We're honoring a new icon every day during Black History Month 2021. Today, we highlight Michael B. Jordan, who's thrilled us in tentpole hits like "Creed" and "Black Panther," and blown us away in socially conscious projects like "Just Mercy" and the devastating "Fruitvale Station."
How You Know Him
He's the son of Apollo Creed, the up-and-coming boxing champ Adonis "Donnie" Creed in "Creed" and "Creed II." He's also the unforgettable villain and altogether human (and long-forgotten son of Wakanda) N'Jadaka / Erik "Killmonger" Stevens in "Black Panther."
He's also #15 on the New York Times' list of the Greatest Actors of the 21st Century. Time Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. And he was People's 2020 Sexiest Man Alive.
So, yes. He's kind of a big deal.
Their Life So Far
He's also been at this acting thing for a long while. The 33-year-old (who turns 34 in 7 days) started out young. He was born in Southern California (Santa Ana), but grew up in Newark, New Jersey. He was a basketball player at Newark Arts High School, and would combine his talents on the big screen early on.
His first big role onscreen came opposite Keanu Reeves in 2001's "Hardball," playing one of the talented little league players on Coach Reeves' roster.
Along with another pivotal role early on as an inner-city kid on HBO's acclaimed "The Wire," Jordan established himself as one to watch. He would later parlay a starring role as the quarterback on tv's "Friday Night Lights" into prime movie gigs in the WWII fighter pilots saga "Red Tails" and the indie superhero hit "Chronicle."
His breakthrough movie, "Fruitvale Station," follows the tragic last day of Oakland citizen Oscar Grant, who was unjustly killed by a BART officer on New Year's Day 2009. It marked the first of three collaborations with writer-director Ryan Coogler – a relationship that will likely continue for years to come.
The Movie to Watch
Audiences know him primarily due to the "Creed" series and "Black Panther," but "Fruitvale Station" remains his definitive performance, and it is an especially relevant film in our current times. It's not just the tragedy of seeing another Black man unjustly murdered by authorities. It's the film's buildup and Jordan's depiction of a normal guy who's unaware he's living his last 24 hours. It makes what's coming that much more unbearable.
It also makes it essential viewing. It's the type of movie and performance that can effect actual change in our behavior, and how we begin to look at every stranger as someone just like ourselves – common human beings deserving of empathy and respect.
Drama / 2013
Though he once spent time in San Quentin, 22-year-old black man Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) is now trying hard to live a clean life and support his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz) and young daughter (Ariana Neal). Flashbacks reveal the last day in Oscar's life, in which he accompanied his family and friends to San Francisco to watch fireworks on New Year's Eve, and, on the way back home, became swept up in an altercation with police that ended in tragedy. Based on a true story.
What's Up Next
Jordan has proven himself to be a matinee idol who's comfortable in social dramas and super-sized genre films. He's already completed work on "Without Remorse," based on a book by Tom Clancy, that finds the mega star playing a former Navy SEAL and director of the top counterterrorism unit Rainbow Six.
He's also reteaming with Coogler on their fourth film together, "Wrong Answer," which tells the story of the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal (the 2009 accusations of cheating on standardized tests, and the 2014-2015 trial).
Jordan's also rumored to be up for a second remake of the espionage thriller "The Thomas Crown Affair," and is planning to star for director Denzel Washington in "Journal for Jordan," about a deployed soldier who wrote journal entries for his newborn son back home.
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