When you go to see Fruitvale Station, bring a hanky. The Forest Whitaker—produced film, based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young man from the Bay Area who was fatally shot by transit police on New Year's Day 2009, will have you tearing up as it recounts Grant's final hours.
New director Ryan Coogler weaves the mundane and the heartrending to create a sympathetic portrait of Grant, played by Michael B. Jordan, as a young man trying to put his life on track. Despite the tragic ending, the film—this year's Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance and a crowd and critic fave at Cannes—pulses with powerful energy that keeps Grant's spirit alive.
After a career-solidifying turn in Friday Night Lights, 26-year-old actor Michael B. Jordan continues his hot streak in Fruitvale Station (opening nationwide today).
ESSENCE: What did you do to nail the portrayal of Oscar Grant [who was killed by an Oakland transit cop in 2009]?
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: To get an idea of who this guy really was you had to get to know him through the people who knew him best. That's what I had to do. I got a chance to kick it with his mom, his baby's mom, his daughter, all his best friends—everyone who was with him that night. We were playing dominoes, eating, barbecuing. We got to talk and know one another.
ESSENCE: The film depicts Oscar's last day. Do you hope it gives a complete view of who he was?
JORDAN: Everybody knows the end of this story. You know what's going to happen. But if you spend a day with somebody, with anyone, you'll get to know that person. You start to root for him. Whenever there's an officer-involved shooting, the victim's humanity is lost. He's either painted as this picture-perfect saint or this monster. We just wanted to make it a realistic depiction of this man—flaws and all. And give a little bit of his humanity back.
ESSENCE: You've been acting since childhood—from a soap opera to TV dramas to movies. When Black women see you now, which character do they most associate you with?
JORDAN: Honestly, it's so random. I often get, "Oh, man, that's Reggie from All My Children!" I'm like, "I can't get out of Reggie, huh?" It just depends.... Hopefully, when Fruitvale comes out, it'll strengthen [my following] among my sisters.
Fruitvale Station opens nationwide today.