Michael B. Jordan is fighting the good fight


It’s a crisp Thursday morning in February and I’m on my way to interview a world-class actor at one of London’s top hotels. This isn’t the first time I’ve met Michael B. Jordan – three years ago I had the privilege of speaking with Jordan (and Jamie Foxx) for their film Just Mercy – but, being a big fan of his work, I’m a ball of nervous excitement nonetheless.

But, while Jordan’s life may be one of press junkets in swanky hotels now, his story starts with humbler beginnings – and just a hint of Hollywood fairytale. One of three children growing up in Newark, New Jersey, with his parents, Donna and Michael, he became a child model after being scouted at a doctor’s clinic by the medical receptionist.

From there, he went on to achieve almost immediate on-screen success, appearing in All My Children, The Sopranos and opposite Keanu Reeves in Hardball, before his Hollywood breakthrough in 2015’s Rocky reboot Creed. Now aged 36, he’s living every aspiring actor’s dream, with starring roles in the Black Panther and Space Jam franchises. Oh, and he’s also a co-owner of AFC Bournemouth. 

Today, though, we’re here to talk about another big milestone in Jordan’s career: his directorial debut. Michael B. Jordan – best known to date as an actor and producer – has stepped behind the camera for Creed III

The ninth chapter in the Rocky film series will also see Jordan reprise his role as Adonis Creed, who by this point has gained immense success in both his career and family life. However, things change quickly when Creed’s childhood friend Damien turns up. Damien, played by Jonathan Majors, is a former boxing prodigy who has been released from prison and is looking to settle old scores with Creed in order to prove he can be the champion. More than just a battle in the ring, this is a story about brotherhood, suffering, betrayal and the ghosts of the past.  

Having put me at ease with his trademark mega-watt smile, I ask Jordan if he drew on any traumas in his own past for the film. “As Black men in America, in the world we live in, to be where we are personally, there are a lot of friends around us that were not fortunate enough to make it through,” he says candidly. “This was an extremely personal movie, it was like therapy for me. We all have childhood trauma but you have to face those demons in order to grow. Adonis has it all, but he still has these things in the past he needs to address to be the best version of himself.”

Despite his humility, there’s no doubt Jordan has achieved a lot in his career – and garnered huge praise in the process. Given all his success, you would be forgiven for thinking he’s one of those rare, lucky few not to have known much rejection. Not so, he says, explaining that, like every other successful actor in Hollywood, rejections have been a big part of his journey.

michael b jordan, sylvester stallone and carl mayweather

Jordan with Sylvester Stallone and Carl Mayweather at the LA premiere of Creed. Image: Featureflash/Shutterstock

So how does he deal with these setbacks? It’s all about mindset. “We are relentless, a little crazy, [and] passionate about what we do,” he explains. “We have the attitude of why not us? We have to be an example for the younger generation that is up and coming. There is huge responsibility with the success we have had, it is not just about us, our ancestors paved the way for us [and] opened up doors. We can’t spoil that.”

And, while at its core the Creed franchise stays true to its boxing roots, Jordan has taken pains to ensure his work sheds light on sensitive subjects. Creed III, for example, brings disability to the forefront in a powerful way via Creed’s daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), who is deaf and communicates with her parents through sign language. She also is heavily influenced by her father and wants to become a boxer like him. In Amara, Jordan has done an impressive job of creating a character who is stoic, determined and full of self-confidence, but also happens to be disabled.

michael b jordan and donna jordan oscars

Jordan with his mum Donna at the 2019 Oscars. Image: Shutterstock.

This commitment to representation and empowerment for communtiies often underserved in films and on television is one that is clearly close to Jordan’s heart. In previous interviews, he has mentioned Frances McDormand’s call for more diversity on Hollywood sets during her Oscars acceptance speech. Following this, he started using inclusion riders (a contractual commitment to employing racially and gender-diverse film crews, including disabled actors) on all of his productions and has convinced Warner Brothers to make them standard practice across the entire studio.

As for what comes next? Creed’s storyline has been purposefully left open. Maybe the next iteration will feature a female lead or a disabled boxer – or both.

As our interview comes to a close, I ask Jordan if he’s in a place where he is truly happy. He pauses to reflect, before telling me he is but adding, “Happiness is a fleeting feeling.

“I’m happy to have got this far but we’re just getting started.”

Creed III is in UK cinemas from 3 March 2023.

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