“That’s one of the fun parts of becoming an actor: you can become whoever you want to be.”
– Michael B. Jordan
American actor Michael B. Jordan has established himself as one of the biggest names in the film industry with powerhouse performances in films like Creed and Black Panther. Jordan also earned significant praise for his work in a number of critically acclaimed television series, including The Wire and Friday Night Lights. Last year, the rising star was featured in Time Magazine’s list of the ‘100 most influential people in the world’ and The New York Times claimed that he was the 15th greatest actor of the 21st century. On his 34th birthday, we take a look at Michael B. Jordan’s meteoric rise as a celebration of his undeniable talent.
Born in Santa Ana, California in 1987, Jordan moved to New Jersey with his family where he grew up while attending Newark Arts High School and playing baseball. When he was 10-years-old, Jordan started out by modelling for newspaper ads and moved on to other modelling gigs for companies like Toys ‘R’ Us. Although he had friends who indulged in criminal activities like drug dealing and boosting cars, Jordan’s parents helped him focus on his own path towards a successful future. In an interview, he explained: “It wasn’t something that I always wanted to do. But like a lot of kids, you know, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. And modelling, acting, it got me out of school early, got me a chance to go into the city, so I was all into that.” Jordan gravitated towards acting with minor appearances in celebrated television shows like The Sopranos. However, it was the 2001 sports drama Hardball that put Jordan on the map as a promising young actor appearing alongside the likes of Keanu Reeves and Diane Lane. His performance caught the attention of the creators of The Wire who cast him as Wallace, a soft-spoken 16-year-old drug dealer. Even though his part lasted just one season, it was clear that Jordan was graduating to bigger projects.
In 2003, Jordan replaced Chadwick Boseman in the soap opera All My Children and scored guest credits in the following years on shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Without a Trace and Cold Case. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to further his acting career, but it didn’t go exactly as he hoped it would. Jordan recalled, “I remember when I first came to L.A., and me and my mom, we went to all these agencies trying to get representation and they passed on me—WME passed on me, CAA passed on me, Gersh, all these guys fucking passed on me.” His next major part came in 2009 when he was cast as quarterback Vince Howard in NBC’s Friday Night Lights where he did justice to the character’s psychological conflicts. Jordan followed up with more critically acclaimed performances, starring as a shooting victim in Ryan Coogler’s 2013 film Fruitvale Station, a role which earned him several awards and nominations. During this period, he also appeared in movies such as Red Tails, The Chronicle, That Awkward Moment and the poorly-received Fantastic Four film as he slowly built his acting portfolio. Jordan’s standout performance from that time, however, remains his brilliant work in Fruitvale Station, a showing which is considered by many as his breakthrough role.
After the disastrous critical reception of Fantastic Four, Jordan made a fantastic comeback as the son of the iconic Apollo Creed in the 2015 film Creed. It was a highly demanding project for which he had to undergo intensive training for a year, refusing to use a body double during the filming of the fight scenes which often left him bruised and disoriented. Given his commitment, and the sheer determination to do things his own way, the highest point in Jordan’s career came shortly after in 2018 when he starred as the antagonist Erik Killmonger in Marvel’s immensely popular superhero film Black Panther. The role propelled him towards absolute stardom with fans and critics all over the world praising him for his portrayal of the complex supervillain. The same year, he starred in a film adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 and reprised the role of Donnie Creed in Creed II. His most recent acting project was the 2019 legal drama Just Mercy where he played the part of a civil rights lawyer named Bryan Stevenson. Jordan is set to star in several high-profile projects, including an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, a remake of the 1986 film The Thomas Crown Affair and a film directed by Denzel Washington called Journal for Jordan.
Over the course of his career, the actor has also expressed his interests in becoming a producer. “I want to make that move from actor to producer, like Will Smith,” he explained. Jordan started his own production company called Outlier Society and has been continuously working to promote inclusivity and increased representation in the world of contemporary cinema. Last year, he partnered with the “Color of Change” initiative to launch programs that will ensure equal opportunity within the industry.
Jordan has already proven that he is an extremely capable actor who is at the top of his game. Based on his work in the promising projects he has lined up, it will soon become perfectly clear whether he really is the top talent of his generation.