Michael B. Jordan, star of the upcoming social justice movie Just Mercy, said he was “nervous” to take on playing Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.
The movie follows Stevenson’s first case tried by his nonprofit, which provides legal representation to prisoners. The Equal Justice Initiative also focuses on prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes, been denied a fair trial or tried without effective representation.
The case defended Walter McMillian, a young Black man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. Despite an airtight alibi, McMillian, portrayed by Jamie Foxx, was convicted and spent six years on death row before being exonerated.
“As I got to know Bryan…I was nervous because this guy is damn near perfect,” said Jordan during a discussion of the film with Stevenson, Foxx and the film’s director and writer, Destin Daniel Cretton at CAA Amplify.
Still, the Black Panther star said he took the role “to make people think and feel.”
He added, “I am not imitating anybody. I just want everyone to feel the essence of Bryan. That may be me up on the screen, but I want you to see and feel this man.”
The movie is an adaption of Stevenson’s own book of the same name, and he hopes the film opens new doors for people.
“It’s about educating people and getting exposed…but it’s also about moving this country toward justice, dignity and human rights,” Stevenson said. “It’s really about using all of our tools to push us.”
Just Mercy opens in theaters on January 17, 2020.