theGrio’s 100: Ryan Coogler, 1st time director, strikes gold with ‘Fruitvale Station’

theGRIO'S 100 - Ryan Coogler is a writer and director whose first feature, 'Fruitvale Station', chronicles the last 24 hours in the life of police shooting victim Oscar Grant...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Who is Ryan Coogler?

Ryan Coogler is a writer and director whose first feature, Fruitvale Station, chronicles the last 24 hours in the life of police shooting victim Oscar Grant. Grant, who was 22 when he died, was in many ways similar to Coogler.

“I was the same age as Oscar,” the Oakland native told “I felt like I had to tell his story so something similar wouldn’t happen again.”

As a student at the University of Southern California for film, Coogler developed his idea, which attracted Forest Whitaker as a high-profile producer. Octavia Spencer was eventually cast as the mother of Oscar Grant in addition to becoming an investor.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

The resulting film captured the public’s attention for its realistic portrayal of Grant’s challenges as a young, African-American man trying to do his best to survive. Based on interviews with the victim’s family in addition to records related to the tragedy, Coogler successfully brought audiences to empathize with Grant’s humanity, overcoming the tendency of society to be numb to black male shooting deaths.

“I feel like we put different values on different types of lives, just inherently, and I think people like Oscar, their lives have very little value. (We) see things like this happen all the time and don’t bat an eyelash,” Coogler told the Associated Press.

Coogler brought Fruitvale Station to mainstream audiences after it garnered numerous awards at film festivals, including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. His movie opened nationwide during the weekend the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was announced, thus providing a lens that July 2013 weekend through which many grappled with the related undercurrents of the case, such as racial stereotyping.

What’s next for Coogler?

Coogler is currently working on his film Creed, “a spin-off of the Rocky saga in which the grandson of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s rival and friend, takes up the gloves,” the 27-year-old told The Guardian.

The film will co-star Sylvester Stallone, who will reprise his role of Rocky Balboa for the seventh time, and the star of Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan.

“It’s about an experience I had with someone very close to me,” the rising filmmaker said. “Rocky was my father’s favorite movie.”

Follow Fruitvale Station on Twitter @fruitvalemovie