It’s no surprise that today’s society seems to recognize the youth of Generation Y as the driving force behind what’s hot, and what’s not. They’re bright, poised and technically savvy. They have their own space (as in MySpace), television shows, recording contracts, and can bounce a basketball from high school right into the NBA. Generation Y might as well be Generation Y-not.
Actor Michael B. Jordan epitomizes everything his generation represents. At a mere 19-years-old, he has achieved quite the career as an established young actor. Born in Santa Ana, California, Michael started his career as a child model. It wasn’t until the tender age of 12 that this youngster snagged his first part, and the rest is history – if that can even apply to one so young.
Starting off with small parts in episodes of The Sopranos, Cosby, and the 1999 movie Black and White, it wasn’t long before he landed a major role as Jamal in the 2001 feature film Hard Ball alongside Matrix-star Keanu Reeves. But Jordan’s star was only beginning to shine bright as he landed the pivotal role as Wallace in the popular HBO series The Wire. His performance did not go unnoticed, and no sooner was Wallace whacked that one of the worlds most famous soap operas, All My Children, came calling with a revival of sorts. Jordan plays troubled teen Reggie Montgomery, stepson of the infamous soap opera diva Erica Kane. We got an opportunity to speak with one of Hollywood’s talented young stars about his many accomplishments thus far.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You’re only 19-years-old and you have quite an extensive resume. At what age did you start your acting career, and who introduced you to the game?
Michael B. Jordan: Let’s see I guess I was around 10 or 11. My mom got me started. She had some friends that were already in the business that was modeling. They kept telling my mom to get me in the business, let me go out on some auditions and get a headshot done and all that stuff, so eventually she just said alright, and I’ve been doing it ever since. They were friends of my mother’s who had kids my age; they were also in the business. Models in the Sunday paper, little ads for Model’s and CVS. That’s how I first started.
AHHA: So you started as a child model.
Michael: I started off as a model and then my manager was like, “Would you like to try to do commercials and audition for movies?” and I was like, Why not. It was at a time when I was always playing basketball and stuff like that. It was just something to do at the time, so I just started it and over time I grew to love it.
AHHA: Being an actor can be very demanding. How do you manage such a career and time to be just a regular kid?
Michael: I didn’t have much time to be just a kid. I guess that’s one of the sacrifices that you have to live with once you pursue a career in acting. It was a snowball effect, from one thing to another and I’ve been really blessed. I just didn’t turn away from any opportunities – every opportunity that came up I just ran with it. As far as being a kid, a lot of times I wanted to go out with my friends and I couldn’t; I had to study my lines. Just graduating from high school was rough. I play basketball a lot I literally have to leave set, drive to the school, run in the door and go buzz myself in and play a game. It was a lot of sacrifice.
AHHA: What would you say is the up side to being an entertainer and the down side?
Michael: The downside to being an actor – everybody second guesses what you say; they don’t believe everything that you say [jokes] You’re an actor, you could be acting right now. You’re a good liar, I don’t know. You might be acting. It’s very demanding.
AHHA: How about the upside?
Michael: The upside? I guess that’s a question [where] there’s really no wrong answer. Everybody’s acting for different reasons.
AHHA: So what is your reason?
Michael: My reason is I enjoy becoming somebody I’m not. Sometimes it’s a relief to come out of your own skin and into somebody else’s shoes for a couple hours. The challenge of it; I love challenges. I can’t say it’s something that I always wanted to do but I found myself attracted to it. I love portraying somebody else; getting the chance to not be yourself.
AHHA: With your roles on The Sopranos, The Wire, and now All My Children, you’ve been surrounded by some of the most talented and celebrated actors on television.
AHHA: How would you say your acting has benefited working alongside such seasoned vets?
Michael: I’ve learned a lot. It seems like from project to project you see growth and right now I’ve learned so much being on [All My Children] three years. You don’t usually do projects for that long six or seven months, that’s it. The rest of the time it’s editing and what not, but being on a soap opera for three years, you really have time to develop your craft. Being around actors like Susan Lucci, Walt Willey, Thorsten Kay, Michael E. Knight, that’s been there for years and they really know their stuff. And then when you come in from doing a series like The Wire you really find out how much you really know and it’s humbling – you learn a lot.
