After starring in both The Wire (Wallace!) and Friday Night Lights (Vince!), the actor with the all-important middle initial branched out into cinema for real-life drama Fruitvale Station.
He plays Oscar Grant, the innocent 22-year-old American shot dead by transport police on New Year’s Day 2009, which sparked riots in California.
ESQUIRE: Why did you want to play Oscar Grant?
MICHAEL B JORDAN: It was a no-brainer. Oscar didn’t just look just like me, he could have been me. When [writer/director] Ryan Coogler said he wrote the role with me in mind – which was the first time that had happened – it was even more of an honour.
ESQ: Was it daunting given the political implications of the film?
MBJ: It made it much more special; we took it that much more seriously. The pressure of knowing his family and people that really knew him – his daughter, who is in the script – would see the film one day made you want to take care of it. I think we did a good job of showing Oscar straight up, flaws and all.
ESQ: Was it difficult to film?
MBJ: The scene on the platform was hard. I was lying over the actual bullet hole, which was still there in the ground where Oscar was killed. It was very tough mentally.
ESQ: You’ve been in two of the biggest TV shows of recent years. Which did you prefer?
MBJ: Ah man, that is like picking your favourite kid! They were both special. The Wire was a show that fucked the system. I had no idea it was going to be as big as it was. Playing Wallace opened up a lot of doors for me. But Friday Night Lights was my first chance to showcase a little bit more of my acting.
ESQ: It’ll be different again playing the Human Torch in the new Fantastic Four film.
MBJ: Well, I’m not dying in this one, which is fucking awesome. I get to live. But yeah, it’s going to be fun. I grew up reading comic books and this is the first big budget action film I’ve done – so far, it’s all been $900,000 indies – so let’s see how it turns out.
ESQ: Will you be sticking with movies for a while?
MBJ: Yeah. Me and Ryan are working together again on a spin-off from the Rocky franchise. I’m playing Apollo Creed’s grandson, and we’ve got Stallone on board. It’s gonna be fun.
ESQ: Will it involve going toe to toe with Rocky?!
MBJ: No way, man, that wouldn’t be fair! But I am getting in the ring in other circumstances. I don’t like faking it, so I’m doing my homework at the moment – working out hard.
ESQ: How about when you’re not working or working out?
MBJ: I love to grill! When it’s a nice day out, I’m probably doing some lamb chops, some salmon, some corn, some chicken steak… My homemade mash potatoes are pretty incredible, too. My top tip? Prep. If you have everything lined up beforehand, you can just knock it out like an assembly line.
Fruitvale Station is in cinemas 6 June