Michael B. Jordan is apart of GQ’s three part cover, which includes Rob Lowe and Ryan Reynolds.
Michael discuss the difficulty of being a black man in hollywood, his life growing up in New Jersey and his thoughts on women.
On Race in Hollywood: “I love telling the experience of a black male in America, but modern, not always having to go back to a period piece to remind people where we come from. It’s more a modern sense of where we are today, and where we want to go in the future. So I try to choose projects somewhere around that space.”
On not liking what’s happening in Hollywood right now:
“Not to my liking. Not taking away from anybody that’s done anything. I feel it’s the next generation’s job to pick up the baton. I feel like a lot of old filmmakers are victims of their own time period. In a way I feel like a certain racer can only take the race up to a certain leg, until they have to pass it off to the next generation to continue that race. I feel like, generationally speaking, there’s a lot of racers that have taken it as far as they can. It’s so interesting, man. There’s no blueprint to what I want to do. You know, we got Leo, we got Tom Hanks, we got Brad Pitt, we got Ben Affleck—they always get the roles and the characters that, you know, fit the mold. When it comes to African-American characters, there’s a huge gap between old school and new school.” He lists some of the former: “It’s Will and Denzel, Cheadle and Forest, Jamie…and there’s a huge gap.” He leaves me to fill in what he is clearly implying—that there are not many people of Jordan’s age making their mark—but when I say it, he nods.
It’s easy to imagine why he’d want to find “not just stereotypical roles of a black actor playing a thug or the drug dealer, doesn’t know his mom, doesn’t know his dad—you know, the same old, same old. I’m not about stereotypes.”
“I want to be part of that movement that blurs the line between white and black,” and tells me this: “I told my team after I finished Chronicle [the successful low-budget sci-fi movie that first partnered him with Fantastic Four director Josh Trank] that I only want to go out for roles that were written for white characters. Me playing the role will make it what it is.”
The two he has mentioned most often are Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Gosling. “They made smart choices,” he says. “They played people, not being ‘a white actor playing a person,’ them playing a person. When I play a person or profession, it’s black this, black that. It’s obvious that I’m black, but why do I have to be labeled as that?” And the best way to guarantee himself a better path, he says, is to be involved when the material is conceived: “Instead of taking something conceptually written for a black guy, I want the stuff that was written for a guy.”
Growing-up in Newark: “It’s funny, I’m looking at all these cars,” he says. “You know, Jersey’s like the car-thief capital of the world. For a really long time the reputation of Newark was stealing cars and all that stuff.” He offers one defensive clarification: “Never stolen a car in my life.”
But: “Driving, drifting, racing—that was a big part of my upbringing,” he says. “You know. I love driving fast, and I love cars. Avenue P, the spot we used to go when we were kids…Thursday nights, it’s a community. Kind of like The Fast and the Furious, man. That’s pretty much what I used to do growing up. Hundred cars out there. Everybody out, you know. It’s an industrial area. Listening to music. Racing cars back and forth. Some out there racing for pink slips, some out there just racing for fun. I burnt out a few clutches out there, and my dad come and get me. It was that, you know: ‘Argghhh, I know, I know, I know, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…’ ” This was when he was working days on All My Children, which made it hard for his parents to draw lines. “I’m treated like an adult, this other life I live. I was making money, so if I burn out a clutch, I pay for it.”
Did ever win any races: Yeah!” he answers at first, but then adds, “I mean, I lost a lot. I would never put my car up for a race—I’m not that stupid. I just like the thrill of it. That’s where I honed my driving skills. The risk would be once the cops came, because the cops would always come. It was just trying to figure out when and where they would come. The cops came, everybody was like roaches with the light on. Everybody scatters, you know. You just hop in somebody’s car, meet up with your friends later. It was a rush, man. It was so much fun. That takes me back, bro.”
“This is a rough place to live and grow up,” he explains. “This crazy-ass city. I had the protection of this street, because I had so many people on this block that knew me my entire life, that were family. A block this way, a block that way, you don’t know. You know, I grew up piss-poor, you know what I’m saying? I mean, I got into fights, all the normal kids’ stuff. Got robbed at gunpoint. All that stuff. But on this street, it was kind of like a safe haven.” Even so. “You can’t live on a street the entire life. You can’t stay on the block.” And out there, a few feet further from home, things were clearly more complicated. “I always tried to use my best judgment,” Jordan says, “even though sometimes my best judgment wasn’t the best judgment. I had a lot of people looking out for me, making sure I didn’t do too many dumb things… I was a good kid at heart. My mom and dad raised three intelligent kids, so we tried to do our best, make them proud.”
On women: “Um, I try and be focused. I told myself at a young age, once I kind of saw this momentum, that I would sacrifice all my twenties to my work. I’m 28. I’ve got a year and a half.”
“At the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me is my family, bro. I come from nothing, so it’s like my family, they came with me. That’s all I care about. Couldn’t give a fuck less about anything else. My mom, my dad, my sister, my brother—they’re good, I’m good. They’re not good, I’m not good. I put everything I had into everything, so once they’re good I can start living a little. My mid-thirties I can live a little. And I’m so okay with that. I’m cool with that.”
On women not agreeing with that: “It goes like it goes. They want what they want, I tell them what I want. It doesn’t quite work out that well. That’s why I’m by myself.”
Are you lonely?
“I’m not. I understand what females want and need, you know. I’m good at that. I don’t know if I’m the guy to give it to them right now. I’m emotionally unavailable. Until I find something that’s so undeniable that I can’t help myself. Other than that, I need to work on making sure my mom is okay. That’s all I care about, honestly. Females, they come and go.”
The “How-to-Issue of GQ is on stands.