AHHA: We often hear Black actors talk of how hard it is to get quality roles in Hollywood. Have you experienced any of these obstacles?
Michael: There’s always a fear being typecast as an actor; typecast in the wrong roles. But honestly, I can’t say that I have. I’ve been really blessed to go from project to project ever since I’ve been in the business from, well I guess at age 12, age 13, when I started, I was doing Hardball, the movie with Keanu Reeves. Then right after that I went on an audition for The Wire and I got that. Then next I was on All My Children. It was just one thing to another so I haven’t had a period where I’ve gone without work, and I was auditioning and trying to go for different roles – and I couldn’t get them because of being a Black actor in Hollywood. I haven’t experienced that yet, but I would guess that it has its obstacles, and maybe it would have occurred if I was out there like that but I can’t say that I have.
AHHA: Do you believe that it’s getting easier for Black actors as a whole?
Michael: When you have people like Denzel, Terrence Howard, people like that who constantly open up new doors for the youth yeah definitely, it’s definitely getting easier. We’re breaking so many boundaries. I can’t say as artists it’s ours for the taking, but it is what we make it. As long as we have role models like that, good examples for us, then I don’t see a reason why it should be getting harder.
AHHA: Well I definitely want to ask you about being typecast because you did play a drug dealer on The Wire and now a troubled teen on All My Children. Is it something you ever worry about being typecast?
Michael: Yeah, I have. With All My Children I was worried about being typecast. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to cut my hair. I made the decision to do that because [sighs] this game is real strategic. You gotta plan out carefully. You can’t take every role. You can’t do everything. I was there for a long time; everybody knew me with hair, with my locks, my braids; I knew I had another year left on my contract and I’m using All My Children as a stepping stone, to get as much fan base, get as much notoriety as you can while you’re there until you move onto something better. I wanted the people to see me as a new look before I actually went out there and started over.
AHHA: We’ve heard the stories about child actors who grow up to become very troubled adults. Being a child actor yourself, you probably have an insider’s view of why this seems to happen so often. What steps have you or your parents taken, if any, to try and avoid this kind of phenomenon?
Michael: I feel as though child actors, in these cases, they’re really young and they get blown up so much; they get so much attention; they became so famous so fast at a young age, there was no time for them to grow. It’s hard for them to make a transition from that kid role/child actor into more the adolescence and to the adult roles. Me, I was kind of lucky because of my age I started at the right time, I didn’t blow up too fast. I still don’t consider myself a celebrity; but others do. I still consider myself normal. I’m not on that level where I can’t walk around by myself, and that’s one of the key reasons I think that I have a chance at the longevity side of the business.
But my parents, they’re real supportive. My mom, my dad – coming from a family where both my parents stick around – it’s been a blessing. They’ve been supportive basically [of] whatever I do. Now I find myself having more obstacles with figuring out which way I want to go, and what do I do next.
AHHA: What about your dream role. If you could play any actor in any movie role, who would it be, and in what movie?
Michael: That’s a very good question. I don’t know Derek Luke in Antwone Fisher. That was an amazing movie. That was just great. He’s a great actor. I respect him a lot.
AHHA: In the 2004 film Souled Out you stepped out from in front of the camera and took on the role as an assistant producer. Any more future plans on doing more work behind the camera?
Michael: Definitely. I’m writing scripts now. It’s one of the hardest things ever. It’s one of the hardest things to get your thoughts in your head, your ideas and your views and get a complete stranger to read it on a piece of paper and get the exact same thing that you’re thinking. I’m grasping the concept, and I’m finishing up a script that I’m doing right now. I’m going through the trials and tribulations of trying to find somebody to produce it, and I definitely want to make it a reality – writing and starring in my own stuff. I’m just waiting for my time. It’s all in due time, and I feel that my time is coming soon. I haven’t found an obstacle that I couldn’t handle.