Viola Davis Was Unaware Michael Jordan Personally Cast Her as His Mom in 'AIR' : 'Blew My Mind'

"I'm glad I didn't know about it before," Viola Davis told PEOPLE shortly after learning that Michael Jordan personally selected her to play his mother in Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Nike drama, AIR

Viola Davis at the premiere of "AIR" held at the Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty Images); FILE - Basketball legend Michael Jordan speaks during a press conference ahead of an NBA basketball game between the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks in Paris, Jan. 24, 2020. Jordan is celebrating his 60th birthday on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, by making a $10 million donation to Make-A-Wish America. It is the largest donation ever received from an individual in the organization’s 43-year history. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
Photo: Christopher Polk/Variety via Getty; AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File

Viola Davis' latest role is the mother of all roles.

At Saturday's premiere of Nike drama AIR during SXSW in Austin, the Academy Award winner, 57, told PEOPLE she was "flattered" after learning for the first time earlier that night that Michael Jordan personally selected her to play his mother, Deloris Jordan, in the film.

"I'm just hearing about it now," said Davis as she walked the red carpet with husband and costar Julius Tennon. "So yeah, so it blew my mind. I'm glad I didn't know about it before."

Tennon, 69, added: "It's pretty awesome that he wanted her to play his mom."

In AIR, Deloris helps bring her then-rookie son's Nike deal to fruition in 1984, resulting in his now-iconic signature Air Jordan shoe and the multi-billion dollar Jordan Brand. Tennon plays Michael's late father, James Jordan Sr.

Viola Davis in AIR
Viola Davis in AIR. Courtesy of Prime Video

Davis researched by watching videos of Deloris, currently 81, from that era, noting "the fear" of getting her portrayal right.

"I use the term zen neutrality with her. Someone who just moves calmly through life, making major decisions, slaying dragons, making dreams come true. But doing it calmly and succinctly. Yeah, that's not me," added Davis.

Although M.J. originally had his sights set on Adidas, it was his mother who urged him to hear Nike out. "My mother said, 'You're gonna go listen. You may not like it, but you're gonna go listen.' She made me get on that plane and go listen," he recalled in his 2020 ESPN docuseries The Last Dance.

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 18: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon attend the "AIR" world premiere during the 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals at The Paramount Theater on March 18, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW)
Michael Loccisano/Getty for SXSW

Nike subsequently gave him the signature shoe that Adidas wouldn't, as well as $250,000 (more than double their competitor's offer).

"[I] go into that meeting not wanting to be there, and Nike made this big pitch," said Jordan. "My father said, 'You'd have to be a fool not taking this deal. This is the best deal.'"

RELATED VIDEO: Viola Davis Earns EGOT with Grammy Award for Memoir Audiobook Narration: 'I Just EGOT!'

Deloris has even been immortalized in Air Jordan form after her son debuted the Dear Deloris in 2021, part of his Jordan Series, which pays tribute to those who have shaped his legacy.

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AIR, the first title under Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's Artists Equity production banner, was helmed by Affleck, 50, who also plays Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Damon, 52, stars as Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike salesman who worked on signing M.J.

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