In the last five years, Michael B. Jordan has gone from a fresh indie talent to global stardom. Following three stunning performances in Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther he is now one of Hollywood’s hottest stars. In this piece, we provide an intro to Jordan and highlight some of his best roles so far.
Jordan was born in 1987 in California but moved with his family to New Jersey when he was young. He began acting professionally in 1999 with a few minor TV roles before getting his first big break in HBO’s acclaimed crime drama The Wire in 2002 at just 15 years old.
Since then, Jordan has moved onto increasingly bigger projects with 2018 being the most high profile yet thanks to the blockbuster smash hit Black Panther. With more still to come in 2018, let’s look back at his greatest roles on his rise to stardom, which shows no signs of stopping.
The Wire (2002)
If you watched The Wire you’ll remember Wallace, a 16-year-old drug dealer working in Baltimore’s projects. Jordan initially auditioned for the part of Bodie (Wallace’s friend in the show), but The Wire’s casting director thought Jordan was too young and he was offered the role of Wallace instead. Jordan did little preparation for the role, instead drawing on his own experiences.
He said at the time, “I live in an area where there are lots of drug dealers and I know some people who may or may not sell drugs, so this is not new to me.” It was common practice in the show to use non-professional actors to get an authentic portrayal of life in the projects.
The heart-breaking fate of Wallace is one of the show’s darkest moments in which the young Jordan delivered an incredible performance and announced himself as a talent to watch.
Friday Night Lights (2009-2011)
Jordan returned to high-profile television between 2009 and 2011, becoming a main character in season four and five of NBC’s popular drama Friday Night Lights. The show tells the story of a high school football rivalry in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas.
Jordan played Vince Howard, a talented athlete who leads his side the East Dillon Lions in a victory over the Dillon Panthers in the fourth season of the show. Jordan grew up as an athlete but never got the chance to play sports on a big stage, so he loved filming the season four finale, saying “to be Vince in that moment was something I’ll never forget.”
In Friday Night Lights, Jordan honed his acting skills in a gritty performance that would set him up for his first breakthrough in 2013.
Fruitvale Station (2013) Ryan Coogler’s debut feature Fruitvale Station is based on the events leading up to the death of Oscar Grant. In 2009, unarmed civilian Oscar Grant was forced to lie face-down on the ground before being shot dead by Police.
Jordan plays Grant, giving a compelling, authentic performance that signalled his first big Hollywood breakthrough. Fruitvale Station picked up the ‘Best First Film’ award in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section at Cannes Film Festival, and was a critical hit upon general release.
The film is also the first of three electric collaborations between Jordan and director Ryan Coogler. Jordan’s central performance is the emotional core of the film, fleshing out Grant’s relationships with family and friends just hours before his death. This truly hits home when we witness the effect of his death on his loved ones, making for powerful, timely and vital cinema.
Following the critical success of indie gem Fruitvale Station, Coogler and Jordan teamed up again for their first studio film Creed, a spin-off of the Rocky franchise. Sylvester Stallone reprised his role as Rocky Balboa and Jordan played the part of Adonis Johnson Creed, the son of Apollo Creed from the original series.
In order to tie Jordan’s performance in with the rest of the Rocky movies, Stallone requested Jordan wear the same American Flag shorts worn by Apollo Creed. To prepare for the role, Jordan had to gain 20lb of muscle weight by working out 2-3 times a day, 6 days a week for a year, while also sticking to a strict diet.
His work certainly paid off though, with wide praise from critics as well as applause from Carl Weathers who played Apollo Creed in original films. This is a Jordan performance that certainly pulls no punches!
Black Panther (2018)
This year has seen Jordan catapulted to blockbuster stardom in the enormous global hit Black Panther, his third collaboration with director Ryan Coogler. Jordan plays Erik Killmonger, the villain who wants to overthrow T’Challa (an awesome Chadwick Boseman) and instate his own rule over the nation of Wakanda.
Jordan had wanted to play a villain for some time, and drew inspiration from Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. He also kept to himself on set, getting into the character of the distant and detached Killmonger. This resulted in a powerful performance that earned him a Teen Choice Award and an MTV Movie Award.
Jordan once again brought real emotional depth and dynamism to a complex character, which helped make Black Panther a modern popcorn classic.
As well as being an accomplished actor, Jordan also has a number of executive producer credits to his name. His most recent is Kin, a star-studded sci-fi fantasy from the team who bought you acclaimed titles Stranger Things and Arrival. Kin tells the story of 14-year-old Eli (Myles Truitt) who lives in Detroit with his father Hal (Dennis Quaid).
On the eve of his estranged brother Jimmy’s (Jack Reynor) return from prison, Eli breaks into an abandoned building site, where he stumbles upon the aftermath of an intense shoot out and finds a mysterious otherworldly weapon hidden amongst the rubble.
Back at home, Jimmy’s arrival causes trouble for the family as he struggles to pay back local gangster Taylor (James Franco), the man who kept him alive during his prison stint. After a disastrous attempt to secure money ends in tragedy, Jimmy hits the road with Eli in tow.
Chased by a criminal gang bent on revenge, it turns out that Eli’s weapon brings a much more dangerous set of pursuers, who may not be from this world. Kin features stars an all-cast (including Jordan) and is a must-see for sci-fi lovers and Jordan fans alike.
Kin is playing exclusively in Showcase Cinemas from 9th November & on Digital Download 12th November.