Emerging Actor Talks of His Breakout Role As Oscar Grant
Michael B. Jordan: The Fruitvale Station Interview
by Kam Williams
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Michael B. Jordan is one of Hollywood’s brightest young actors. In 2012, he starred in 20th Century Fox’s box office hit Chronicle, a supernatural thriller that follows three Portland teens as they develop incredible powers after exposure to a mysterious substance. He also had a supporting role in George Lucas’ film Red Tails, the World War II saga about the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.
Of his television work, he is best known for performances in two of the most significant television dramas of the past decade, HBO’s The Wire and NBC’s Emmy-winning Friday Night Lights.
Here, he talks about starring as the late Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station, recounting the shooting of the 22 year-old Grant in the back by a police officer on a train station platform on New Year’s Day 2009.
Kam Williams: Hi Michael, thanks for the interview.
Michael B. Jordan: What’s up, buddy? Thank you for taking the time.
KW: That’s quite a powerful performance you delivered as Oscar.
MBJ: Thank so much, Kam.
KW: What interested you in Fruitvale Station?
MBJ: Honestly, I remember hearing about the incident when it happened, and feeling very angry, upset and frustrated about not being able to do anything about it.
KW: Did you feel any pressure to deliver a great performance given that it’s the biopic of a person who has passed away and who left behind family, including a young daughter who barely got to know him?
MBJ: Of course, and I put a lot of that pressure on myself. I knew that Oscar’s daughter was going to see this film someday, and that was the only pressure I needed to do her father justice. But I felt a huge responsibility not only to his family, but to the whole Bay community, since the story is so important to them, too.
KW: Is there anything the family wanted people to know about Oscar?
MBJ: That he was a person, a flawed human being who made some mistakes just like anybody else.
KW: Did you identify with this character at all, given how often young black males are subjected to profile stops and police brutality?
MBJ: Yeah, I’m from Newark, New Jersey, so I’ve been in that sort of situation before. It could just as easily have been me, or somebody else with a group of friends going to the city who might have gotten a little rowdy. Oscar was a product of his community. The problem is that people from outside of that community can be quick to judge us based on the way we look, talk and dress.
KW: How was it being directed by Ryan Coogler?
MBJ: He’s an incredible director, extremely talented and a natural born leader. And he was the ideal coach for me, because we’re so close in age. We speak the same language, being from the same generation. The story meant a lot to him because he’s from the Bay area. He’s very close to this project. Everything worked out. It was a perfect storm.
KW: What was it like acting opposite an Oscar-winner in Octavia Spencer?
MBJ: That ain’t bad, either. Not too shabby. I learned a lot from her.
KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
MBJ: I hope people feel angry, upset, or something that sparks a conversation about how we can be better people. So, I want people to leave the theater and think, “How can I be a better person?” That’s the only way things are going to improve. It may not happen in my lifetime, but if I can play a part in moving things along, then I feel I’ve done a good job.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Michael, and I look forward to speaking with you again in January when you get that Oscar nomination.
MBJ: I appreciate that, Kam [Chuckles] But don’t jinx me, dude.
To see a trailer for Fruitvale station, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxUJwJfcQaQ