Photos of Michael attending a special UK screening of Just Mercy have been added to the gallery.
Photos of Michael attending An Evening of House of Lords Celebrating ‘Just Mercy’ have been added to the gallery.
With director Destin Daniel Cretton’s adaptation of Bryan Stevenson’s memoir now playing in theaters around the country, I recently sat down with Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx to talk about the film. If you’re not familiar with Stevenson’s incredible story, he studied law at Harvard University and after graduating moved to Alabama to defend people who had been convicted without proper representation.
The following contains plot details from Michael B. Jordan’s new movie “Just Mercy.” Stop reading now if you don’t want to know.
“Just Mercy” follows crusading attorney Bryan Stevenson (played by Michael B. Jordan) and his successful effort to save an innocent death-row inmate, Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), from execution.
But the drama (in theaters now) also tells the story of black Vietnam War veteran Herbert Richardson, who was guilty of his crime and executed despite the efforts of Stevenson and his non-profit Equal Justice Initiative.
Rob Morgan powerfully portrays the PTSD-suffering Richardson, who is ultimately led to the electric chair in Alabama’s Holman Prison, strapped in and electrocuted – just as Richardson was on Aug. 18, 1989.
“Bryan Stevenson was not able to save every person that he represented,” says Jordan, an executive producer on the film, explaining the importance of the scene. “Herbert Richardson was guilty. He committed that crime. But at the end of the day, the film leaves it up to you to decide whether or not he should have gotten the death penalty.”
The scene is emotionally distressing, though filmmakers decided not to show Richardson when 1,800 electrical volts were sent through his body. Destin Daniel Cretton shot that scene, but chose to focus instead on Stevenson’s horrified reaction in the glassed-off viewing area.
“We did not show it. It would have been too much,” Jordan says. “Sometimes, less is more. Letting your mind imagine what is happening on the other side is just enough.”
“Mudbound” and “Stranger Things” star Morgan didn’t have much background material on which to base his Richardson performance, and no audio or video recordings. He had Stevenson’s account of the case from his memoir, “Just Mercy,” on which the film is based, and two photographs of Richardson.
“So I would just stare at the two pictures, stare into his eyes, and just imagine his spirit and mind-set coming to life inside of me,” says Morgan.
Richardson, who had survived a harrowing attack that killed the rest of his platoon, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army because of a psychiatric illness developed during his service.
He was charged with capital murder in 1977 after placing a pipe bomb on the porch of a veterans hospital nurse who had broken off a relationship with him. The woman’s 11-year-old niece, Rena Mae Callins, was killed when she picked it up.
Richardson said it was an accident, that the bomb was meant only to scare the nurse. His lawyer never brought up his military service or resulting trauma in court, where Richardson was tried before an all-white jury, convicted and sentenced to death.
Richardson, who’d spent 11 years on death row, contacted Stevenson a month before his scheduled execution date. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Stevenson’s request to delay the execution at 7 p.m. the night Richardson was sent to death.
Morgan says he refused to see the film’s execution room until cameras were rolling. As he’s led into the room with shaved eyebrows and prison whites, his legs buckle dramatically.
“That was real, my knees just gave out,” Morgan says. “The fear was so present.”
In reality, Richardson requested to be blindfolded and never saw the room.
Stevenson says watching the scene being filmed brought back the searing memory of the “challenging” emotional time and his unsuccessful efforts to spare Richardson’s life.
“It was so clear to me that Herbert Richardson was more than the crime he committed. It was so clear to me that his life still had meaning and value,” Stevenson says. “It’s not fair that we send people off to war to fight for this country, yet when they come back traumatized and they make mistakes, we act as if their sacrifice is irrelevant.
“It was important to me that this be part of the story. We are all better than the worst thing we have ever done. Herbert’s narrative here reinforces that.”
Source: USA Today
Michael B. Jordan stopped by the neighborhood to talk his rigorous workout routine during “Creed” movies.
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx stopped by the neighborhood to talk about their emotional connection to their new movie “Just Mercy”.
