'Fruitvale Station' Star on Playing Oscar Grant

As the Zimmerman trial concludes, Michael B. Jordan talks with The Root about playing another black male killed in America.

(Continued from Page 1)

MBJ: Being No. 1 on the call sheet is something every actor dreams of, and this was my first time [shouldering] this type of workload. The bar has been set at a certain place, so on the next project I'm just trying not to have a ceiling. 

TR: On Friday Night Lights you delivered moving work as quarterback Vince Howard. What was it like working with Kyle Chandler, who played Coach Taylor?

MBJ: It's a different pace working over a couple of seasons. The writing on that show was amazing. [Friday Night Lights head writer] Jason Katims wrote family and those characters so well, and he still gave us room to play. I learned so much from Kyle Chandler; being in a scene with him was like not working at all. We were having so much fun that we'd forget [that we were filming]. They'd yell "cut" and we'd still be going.

TR: For Fruitvale Station, were you able to talk to Oscar Grant's family and friends? What was that like?


MBJ: It was a little awkward at first. I was hesitant because I was thinking about what they were thinking about me. I knew that [Grant's death] is only four years old, and it's still fresh. I wouldn't be over it.

I sat down with Grant's mother, Wanda, and Sophina. I got to hear about their relationship and how they treated one another. I spoke to all of his best friends. We went to a park, ordered some BBQ, played dominoes, drank a little bit and let the stories just flow.

It helped that I was on The Wire because they were all Wire fans, so that broke the ice a bit. It was cool because then they stepped back and really trusted [Fruitvale Station director] Ryan to take care of the story.

TR: Did you pull conversations from the family and friends and bring them to Ryan as notes?

MBJ: Ryan was with me every step of the way, at the park and when we met with Sophina and Wanda. For me, I can't talk to Oscar, so I had to hear the different perspectives of Oscar, and he was different with everybody. And with Ryan's due diligence, he did a lot of the heavy lifting for us -- the story was on the page. It was up to us to connect the dots and make it make sense to us.