Stars! They’re just like us. While I don’t possess the same rippling abdominal muscles as Michael B. Jordan, he and I do share a passion for anime. It’s no small secret that Jordan is a lowkey otaku. Over the years, he has publicly geeked out about fan-favorite shows like Bleach, Naruto, and Dragon Ball Z. Buy his fandom goes even deeper than you might expect. It’s something that I discovered firsthand when I traveled to Philadelphia to interview the actor about Creed II, in which he reprises his role as boxing phenom and Rocky Balboa disciple Adonis Creed.
Fun fact: there is a massive subset of anime that focuses entirely on sports and a surprising amount of it is specifically about boxing. Knowing that Jordan is an anime fan, I couldn’t help but ask him to tell us all about his favorite boxing anime, and he did not disappoint with his selection: Hajime no Ippo.
Created as a manga by George Morikawa in 1989, Hajime no Ippo (or “The First Step”) is the story of Ippo Makunouchi, a shy high school student who was constantly bullied by his peers. One day, after taking the beating of a lifetime, Ippo was saved by a professional boxer who just so happened to be passing by. After dusting off young Ippo, the boxer took him to his training gym where they quickly discovered that Ippo had a real knack for boxing. What follows is a thrilling, fist-pumping story about a young man coming into his own as he embarks on a career in professional boxing.
In the year 2000, Hajime no Ippo was adapted into a 76 episode anime series and there have been several sequel series and original animated video follow-ups too. The series is notable for its epic fight scenes, extensive and seemingly interminable inner monologues that happen mid-fight, and Ippo’s signature move, the Dempsey Roll. As someone who spent a summer in high school bingeing the ever-loving heck out of this series, I can assure you that it straight-up rules. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Michael B. Jordan in the video above and let him tell you exactly why you need this boxing anime in your corner.
There’s something serendipitous about Michael B Jordan ending 2018 with another smash hit. After an Oscar-buzzed role in Marvel’s Black Panther, he’s now headlining Creed II, a sequel that’s over-performing at the box office – and at the same time, the industry is expanding to give more chances to other black actors than ever before.
Alongside John Boyega, Daniel Kaluuya, Stephan James and Jovan Adepo, Jordan is one of an increasing group of stars who are finally being given major roles in blockbuster projects. But is this modern “black renaissance” the cause of his rise to leading man status, or was Jordan destined for greatness regardless?
The 31-year-old has been in the business for about 20 years, since first appearing in commercials as a child. This year alone provides proof that he’s graduated to a leading man, after impressing in The Wire and in 2013’s fact-based indie Fruitvale Station.
He stumbled in 2015’s poorly received Fantastic Four reboot, but then Jordan found hitherto unseen success as the supervillain Killmonger in Black Panther earlier this year. Reuniting him with his Fruitvale Station and Creed director Ryan Coogler, Jordan delivered an intensely complex, fascinatingly relatable bad guy, praised by fans and critics alike. Abandoned by his wealthy Wakandan family, Killmonger grew up fatherless, alone and impoverished with a surging rage for his predicament.
Jordan’s performance embodied black pain in a way that felt horribly relevant in Donald Trump’s increasingly divided America. But despite praise, Jordan’s immersion in the role took its toll. He poured so much of himself into the villain that the end of production was reportedly followed by a stint in therapy. “Once I got finished wrapping the movie, it took me some time to talk through how I was feeling and why I was feeling so sad and, like, a little bit depressed,” he shared on The Bill Simmons Podcast. Sessions with a therapist helped him move on just in time to prepare for his next project.
But the critical and commercial success of $1.3bn mega-hit Black Panther didn’t bleed into his second film of the year, HBO’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Jordan starred as a dystopian fireman, trained to set fire to “contraband media”, but while the plot might have felt prescient, and despite a formidable co-star in the shape of Michael Shannon, the film premiered at Cannes to lukewarm reviews. Jordan was too busy to notice, however, since he was in the middle of another grueling production.
In 2015, he’d scored a win with his induction into the Rocky franchise; Coogler’s rousing reboot Creed, a franchise he returned to this year. Creed II is already a major hit, outperforming expectations with $62m in its first week and scoring strong reviews. The saga chronicles a boxing underdog with a champion name – Adonis Creed – who is fighting his way to recognition, independent of a legacy that seemed to die with his father. In the sequel, Adonis must face the son of the man who murdered him. The journey he takes resembles Jordan’s own struggle to legitimate leading man status in a traditionally restrictive industry for actors of color. It’s no wonder that the actor plays the boxer so well. There’s also that name …
“Being named Michael Jordan – I think growing up playing sports and having a name like Michael Jordan, and I was extremely competitive, I used to get teased a lot,” he said to NPR’s Audie Cornish last month. “But it made me want to strive for greatness and be able to compete at whatever I decided to do.”
Toughness on screen has also been offset by an undeniably grounded charm off it: Jordan has achieved virality on more than one occasion this year. In March, Jordan offered to pay for a replacement retainer for a fan who broke hers from excitement over seeing him shirtless in Black Panther. Two months later, he was riding high on Twitter again after it was revealed he’d met a fan who contacted him via Instagram. Just this week, he’s been at it again – cannily meeting a fan who had previously gone viral by Photoshopping the pair together.