Two generations of African-American talent — Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx — team for ‘Just Mercy’, the story of crusading lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s (Jordan) quest to find justice for wrongly convicted Walter McMillan. The actors bring their own real world experiences to this real-life tragedy. and talk about being inspired by each other.
In an intimate studio of a little over two dozen people, Mike Muse hosted his very first Sirius XM Town Hall with an open authentic conversation with Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx around new film Just Mercy.
In Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan plays Bryan Stevenson—the iconic civil rights attorney whose heroic social justice work resulted in the release of 140 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.
Currently in theaters nationwide, Just Mercy specifically chronicles Stevenson’s fight to exonerate Walter McMillian [played by Jamie Foxx]—a black man who in 1988 was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of an 18-year-old white woman, despite a preponderance of evidence demonstrating his innocence.
McMillian’s 1988 murder trial lasted less than two days, before a jury of his peers—eleven whites and one African American—wrongly convicted and sentenced McMillian to life in prison. However Judge Robert E. Lee Key exercised a jury override, imposing a death penalty sentence, instead. McMillian spent six years on death row in Alabama before Stevenson literally saved his life.
Set in Monroeville, Alabama, best known as the home of To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee, the town proves to be an especially ironic backdrop for the extraordinarily fact based account to unfold. As many Americans will remember from their high school literature reading, To Kill A Mockingbird chronicles Atticus Finch, a white liberal whose ethics and values compel him to defend a black man who had been falsely accused of rape in the 1930’s.
Although many themes of bias persist within the 1933 based fictional story of To Kill A Mockingbird and the true story of Walter McMillian sixty years later, there is one particular theme that you will not find in Just Mercy—Hollywood’s white savior. And that is no accident.
“It [is] good to see… a film of a black man saving another black man. I think its something that you don’t see that often. In these films you have the quote unquote white savior—comes in to save the day.
Michael B. Jordan
“It [is] good to see… a film of a black man saving another black man. I think its something that you don’t see that often. In these films you have the quote unquote white savior—comes in to save the day,” Jordan said during Sirius XM’s The Mike Muse Show town hall in New York City.
Jordan couldn’t be more right about the classic white savior trope and Hollywood’s affinity for race films centered on blameless white protagonists benevolently rescuing their non-white counterparts. From classics like A Time To Kill and The Help to recent films like Hidden Figures and Green Book, the white savior character is often centralized while black characters are subjugated to the margins even in their own stories about their own oppression. However in Just Mercy, there’s one man doing the saving—a black man by the name of Bryan Stevenson, played by Michael B. Jordan of course.
“The imagery of a black man saving another black man….you know we have the ability and the tools to save ourselves.”
Michael B. Jordan
“The imagery of a black man saving another black man,” Jordan affirms, “you know we have the ability and the tools to save ourselves. We just have to lean in to that and not expect anything to be given to us. We have to take a stance and support one another and that’s another reason why I was really infatuated with this movie.”
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx couldn’t be a better example of two black men supporting one another. Their camaraderie is obvious on screen and off. “This is powerful for me, said Sirius XM host Mike Muse, “I really am just admiring these two black men celebrating each other in front of me. The way you celebrate each other. The way you look out for each other.” “Its rare,” added Jamie Foxx who calls Jordan a sort of, “creative civil rights” figure.
And Jamie has a point. Jordan’s work on screen as well as off is certainly his own brand of activism. Jordan who not only stars in the film, also came on board as a creative producer helping to bring on cast like Jamie Foxx. He was also the force behind Just Mercy becoming the first film to adopt an inclusion rider contractually mandating that women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented groups be considered for key roles on-screen and behind the scenes. Jordan credits Frances McDormand’s 2018 Oscar speech for sparking the idea.
He didn’t stop there. Jordan, whose production company Outlier Society has a first-look deal with Warner Bros., was also instrumental in encouraging the adoption of the inclusion rider across all of Warner Media—the studio’s parent company.
