- 27 Jan 20
Actor Michael B. Jordan speaks about his role in the drama 'Just Mercy,' the powerful true story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who fought to get an innocent black man off death row.
Based on the award-winning non-fiction bestseller by Bryan Stevenson, the real-life drama Just Mercy boasts an incredible cast to tell an incredible story. It focuses on one lawyer’s determination to highlight the failures of the justice system, and fight for the vulnerable victims of those failures, whose very lives are on the line. Michael B. Jordan, star of Creed, Black Panther and Fruitvale Station, plays Bryan Stevenson, a talented Harvard graduate who moved to Alabama to defend people who were wrongly incarcerated and put on death row – predominantly black men who fell prey to oppressive and pervasive racism. While there, he came across the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. Stevenson felt compelled to fight for McMillian against all odds.
Michael B. Jordan, who is also a producer on Destin Daniel Cretton’s film, became aware of Stevenson’s prominent activism in the justice reform movement through Stevenson’s viral TED talk, and was immediately inspired by him.
“I felt like I was behind,” reflects the 32-year-old actor. “I felt like I should have known about him and the work he was doing, because he is truly a real-life hero for our time. He’s been fighting for equal justice and saving lives for decades. That made me run towards this project even more. I listened to the audiobook of Just Mercy, which greatly impacted me, because I got a chance to actually listen to Bryan narrate his own book. There is something about the way he speaks that’s unique to him, that makes him so special. He brings this humanity, this kind of optimism – a visceral feeling that makes you think and feel something. I knew I had to be a part of this in some way, and I took the responsibility very seriously. It was a challenge for myself; it was like, man, I can’t mess this up. I realised the importance of what he was doing and what this movie could possibly do to change minds and hearts.”
Jordan previously played Oscar Grant, the victim of Oakland police brutality in Fruitvale Station, and the villain Eric Killmonger in Black Panther, whose role highlighted the complexity of race relations in the United States. But Jordan believes that Just Mercy, like his other films, transcends its American setting and speaks to the universal fight for justice.
“I think there’s oppression all over the world,” he says. “There’s a power struggle all over the world. I believe people who know what it’s like to be in oppressed communities will be able to connect with this story, no matter their race, creed or colour. I think everybody’s going to be able to connect with this story in some way. It’s a human story. It’s a question of right and wrong, so anyone who has any type of moral compass, and can discern what’s fundamentally unjust, what’s unfair, what’s just not right… there’s going to be a connection there. There’s going to be a hope and an optimism that I think all people will be able to take away from this movie, and feel like they too matter, that they can make a change, that they can do something to help. This film shows us that one person, anywhere, can make a difference.”
Just Mercy is in cinemas now.
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