By: Naomi A. Burrell
Expanding and diversifying, two words that undoubtedly describe the career of the progressively renowned actor Michael Bakari Jordan, known as Michael B. Jordan. Seemingly marked by destiny to be one of the greatest actors of this generation, his resume boasts of roles in major television and movie projects like The Sopranos (1999), The Wire (2002), The Chronicle (2012) and Fantastic Four (2015). His portrayal of Erik Killmonger in the profoundly successful film Black Panther (2018) is a true expression of his creative genius and commitment to the advancement of his career. There are no signs of slowing down for Jordan as he has several new projects to be released in the near future, including Creed II, slated to be released November 21, 2018 and Just Mercy, to be released in 2020.
So, where did it all begin? How did a guy born in Santa Ana, California and raised in the streets of Newark, New Jersey become one of the most sought-after Black actors of this time? It obviously did not happen overnight or by any random stroke of luck. His climb to success started early in life when he began modeling at the age of ten, and then shortly thereafter he landed his first television spot on the show Cosby. Jordan’s rise to stardom didn’t stop there. He went on to secure his first major role in The Sopranos (1999) and the opportunities just kept coming. His work ethic can be attributed to his parents who are working class. Jordan’s father, Michael A. Jordan, a former Marine and caterer, and his mother, Donna (Davis), an artist and school counselor represent so many families in America who work respectably to support their family. As for Mike, as he is also called, he has been able to benefit from the influence his parents have had on his life. In fact, he attended the Newark Arts High School where his mother worked and where he was able to study drama.
The fact that Jordan is an African American male and actor in a society where the stereotypes of Black men have infringed on how the world sees them cannot be ignored. Even against those odds, he has managed to use his craft to reshape the way men of color are viewed on screen. The roles he has planned have been of men who, although flawed, still exude a sense of strength, resilience, and determination. We see this in his role as Adonis Creed in the hit movie Creed and the newest franchise of the Rocky film. The character Adonis, although the product of an adulterous affair between the acclaimed boxer Apollo Creed (friend to Rocky Balboa) and his mother, aspires to become a boxer too, but he does it on his own terms and eventually stakes his own claim in the world of boxing. In the 2013 hit movie, Fruitvale Station, Jordan plays Oscar Grant, a young twenty-two-year-old who has spent some time in prison, but has been released and is trying to live clean in order to support his girlfriend and young daughter. Although the character Grant is imperfect, throughout the film you see him try to cope with the difficulties of living in an environment that is not ideal to the new leaf he is trying to turn. What is iconic about these roles is that they represent and mirror the real-life challenges that African American men are confronted with in their communities and how they learn or with great effort try to move beyond it.
That is the true power of art. One can use it to shift entire mindsets and influence culture change. Jordan is quickly becoming one of those change agents through his work. He clearly intends to leave his mark on the entertainment industry as he is not only an actor, but the owner of his own production company called Outlier Society Productions. He understands the struggle that actors of color have with being, in some cases, shortchanged or even typecast as an artist. He started this company with the intention of having some influence on the projects he chooses and to change the way the characters he plays are viewed or portrayed. His aspirations go beyond acting, as he one day wants to own his own restaurant, hotel, and to see his production company grow extensively.
For Jordan, his desire is to be appreciated for his work as an actor and an artist in general. Although he is often compared to Denzel Washington, he has taken notes from many different actors and has specifically mentioned in other reports that Tom Hanks happens to be one of his role models. This type of respect for the acting profession and for those that have paved the way for him, no matter the color of their skin, is what makes Jordan the type of actor who is destined to break barriers. He is unafraid to cross that line to bridge gaps and to gain influence across the board. But without question, he will himself be a role model for many young actors of color and beyond who will come behind him. It is refreshing to watch Michael B Jordan evolve in his career and it will as equally exciting to see how he will grow in the years to come.