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Michael B Jordan wants to smash Hollywood's 'white' glass ceiling

The 'Creed' star takes a colour-blind approach to casting — and his star is skyrocketing

02 December 2018 - 00:06 By Leonie Wagner
Michael B Jordan was in SA for the premiere of 'Creed II'.
Michael B Jordan was in SA for the premiere of 'Creed II'.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Michael B Jordan is not an actor, he's a fighter. Ice baths, uppercuts, jabs and punches to the ribs and face prove it.

This year he not only returns to the big screen for his role as Adonis Creed in the Rocky spin-off and sequel to Creed but he also returned to SA. Under his green T-shirt, his abs are so defined they could hold the tears of the men and women who'd hope to meet him while he was in the country. Here for the premiere of his latest film, Creed II, Jordan stopped over in Joburg where I had 15 minutes with one of Hollywood's hottest commodities.

"Being able to come back to Africa was major for me and I plan on coming back many times," he says.

We'll forgive him for his stereotypical American faux pas - thinking Africa is a country. He had just, after all, spent a day playing with lion cubs. He also gets a pass because sex appeal drips from his entire being, all 1.82cm of it, like ice cream from a cone on a hot summer's day.

His mysterious and mischievous eyes are piercing as is his $10m smile - his estimated net worth following the success of Black Panther, Fahrenheit 451 and the second instalment of Creed.

I arrive at the Saxon hotel in Johannesburg complete with my "Ramaphosa economy" smile hoping that I won't bore the star with my mundane questions.

We're at a particular point in history at which artists like Jordan are getting the opportunity to play leading roles in franchise films that previously had only white stars.
For the 31-year-old actor, this is what normality should look like.

I decided I wanted to go for roles that were written for white men, just because that's normal
Michael B Jordan

"As a black actor you have your own struggles that are familiar to people. I've always tried to have a colour-blind approach to casting. Ironically, it was for a role in Chronicle which I made in SA a few years back, that I decided that I wanted to go for roles that aren't written specifically for African Americans, but that I wanted to also go for roles that were written for white men, just because that's normal," Jordan says.

In this Utopia, films would have a "filter" so that audiences could appreciate characters and stories for what they are and race wouldn't come into it.

Jordan describes himself as a man who's comfortable in his own skin, and as such he shares some traits with his character, Adonis Creed. Jordan, whose star power has skyrocketed lately, empathises with his character, who had to deal with becoming successful so quickly after winning the heavyweight championship belt.

"Even after you become successful you always have some self-doubt or you want reassurance or validation. When I was a teenager and in my early 20s, I wanted to feel respected by my peers. I wanted to be successful and know that I was doing a good job and then I wanted to feel like I could carry a movie. Fruitvale Station was the moment at which I proved to myself that I could carry a film," says Jordan.

WATCH | The trailer for Creed II 

Having played the leading man in both Creed films, Jordan is proving to critics that he's capable of making his characters completely believable.

"Acting for me is not play-acting. You have to believe who you are when you step on set, it has to be real. Living like a boxer, being treated like a boxer for months and getting into that routine when I step into the ring means that I have no doubt in my mind that that's who I am. People know not to treat me like an actor, but to treat me like a fighter."

Jordan is known to get so engrossed in a role that you can't separate him from the character he's playing

Hesitant to describe himself as a method actor, Jordan is, however, known to get so engrossed in a role that you can't separate him from the character he's playing. For his role in Creed he lived like a boxer for months, putting up with knee injuries, bruises and concussions, injuries he describes as his "badge of honour". He has also lost and gained weight for his roles - bulking up for his role as Adonis Creed.

Now over his adolescent insecurities, Jordan says he's learnt to welcome doubt like a fighter welcoming an opponent into the ring.

"I'm learning and growing and evolving. It's something I try and push myself to do. I'm human, doubt is always going to be there but it's a healthy fear encouraging me to take risks and step outside my comfort zone."