michael b. jordan: “i’m trying to figure out how to become a leading man around the world”

The star of Creed II is on an unprecedented hot streak, from February’s culture-shifting ‘Black Panther’, to the latest installment of Ryan Coogler's rebooted take on the ‘Rocky’ series. So why does he still feel restless?

by Matthew Whitehouse
30 November 2018, 4:42pm

There’s a moment early on in Creed II — the follow up to Ryan Coogler’s critically acclaimed Creed — in which Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed has everything he ever wanted. He’s the Heavyweight Champion. A worldwide star. Engaged to Tessa Thompson’s Bianca and a sort of adopted son to Sylvester Stallone’s iconic Rocky Balboa. We’re quarter of an hour into the movie and already he’s a hero — but it’s not enough. “If I’m the champ, then why don’t I feel like one?” he says.

It’s a question you could imagine Michael asking himself. From his beginnings as a television actor (most notably with the small but pivotal role of Wallace in the first season of HBO's The Wire), to his movie breakthrough as shooting victim Oscar Grant in Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station in 2013, to his even bigger breakthrough as the titular character in the Cooglar-helmed franchise we find ourselves discussing today, his entire career has been marked by a kind of relentlessness. A sort of looking around, surveying his surroundings, and thinking, “Alright, what next?”

“I think some people are just wired that way,” Michael says. “They’re always thinking about what’s next, about what’s going on. So, for me, it is a little bit like, I have a great movie out, and I’m appreciative, I’m fucking humbled by it. But there’s still that feeling of, what else can I do? How do I make a bigger impact?”

It’s a big enough question to answer off the back of a franchise that has earned a legion of fans comparable to the one that spawned it. It’s an even bigger one when you consider the year that Michael has had already — his role as flawed anti-hero Erik Killmonger in February’s Black Panther took the California-born actor from superstar to megastar, breaking numerous box office records and becoming the highest-grossing film in the US this year (as well as the highest-grossing by a filmmaker ever).

“I just wanted to know if I could do it,” he says of his transition to bonafide leading man. “You know, being an actor, doing episodic stuff growing up. Being that third guy from the back, or the fourth guy, or even the sixth guy. Just learning and learning and learning but looking at these other actors that I’ve always looked up to and admired like, can I do that? I think I can do that? Then when it worked, it was like, alright, man, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Now I’m here, I’m not really holding back. I’m trying to figure out how to become a leading man around the world.”

You can’t help but feel that with Creed he has the perfect vehicle to do it. With Sylvester Stallone appearing to suggest that Creed II will be his last as Rocky Balboa, Michael has the keys to a franchise that people genuinely love. A fully-formed character that he can lean into emotionally, with enough left for him to spin out his own legacy of stories.

“With this movie Adonis is his own man, with his own agency,” Michael says. “He’s finally gotten the closure of his father’s death, where he can move on and start his own family. He’s become a father. Now I think he’s a solid, 360, layered character, where people want to see him. They want to see what he does. They want to root for him.” For character and actor the only question is — where next?

Creed II is out now.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan