Michael B. Jordan Hopes to Play More Characters Originally Written as White

Michael B. Jordan. Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Now that Michael B. Jordan’s struggle to establish himself as a bankable, crowd-pleasing Hollywood actor is over—his Marvel smash Black Panther made 1.3 billion dollars worldwide—he’s setting his sights on lifelong career domination.

In a new GQ cover story, Jordan discussed how he’s been strategizing to work behind the camera as well as in front of it. His new company, Outlier Society Productions, is currently facilitating the production of a new biopic called Just Mercy, which tells the story of death-row lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and also stars Brie Larson and Jamie Foxx.

Jordan and his agent, Phillip Sun, also talked about how they don’t restrict themselves to choosing roles written for African-American actors when seeking out parts for Jordan.

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“Obviously, there are certain roles in film and television that are specifically African-American, usually period pieces,” Sun said. “But why, if he were just an actor, why would he be limited to only those roles? He was like, ‘Why should other people be held back like that? Why shouldn’t stories from different points of view be told more frequently? What is holding people back from doing that?’ And at the end of the day, we all know in Hollywood: It’s star power. If you have the star that wants to lead the way in that way, they’re going to do it.”

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The story notes that Jordan has taken on characters that were originally written as white, such the Human Torch in Fantastic Four. He is also the lead in Creed II (which hits cinemas November 21), the latest film in the Rocky franchise, which, in the 1970s and ’80s, catapulted white actor Sylvester Stallone to stardom. Jordan will next star in a remake of The Thomas Crown Affair as the titular character, who was previously played by Pierce Brosnan and Steve McQueen.

 

The power of black actors playing roles that have historically and disproportionally gone to white actors cannot be overstated. In a recent interview with BBC about her starring role in Steve McQueen’s upcoming action thriller Widows (opening November 16), Viola Davis addressed her character’s relationship with her husband, played by Liam Neeson.

“I look at the way the film begins with me in bed with Liam Neeson, and we’re kissing, and it’s a sexualized kiss,” Davis said. “And here I am, I’m dark, I’m 53, I’m with my natural hair and I’m with Liam Neeson. I’m with what America would consider to be a hunk. And he’s not my slave owner, I’m not a prostitute, it’s not trying to make any social or political statements, we simply are a couple in love.”

Davis added, “And what struck me about that in the narrative is that I’ve never seen it before. If we are indeed committed to inclusion and diversity, and we actually do see people of color as the same as us, as our counterparts, then why can’t you consider a character that is maybe not ethnically specific; why can’t you consider someone like me for it? If it’s not a big deal, why hasn’t it been done?”

In the GQ piece, Jordan also expressed excitement about using his newfound fame to support his family. “I want to make this thing so my family ain’t gotta worry about nothing,” Jordan said. “My mom and dad, my brother and sister, my nieces, my future nieces and nephews, my future kids—everybody is going to be good. I want intergenerational wealth. I’m going to have fun writing my will. Oh, my God. It’s going to be so much fun.”

Michael B. Jordan Hopes to Play More Characters Originally Written as White