ESSENCE’s June cover star Michael B. Jordan has been one of our favorite actors since he played a wide-eyed, teenage drug dealer on HBO’s critically acclaimed series, The Wire. Since then Jordan has gone on to rack up accolades and star in a slew of films, including Fantastic Four, Creed, Fruitvale Station, and this year’s blockbuster smash, Black Panther. While Jordan’s acting chops have earned him praise from critics and his peers, the actor recently explained why he used to only seek out roles written for white men.
During a conversation with Insecure creator and star, Issa Rae, for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Jordan admitted that after starring in Fruitvale Station, he didn’t “want to go out for any role [that was] written for African-Americans.”
While Jordan didn’t mind portraying Black characters (obviously), he didn’t want his choices limited based on other people’s stereotypes about who could play a role.
For a while, he purposely sought parts that were originally written for white men, like his starring turn in the 2012 sci-fi film Chronicle, in which he played a character named Steve Kaczynski (after he was cast, the name was changed to Steve Montgomery). Back then, Jordan said he loved “just playing people. It didn’t have to be specifically playing a Black guy.”
Though he wanted to increase his available opportunities, Jordan said that he also pursued roles written for white men to avoid competition with his peers, who were often forced to contend for a handful of roles.
“It was just how do you reverse-engineer that problem, that kind of pitted competition between each other, and just put more opportunities out there for people to eat and be successful at what they want to do,” he explained.
These days, after turning in star performances in so many different projects, we’re pretty sure Jordan—who also has his own production company, Outlier Society Productions—goes after roles based on the quality of the project, not the character’s race. But it’s interesting to hear how he strategically built his acting resume to get where he is today.
Head over to Variety to watch Michael B. Jordan’s entire interview with Issa Rae.