How 'Black Panther' Star Michael B. Jordan Is Making Sure More Black-Led Stories Are Being Told On-Screen
If you only became obsessed with Michael B. Jordan after seeing him in Black Panther, you seriously missed out; the actor has been working for over half his life, stealing scenes in The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Fantastic Four and so much else since the early 2000s. But at 31, Black Panther star Jordan has decided to take it notch, moving behind the camera to direct and create with his production company, Outlier Society. The fact that Jordan is determined to take even more on than he already is is no surprise for anyone who's witnessed his growth and drive over the years — and neither is the fact that he's using his company to elevate the careers of filmmakers in the making.
"I want to give opportunities across the board and generations, [to people] from all walks of life," explains Jordan, speaking over the phone a day before Black Panther's debut. "But specifically for brown and black boys and girls, there’s definitely gonna be a lot of opportunities created by myself... that tell stories from a different perspective, that show the kind of world I live in today."
Around the release of Black Panther, Jordan teamed up with beverage company Brisk to launch the Creators Class, an initiative providing young artists with mentorship and other opportunities within media. The program will see these up-and-coming filmmakers actually get involved in the making of movies and TV shows by coming on set and working on projects, with Jordan and other successful artists advising them along the way. "Being able to give an internship to a young creator, and letting them get to see behind the scenes, what actually goes into making a piece of content, a piece of art, is extremely important," says Jordan.
Already, Jordan is putting his money where his mouth is. Outlier Society — which, he notes, has a Black woman, Alana Mayo, as its Head of Production and Development — has several projects in development that'll undoubtedly feature Black stars and crew members. There's Raising Dion, an upcoming Netflix sci-fi show about the Black single mother of a son with superhuman abilities; a reboot of The Thomas Crowne Affair starring Jordan; and The Stars Beneath Our Feet, an adaptation of a beloved YA book about an African-American teen grieving the death of his brother, that Jordan will direct.
"I want my production company to be a reflection of my career, and that’s a little bit of everything," he explains. "I’ve got a pretty eclectic resume so far with a lot of different types of projects, so the type of films that I’ll be making, and television, will probably be a reflection of that."
Jordan says he's been ready to move behind-the-scenes for years, but waited until the timing felt right — "it’s just kind of that moment for me," he says now. That's hard to argue, considering that with Black Panther, as well as the highly-anticipated Creed II and Fahrenheit 451 coming to HBO later this year, Jordan's undeniably on the top of his game. Black Panther, in which he plays the villain Killmonger, is his biggest project ever, and Jordan knows that its power goes beyond its record-breaking box office numbers.
"I used to think about that, if I saw the movie at 10, what kind of impact would it have had on me?" says Jordan. "I think I would be inspired just to see somebody who looked like me on screen, in a position of power — it’d probably give me a sense of pride. So the fact that these kids, and these young women and young girls are also to see themselves as strong, smart female characters, I think is extremely important."
With so much hype leading up to the film, Jordan, director Ryan Coogler, and the cast were prepared for the intense reactions audiences have had to Black Panther, but the actor says it still feels a bit surreal. "The way that people have been reacting to this... there’s a certain overwhelming nature to this that you can never really foresee. You never really expect it to be this crazy," he says. "I’m just really happy that everybody’s been receiving the film the way they have."
Black Panther may be one-of-a-kind, but with so many exciting projects on the way, Jordan should get used to all the attention.