Jordan’s willingness to spend his social capital for good, has huge impact across the industry. His work on screen and behind it will influence diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry for years to come . And Just Mercy undoubtedly is one of the most important films of our time for more reasons than one. Go see it because it’s an amazing film. But also see it because it was made by a dynamic diverse group of talent who recognize the agency of communities of color and their ability to tell their own stories, be at the center of their own narratives and save themselves. No “white savior” necessary.
With his latest critically acclaimed film, Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan adds his first full producer credit to his resume (cue: “Rooting for everybody Black” applause.)
The legal drama follows the real life journey of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), whose mission is to free Walter McMillan (played masterfully by Jamie Foxx), an African-American man wrongfully imprisoned and sentenced to death in Alabama for the 1986 murder of a White woman. It’s a story of relentless hope in the face of the worst-isms, a story of Black men fighting for one another against all odds.
Wearing the hats of both producer and star, Jordan is putting to good use some of the generous wisdom he learned from Hollywood heavyweights. He told ESSENCE’s Yes, Girl! cohosts Cori Murray and Charli Penn what he’s learned that’s helped him grow into who he is now.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be around great shows, great casts, and great producers who weren’t precious with information. [Director] Peter Berg told me, [in my] early 20’s I guess, [he] was like, ‘There’s going to come a time where you’re going to get tired of waiting for your phone to ring, you’re going to get tired of waiting for incoming phone calls. You should start writing, and start creating your own things, and start taking control of your creative destiny.’ That stuck with me.”
From that simple yet sage advice he spent an entire summer in a house, crafting a television show with a close friend.
“The show never made it anywhere, but that practice, that process of going through it, really gave me the fundamentals of what it takes to make a show,” said Jordan. “Then it just started to grow and figuring out how to navigate the game.”
The Emmy nominated actor, who began his acting career as a teenager, has a swath of commercial successes in both television and film like The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Fruitvale Station, the Creed series and Black Panther—and he’s only getting started.
“I want to continue to tell stories like Just Mercy that are extremely important. My production company is in its third year, so I’m continuing to grow that and create opportunities, and tell stories.”
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For much of his professional career, Bryan Stevenson has been consumed by an idea: “You are more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.” More than just a simple, inspirational mantra, Stevenson believes this truth has real repercussions for people, communities and institutions in which people are, emphatically, treated like they are only as much as the worst thing they’ve ever done and no more.
This idea not only propelled Stevenson to work as an attorney and activist for prison reform, but also to write Just Mercy, the book about his experiences advocating for the abolition of the death penalty and more justice in the prison system. And that book has now been turned into a movie of the same name, starring Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson and, starring as Stevenson himself, Michael B. Jordan.
Stevenson is demure about the experience. “If I’d known Michael B. Jordan would be playing me one day, I would have worked out more,” he says, laughing. But then, he gets more serious. “I don’t think I’ve been working for a moment where some of what I do can be in a movie,” he says. “I’ve been working for a time and a day when we can really proclaim more truth, more justice, more fairness and more opportunity for people who’ve been mistreated and abused. There’s where my eyes are and my head is. It’s certainly where my heart is.”
Stevenson says he was apprehensive when approached about the movie, aware of how often film adaptations of books can go awry. But when he heard Destin Daniel Cretton was interested in directing and saw Cretton’s previous movie Short Term 12, he was encouraged. And then when Jordan expressed interest in the role, the two men sat down and talked about Just Mercy‘s themes. “Not only were [Jordan and Cretton] talented and creative and had a lot of wonderful ideas, they were also deeply committed to these issues,” Stevenson said. “That gave me the comfort I needed to move this forward.”
Jordan himself isn’t shy about his love for Stevenson and the book, and speaks to the challenge of portraying him with reverence. “Bryan Stevenson is a real-life superhero to me and so many others,” Jordan said over email. “After I got a chance to really get to know him and his story and his work, I felt like I had a great deal of pressure to get it right.”
“Getting it right” is no mean feat with a book like Just Mercy which, in addition to addressing some of the most sensitive and urgent issues in the country, also tells a sprawling story that stretches from rural Alabama to Washington, D.C. It involves numerous stories of men and women who had seen their stories twisted in the courts and by the press, a tragedy this movie has the opportunity to rectify. Stevenson, the man who got to see these stories up and close and in person, speaks glowingly of the final product.
