Playing the role of an African-American young man from the inner city, slain in cold blood due to racism, was a role that hit extremely close to home for Hollywood newcomer Michael B. Jordan.
Jordan has recently starred in the romantic comedy “That Awkward Moment” and is set to star in the upcoming “Fantastic Four” film, but it’s his first lead role on the big screen that has stuck with him the most.
In “Fruitvale Station,” Jordan took on the real-life role of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Black man from the San Francisco Bay area who was fatally shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer responding to reports of a fight on a packed train on New Year’s Day 2009.
“I was living in L.A., broke as hell and getting ready to go back home to New Jersey when I saw Oscar Grant’s murder on Facebook,” Jordan told The Guardian. “I remember watching it again and again, feeling more and more angry. Oscar Grant is two weeks older than me. We both grew up in inner cities, in similar situations. Watching that footage, you think, ‘That could have been me.’”
He also opened up about what it is like to be a Black man in a world that tends to be much more racist than it would ever claim to be.
“If I wasn’t Black, that wouldn’t have happened to me; I’ve thought that so many times I’ve lost count,” Jordan said. “A woman holds on to her purse as she walks by, or people cross the street when they see me, to being pulled over by the cops for no reason. I’ve been illegally searched. I’ve been harassed. Have I been in situations where people who don’t know me have treated me like less than a person? Yes, I have.”
When “Fruitvale Station” was released, America was also in the midst of the George Zimmerman acquittal. In 2012, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, fatally shot 17-year-old Black high school student Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
For Jordan, it just served as yet another example of young Black men being slain by the people who are supposed to protect the community.
“It seems to be happening again and again; young men from minorities slain by authorities that are supposed to serve and protect,” he said. “That is a fact. You do the math. All I want to know is why.”
Toward the end of the interview, Jordan was asked about the comments by Variety that slammed the film as providing a “relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject.”
The interviewer noted that this was the first time in the interview that Jordan’s voice was raised and he let go of his cool, collected tone.
“What’s so unrealistic and manipulative about a Black man loving his daughter and having real, emotional moments with his family?” he asked. “Why do people make these accusations? Is it because African-Americans aren’t allowed to be real people? Is it because we’re not allowed to be human and have human interactions with our family? Is that not allowed?”
Jordan has continued to deal with racism with his role as Johnny Storm in “Fantastic Four.”
Johnny Storm in the original comic books is a white male, but Jordan is ready to take on the role regardless of some public backlash.