation.

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Voice Acting

Carl Weathers had an extremely successful career in the entertainment business, and voice acting only added to it.

Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV” (1985). Source: MGM, via Everett Collection

Some of the most notable voice acting roles include: Combat Carl in “Toy Story 4,” Jax in “Mortal Kombat X,” and Kirby in “Wings of Change”.

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Behind The Voice Actors Award

In 2014, he won the BTVA Special/DVD Voice Acting Award for Best Male Vocal Performance in a TV Special/Direct-to-DVD Title or Short for his role as Combat Carl in “Toy Story of Terror”.

Source: Toy Story of Terror Movie Poster / Disney

Weathers’ diverse career has not only encompassed live-action performances but also voice work, showcasing his versatility as a performer.

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Carl Weathers and his Philanthropy

Carl Weathers has made significant contributions to society through his philanthropic endeavors. Weathers has worked with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, providing guidance and support to young people who may not have access to positive role models.

Source: Directors Guide of America Official Photo (DGA) / facebook / Kay James McCrimon

His philanthropy extends beyond the United States, as he has been involved in initiatives to improve access to clean water and healthcare in developing countries through partnerships with organizations like Charity: Water and Doctors Without Borders. His commitment to making a difference in the world extends beyond his professional achievements, and he has used his platform to create a ripple effect of generosity and compassion.

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The Passing of Carl Weathers: February 1, 2024

Carl Weathers unfortunately passed away on Thursday, February 1st, 2024 in his home in Los Angeles at the age of 76. His family announced he died peacefully in his sleep. It is reported per his death certificate that he died of “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” 

"Rocky" boxing scene as performed by Carl and Silvester ; Source: "Rocky" Franchise directed by John G. Avildsen / MGM

His legacy includes a diverse and impactful career, as well as his involvement in charitable endeavors, supporting organizations dedicated to education, health, and empowering underprivileged communities.

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Michael B. Jordan, the Legacy Continues

Speaking of legacy, Michael B. Jordan continued Weather’s legacy for his impressive role in the hit movie series, “Creed”. Jordan portrayed Adonis Creed, the son of Weathers’ iconic character Apollo Creed, in the “Rocky” film series.

Michael as Apollo's son Adonis Creed in the Film Franchise Source: Michael B. Jordan / Instagram 'michaelbjordan' / Creed III / MGM

Jordan’s portrayal has kept Weathers’ legacy alive, and he has paid tribute to Weathers by sharing famous scenes and embodying the spirit of the character. This continuation of the Creed legacy serves as a testament to Weathers’ enduring impact on the entertainment industry and his influence on future generations of actors.

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