“The performances are so powerful,” he says. “Jamie [Foxx] brings [Stevenson’s former client] Walt to life in a way that is so accessible. You sense his grief, his pain, his anguish, his frustration. That’s true of all of the performances.”
When it comes to playing Stevenson himself, Jordan speaks of the performance as both a role and as something of a calling. “I felt honored to be able to carry that weight,” he says. “Honored to be able to get on set every day, to go to work every day to try to make a difference, to be a part of that change.”
Jordan says he interviewed Stevenson meticulously about the courtroom process—the body language, the attitude and tiny interpersonal details of dealing with jury members, prosecutors and a judge—striving for an authentic recreation of what it actually felt like.
“I wanted to honor Bryan’s work and what actually happened, while also leaving room for interpretation of that workspace,” Jordan says. “There’s a movie version of this, but then there’s a real version of it as well, and we wanted to live more in that real space than anything.”
Stevenson speaks warmly of Jordan’s portrayal. Not just for the detailed mannerisms, but for conveying Stevenson’s organized, deeply deliberate attitude towards systemic change as well. “I don’t believe you can change the world unless you’re willing to be strategic and persuasive,” Stevenson says. “You can’t just shout things and demand things, and [Jordan] embraced that approach. I think it gives people a little more insight than they otherwise might get.”
Stevenson uses the word “strategic” a lot. It’s how he conducts himself as an activist, pushing for deep change through careful planning and political savvy.
“We can’t just proclaim our truth and get mad at anyone who doesn’t see it the way we do,” Stevenson says. “We have to be persuasive. We have to be tactical.”
Part of being persuasive and tactical, Stevenson says, is changing the conversation. He says death penalty abolitionists have been willing to have the conversation on their critics’ terms for too long.
“The death penalty is not a topic that can be resolved by asking whether people deserve to die for the crimes they’ve committed. The threshold question is ‘Do we deserve to kill?’” Stevenson says. “If you have the kind of system we have, that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent, and if things are compromised by unreliable proceedings—bias, bigotry and racism—then we don’t deserve to kill. And I don’t think many people disagree with that.”
This is the fight Stevenson has waged, and the one depicted in Just Mercy. It’s about transforming rage against an unjust system into actionable steps, finding common ground with critics and killing the beast from the inside out. It’s a process Jordan refers to as “balancing emotional frustration and emotional strength.”
“I want to be a part of the change; that’s what’s important to me, especially at this time in my life as a black man in America,” Jordan says. “These issues directly affect me and my community.”
The fight is personal for Stevenson too, both as a black man who has written about his own encounters with racism in the justice system and as a Christian. His attitude of grace toward people who have committed crimes is directly related to his faith.
“Jesus talked about not throwing stones,” Stevenson says. “The woman who was accused of adultery—He never said she didn’t do it. But those who were around were convicted by that.”
“What the Good News is all about is creating opportunities for redemption and restoration and salvation from all of these things that would otherwise define us,” Stevenson continues. “That’s at the heart of what I do. I think that if we are going to be a community of people who love mercy, who do justice, who walk humbly with God, we’ve got to care about the action of mercy. We’ve got to care about the presence of injustice. You’ve got to care about the arrogance of killing people to show that killing is wrong, and taking on these roles that I don’t believe we are equipped to hold.”
Stevenson’s example has helped motivate Jordan to get involved in the fight too. “To understand and feel empathy; to understand the inmates more than just a name on a piece of paper—that’s extremely important. These people have lives and families,” Jordan says. “The fact that Bryan is in the Supreme Court, fighting these cases, fighting this cause, day in and day out. How can we do our part, right? That’s what I wanted to bring to this issue and to this project. It’s about hearing Bryan’s story and wanting to be a part of the change.”
Source: Relevant Magazine
FOX 32’s Jake Hamilton talks to actors Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, who star in the new film Just Mercy.