A firm believer in the next generation of filmmakers, Michael B. Jordan’s work with emerging writer/director Ryan Coogler has given both talents a prominent place in arts, culture and Hollywood.
Together, they brought us the award-winning film Fruitvale Station, a hint at the power of the pair for the first time.
As an actor, Jordan, 28, nails his on-screen performances by learning everything there is to know about the character. Then, he documents their fictional world in journals.
“Once you’re believing what you’re writing, that’s the magic right there. Then you got him and you know your person,” the doe-eyed New Jersey-bred actor said during a taping of the Off Camera Show. “It is a little weird but it works for me.”
Now, he turns his attention and acting talent to Creed – another Ryan Coogler creation – hitting theaters on Nov. 25.
In the film, from the latest in the Rocky franchise, Jordan introduces newcomers and longtime Rocky Balboa fans to Adonis Creed, the son of Balboa’s rival and eventual friend, Apollo.
Jordan’s performance combines passion, fear, fearlessness and a will to defeat the odds. Coogler’s written and directorial work provides him a backdrop closer to a documentary than that of a fight film.
The award-winning actor talks to EBONY.com about the importance of creative collaboration and why CREED is not “Rocky 7,” but another origin for a new generation.
EBONY: One thing that I enjoy about your approach to script is the authenticity. You embody your character in such a way it feels like we're watching your life. You've succeeded in that with this film. Were there any challenges with this role?
MBJ: I don't think it was more of a challenge than it was exciting to develop a character from the beginning. It's great collaborating and figuring out the character's wants, needs and the hold that he has. What is he looking for? And developing those character traits from the ground up. Through the development of this script, I've been a part of it for two-and-a-half to three years, it's become more exciting in 'what can we find out about this guy next? How many layers can we build on this guy? What are the things that we're going for in this film? Once you begin to lay those things down, it doesn't become as challenging. I think the hardest part for this film and "Adonis" was the training aspect. That was probably the toughest part. The character part, that's the fun stuff! That's why I love getting up and going to work.
EBONY: No one had an idea of Adonis Creed. How did you go about sculpting the character and what Philly influences – music, style of dress, people – helped in the process?
MBJ: I think Philly is an incredible city and we couldn't have done it anywhere else. The people that represent that city are very strong, creative, independent, and very ambitious. I feel like the music played such an element as to so much of what Philly is. The music punches up the emotion when it’s needed. The texture of it really sets the tone for the film. It's something that Ryan and our music composer, Luke Williams, paid a lot of attention to. They have great chemistry as well that you kind of tell from the film – it has heart. I'm from Newark, NJ so I'm not that far, so for me, it was like being in my backyard. But playing a character coming from L.A., it was cool playing somebody that was foreign to that and going against my natural instincts of being more of an East Coast guy. And then just trying to find that balance and, like you said, that collaborative teamwork was a huge thing on this and Ryan creates such a family environment. It starts at the top, no egos, everybody has the same “do whatever it takes to get the best job done” mentality.
EBONY: The collaborative aspect is something that really shines when you and Ryan work together. Can you discuss the importance of young creatives collaborating and making an imprint on this Hollywood landscape when so many eyes are on Black creatives or the lack thereof?
MBJ: I think it's extremely important to voice our opinions and creative point-of-view. It's time. It's a generational thing and I feel like it's so important now to start being as creative and ambitious as you can be and to collaborate and tell stories that are universal and don't always put us in the same light. It's tough out here for actors of color to portray roles that don't exist. So it's in that creation and manifestation from the ground level of writers for that perspective to open the doors so that there is opportunity for actors to land and book jobs and not go out for the same roles all of the time. There aren't that many writers and directors out there speaking from our point-of view. So, I feel like there just has to be more people out there telling our perspective. And once that happens, then what comes next is the talent behind it showing support. You have to elevate things in order to move forward.