Michael B Jordan Just Dropped Some Serious Knowledge – It Might Just Change Your Life
Michael B Jordan loves a burpee. Like, seriously loves them. He loves them to the extent that you have to wonder whether that’s what the B in his name actually stands for.
It kind of makes sense, too. Jordan comes from a new generation. The everything’s possible generation, the change the world generation. Never mind his physique – still jacked from Creed 2, if you’re wondering – his career is the epitome of this tough-as-heck bodyweight exercise: hard work, brutally honest, get out of it what you put in.
There’s been struggle, of course, and he’ll tell you about the time when he was nearly done with acting before it had all really happened for him. One role brought him back from the brink, but over time he’s developed his own set of rules. Principles to live by that have turned him into one of Hollywood’s most credible new talents along the way. And when the son of Apollo Creed talks, we should probably all listen up.
1. Take advice
The Wire is one of those shows where, if you tell people that you haven’t watched it, you get ‘the look’. You’ll know it when you see it, but it roughly equates to instant distrust, bewilderment and, finally, a hint of pity (see also The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones). But while this television high watermark was nearly cancelled after one season, it was the making of a 15-year-old Jordan.
“I actually thought I was never going to act again,” he explains, “but I think I learnt my love of the craft from being on that show. I was around a lot of better and older actors who really took the time to help mould me. They would tell me how this was the life I could have if I worked hard and really began to focus on it.”
Jordan cites the veteran TV actor Andre Royo, who played Bubbles in the show, as his mentor in chief: “I was done with LA because LA seemed done with me, but Royo just told me to snap out of it.” It wasn’t just motivational advice that the young actor picked up on set in Baltimore, either.
“This was when I learned how to lose myself in a character,” he says. “For the first time in my career I didn’t just feel like I was playing a role. I was given the mental tools to do the job: this is the process that you go through in order to try to become somebody else. I kind of learnt that on The Wire.”
2. Work with like-minded people
There are some actor-director relationships that span a career, a powerhouse coalition that almost guarantees box office success – think Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino and Sam Jackson, Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. But while Jordan has the likes of Sly Stallone firmly in his corner, it’s his relationship with Ryan Coogler that has really borne fruit.
“I think it doesn’t always happen [these stellar working relationships] in fact almost never, but when it does its truly special,” he says. “I think to be able to grow with Ryan has been amazing. From starting on a movie with a budget of $900,000, one camera, and some duct tape and shot in 19-20 days, to then move up to Creed and then onto a film like Black Panther that grosses a billion… to do that with somebody who knows me to the point that we almost work via telepathy, it makes things easier. We support each other too – it’s tough making a movie. When you have somebody you can joke around with but still be able to get the filming done, man, it’s priceless.”
3. Question stereotypes
“I know that being a black man I should’ve known better, and not simply accept a stereotype, but I think the first time that I went to the Middle East I was like wow! This isn’t what I was expecting. It was an eye-opening experience. Not a culture shock, but a deep appreciation for another culture that I guess I didn’t know.
“I have friends that I’ve made over the years that are from the region, and I’m aware of how the outside world wants to try to view them. To me, in that situation, my brain is like, how do I create a movie to help break that stereotype down? That’s the challenge for me, to create and be a part of productions that question the way people think. It’s a moral responsibility I feel inside of me.”
4. Own your story
Heritage is important to Jordan. It’s why he loved the fact that the guy who made his watch at the Piaget factory remembered it years later – he remembered that actual watch (“he took it off my wrist and started looking at it like he was a recalling a favourite child”).
It’s also why his company, Outlier Society Productions, runs deeper than simply cashing in on his good name. One of the first to adopt an inclusion rider – giving actors a legal reason to back out of a project if they feel there’s not enough diversity – Outliers also signed a first-look deal with Warner Bros for “culturally rich storytelling to provide a platform for the next generation of actors”, and a similar first-look TV deal with Amazon.
His three rules for good business? “Stay true to your brand – you created a mission statement and company policy: now stick to it. Second, never chase the money. Just concentrate on the work and everything else will fall into place. Third? Hire a woman to run the whole thing.”
5. Leave a legacy
“I’ve been blessed over the years that I’ve managed to achieve all my goals and ambitions. So, now it’s, ‘Okay what’s next?’ The ultimate goal is to create an ecosystem and legacy that’s going to stand test the time. It’s going to stay longer than my physical body. When I’m dead and gone, hopefully my production company and things that I’ve put in place will be able to continue to breathe and inspire the next generation. As cliché as it sounds, I want to help make the world a better place. But then maybe I’m being naïve or too ambitious or just plain foolish to think that I can do that.”
When GQ suggests, as the interview comes to an end, that it’s a pretty brave notion, too. Jordan stops for a minute and thinks, eyes to the sky, before a smile slowly slides into place. “Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ll take brave, too.”
Michael B Jordan's five rules to take into your own look
Don’t go off the rack
“I love suits. I think the first time I ever put on a custom tailored suit I kind of never wanted to take it off. I honestly don’t think I could ever buy an off-the-rack suit again.”
Find a label that works for you
“I’ve been blessed with certain genetics, so to make a suit work I have to make sure that the cut is right. Brands like Tom Ford and Salvatore Ferragamo work well for my shape. Hugo Boss, too.”
Get an iconic timepiece…
“Piaget has a watch for every occasion – from the office to the gym to the club,” says the long-term friend of the Swiss luxury watch brand. “I love what goes into making each piece. They found a way to highlight every small detail, but still make it accessible.”
…then enjoy the feeling
“The first time I wore a luxury watch I was like, ‘Wow, this is what being a man feels like. This is what it feels like to be grown.’”
“Having your hair look fresh is important. I’m only just able to grow a beard now, so I’m rocking that new growth look every once in a while, too. That’s a good addition to the style.”