There’s also something else that drives Jordan: the need to prove himself outside of restrictions tied to his race. In an interview for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Jordan revealed to Insecure’s Issa Rae that he seeks out roles written for white actors. Roles written for black characters, he reasoned, were filled with the writer’s preconceived notions of what his character was supposed to be.
“I’m first and foremost a black man, for sure, but what I’m trying to do, and what I’m trying to represent and build, is universal,” he said in a Vanity Fair profile in October. “We live in the times where everything is based around race, and for me, it’s like, I get it, I understand. It just makes everything so loaded.”
In March, Jordan made waves by announcing that his production company Outlier Society would adopt an inclusion rider for every future project they take on. He was the first to respond to Frances McDormand’s Oscar acceptance speech which saw her talk about the rider that would demand equality in front of and behind the camera. It was groundbreaking news by itself but later in September, Warner Bros announced it would partner with Jordan to ensure this became a company-wide policy.
“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business,” Jordan said. “[But] it wasn’t until Frances McDormand spoke the two words that set the industry on fire – inclusion rider – that I realized we could standardize this practice.”
The first film to hold true to the policy will be Just Mercy, a film that sees Jordan star as civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson. It’s a project that will help to further extend Jordan’s appeal beyond the multiplex and into the awards conversation. Yet there’s a chance he might be heading to the main stage next year with experts predicting a best supporting actor nomination for his performance in Black Panther, a film that might well be the first superhero adventure to ever score a best picture nod.
Jordan has honed his skills and set his goals while plotting to challenge an oppressive system that has weighed people of color down. He’s working hard to claim his own seat at the table, and is taking care to prevent barriers to his progress and that of black actors coming up behind him. With a banner year, he’s not only become Hollywood’s most exciting new leading man, but he’s helping to define what we should expect of other leading men in the future.
Source: The Guardian
Michael B Jordan is continuing the Rocky legacy, reprising his role as Adonis in Creed II, but he says he felt the need to up his game. Michael is in the best shape of his life, going up against his new nemesis he wanted to make sure the fight looked realistic with both men on a similar physical playing field. Broadcast on 30/11/2018
Michael recently appeared on The Graham Norton Show. Check out the playlist of video clips from the show above.
“This isn’t some British thing?!” Creed 2’s Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson try to fill in the blanks and guess what the British public said about celebrities with Nick Grimshaw on Radio 1. Listen to Nick Grimshaw on BBC Radio 1 Mon-Thurs, 4-7pm or by downloading the BBC Sounds app.
MBJ has been making the rounds for his Creed II press tour, which will go on til mid January. I’ve created a playlist with all of the press junket interviews. Be sure to bookmark this post to stay updated on the latest interviews. I will also be posting updates on our Twitter. You can check out the videos below.
I’ve created a playlist with all of MBJ’s ‘Creed II’ red carpet interviews. Be sure to bookmark this post to stay updated on the latest interviews. I will also be posting updates on our Twitter. You can check out the videos below.
From The Wire to Black Panther, Michael B Jordan is an actor as determined to break down diversity barriers as he is to break box office records. It’s an ongoing fight for the star of Creed II and when it comes to getting his life lessons across he doesn’t pull any punches…
In his words: “Why does it take somebody to feel like they’re close to us for us to see their humanity? Why can’t we see the humanity in people that are distant from us?”
In other words: Don’t just respond to the needs of family and friends. If we see suffering, we should have empathy with whoever is in pain because we understand their plight even we don’t know them.
In his words: “Sometimes you’ve gotta hide the medicine in the food. You can’t slap somebody in the face with facts all the time. It’s too harsh.”
In other words: If you have a message to get across, don’t feel you have to force it on people. If you can communicate in more subtle ways, it can be just as effective.
In his words:“I think redemption is about righting a wrong – and in that pursuit it’s about trying. You can stumble, you can make mistakes, but it’s about trying to do the right thing.”
In other words: Striving to do what’s right is more important than how you do it. You might take a wrong turn along the way but working out the right destination justifies the journey.
In his words: “Sometimes you gotta go with your first instinct. You gotta go with your gut. That’s kind of how I live my life: you gotta go with your gut.”
In other words: Don’t overthink things. When you are dealing with your own life, trust in yourself that you will make the right decision.
In his words: “When you got to make the decisions, when you get a chance to employ people, put key people of colour [and] women in those positions that are really going to make a difference.”
In other words: The world is changing and we all have a duty to support diversification, be it people of colour, women, LGBTQ people or those with disabilities. All lives matter.
In his words: “To the trolls on the internet, I want to say: get your head out of the computer. Go outside and walk around. Look at the people walking next to you. Look at your friends’ friends and who they’re interacting with. And just understand this is the world we live in. It’s OK to like it.”
In other words: Don’t hide behind a screen and preach hate. It’s a big world out there and life is too short to spend it promoting negativity. You won’t change your prejudices by closing yourself off.
In his words: “I’m first and foremost a black man, but what I’m trying to do, represent and build is universal.”
In other words: The message of inclusion isn’t about race or gender; it’s about equality and doing right by all.
In his words: “My path is my path. I can’t take nothing away from nobody and nobody can take nothing away from me. I’m running my race. But we can still encourage each other.”
In other words: Don’t allow others to discourage your ambitions and don’t do the same to them. Offer words of support. That way, we can all help each other.
Michael B. Jordan and his “Creed II” co-stars discuss how the film explores themes of redemption, father-son relationships, and family.