Michael B. Jordan: Why I Turn Down Roles Where My Character Dies

Michael B. Jordan Just Mercy Press Conference TIFF
Michael B. Jordan attends the press conference for “Just Mercy” during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival held at Roy Thomson Hall on September 7, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. JPA/ / MEGA

Tired of the same old narrative. Michael B. Jordan explained how his mother influenced his decision to no longer accept roles that lead to his character’s death.

“I never thought about what my mom went through seeing her son die so many times and how she would cry so hard and it would tear me up, and when I got older and matured and started looking at things, I was like, ‘Man, I can’t do this anymore,’” the 32-year-old actor admitted during the Just Mercy press conference at Toronto International Film Festival on September 7. “Part of the reason why I almost refused a lot of roles [was] because I can’t die anymore.”

He added: “I want people to see me live. I want for me, as a character, I want to survive all three acts. I want people to watch me right into the credits.”

Jordan emphasized how important it was for him to take a stand. “Your audience gets conditioned to seeing you die also, so you want to be able to put those heroic tones in it, depending on, you know, leading man,” he elaborated. “That’s kind of what I was going for, so it was strategic to walk away from some of those roles and start living.”

The Black Panther star’s Just Mercy castmate Jamie Foxx bragged about Jordan’s commitment on the set. “The first day we’re shooting, he had a pinched nerve that no one can figure out. Forty-five minutes of sleep before we shot, and he cared about it so much,” the Oscar winner, 51, recalled. “What you did … gives us the DNA of who you are as not only an actor but an activist.”

Foxx noted that Jordan worked through the pain to deliver an outstanding performance as lawyer Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy. “At one point, he was fumbling a couple lines. ‘Oh, sorry. Sorry about that.’ And I told him, ‘You don’t have to say sorry to anybody. If it takes you 30 minutes to say one line, you take it,’” he said. “He goes away, he comes back, he runs his speech and the whole courtroom erupted. Standing ovation. … I remember I texted him. I said, ‘Hey, you know you just did something amazing.’”

Just Mercy will be released in theaters on December 25.

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