“I Want People To See Me Win” Michael B. Jordan Shares With Denzel Washington Why He Refuses To Die In His Next Role
Michael B. Jordan is quite a force to be reckoned with since gaining critical acclaim for his recent role as complicated character Erik Killmonger in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. But it was his role in 2013’s Fruitvale Station when many started to take him seriously as an actor and also when the “Denzel Washington” comparisons began. The New York Times recently brought the two celebrated actors together to talk “passing the torch” and the latest projects we can expect from the both of them at two very different points in their respective careers.
Jordan recalls how he felt when film critics first compared him to the two-time Academy Award winner who has been praised for everything from his earliest performances in movies like Glory to the role of ruthless, crooked detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day. Jordan says those early comparisons have aided him throughout his career:
“It was a big highlight.”
“When someone says you’re like your idol it’s like, ‘Really? You see that in me?’ I’d only done that one movie. But then I started using it as motivation. I wanted to pop up on Denzel’s radar. He’s the O.G. If I could get recognition from him, I know I’m going down the right path you know?”
Now that the two are seated in together in the same room, Washington can’t help but agree with a laugh:
“And here we are, Mike! It looks like it’s working out already!”
From there the two engage in conversation discussing their upcoming projects as well as their shared commitment to socially minded work that matters to the both of them. Washington, who won a Tony Award for best actor in the revival of August Wilson’s Fences in 2010 before bringing that performance to the big screen, will be returning to Broadway. On April 26, he will open a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s four-hour play The Iceman Cometh. Meanwhile, Jordan is off to screening Creed 2, a sequel to Creed, related to the popular Rocky franchise following the journey of Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis, as he navigates finding his identity separate from that of his father. Next month, 31-year-old Jordan will star in Fahrenheit 451, a film based on the dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury. In addition, Jordan recently made headlines for announcing his production company, Outlier Society Productions will be one of the first to adopt inclusion riders that require diversity among cast and crew.
Jordan, who has partnered with director Ryan Coogler repeatedly to create movie magic, says there’s a method to choosing certain directors to work with:
“So much trickles down from the director. That’s why I try to choose the ones who make the best environments to work in, so we can maybe make something as good as Training Day. You don’t want to go into a project with somebody who won’t be helpful to your process –or vice versa.”
When asked about a rumor where Jordan said he’d no longer be choosing roles in which his character dies in the end, Jordan confirmed there’s some truth to that and it’s all because of Mama Jordan:
“It started with my mom, who’s super emotional. When I shot my death scene in The Wire, she was on set. And the P.A.’s kept coming to me and saying: ‘You may want to check on your mom.’ I go see her, and she’s sitting there bawling.”
Jordan was only 15 at the time had to console his mother after the moving scene.
“I’m just a kid. I’m going, ‘Come on, Ma. You’re embarrassing me.’ And after Fruitvale Station, I was like, ‘Man, this is really affecting her.’”
He says since then it’s been important for him to not just choose roles where he isn’t shot, getting pushed off a cliff or getting struck by a bolt of lightening while flying through the sky, but also rises to be the hero.
“Look at Denzel’s career. I want people to see me win. I want audiences to see me ending up on top — not dying. I want to be the leading man.”
While Jordan says playing in superhero films was important to him largely because of their popularity in international markets, Washington reveals he’s never put on a cape or a costume himself because he’s never been asked to. He says the ideas of superheroes have changed throughout generations:
“When I was a teenager, Shaft and Superfly, those were our superheroes. I remember watching Super Fly with my boy Carl, and when we got back to the projects, he carved the characters name –Priest—on the elevator door. And Richard Roundtree in those long leather coats in Shaft.”
Jordan also shared that beyond becoming an A-list actor, financial stability for his family is important to him, and Outlier Society Productions has a lot to do with that:
“I want to take care of my family financially and grow my production company. That’s the big thing I want to do: set my family up.”
“As a kid, you don’t see your circumstances. I didn’t. It’s not until you look back and think, ‘Man, we were poor!’ My parents really hid that from me. They kept me safe.”
In addition to family, both men share how committed they are to creating opportunities for others. Washington shares that when it comes to comparing careers, he’s not about his own ego and wants to see young actors of color grow to have careers that are just as great, if not greater than his own:
“That’s why I’m here! That’s why I’m still in the race. And I’m passing the baton. What a lot of people don’t know is: When you pass the baton, you keep running behind the other runner, you don’t stop. I’m like, “Make the turn, bring it home!” I like helping people. I want to see them do well.”
Jordan adds that’s why inclusion riders are so important, and why he’s beginning to turn his focus to producing:
“That’s superimportant to me. No matter what community we’re talking about. Everybody should be in a position where they can win.”
“My path is my path. I can’t take away nothing from nobody, and nobody can take nothing away from me. I’m running my race. But we can still encourage each other.”