Inclusion in action: Michael B. Jordan mandated hiring diverse staff for new film ‘Just Mercy’
In his new film Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan, plays the lead role of a real-life hero, iconic lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who fights to save the life of a Black man on death row.
But behind the scenes Jordan, who also serves as a producer on the film, fought to ensure underrepresented talent had the opportunity to work on through an inclusion rider, a clause in a contract that requires visible diversity in a movie’s production.
“In Hollywood, we’re very cliquey, the circles that’s just the way it is,” Jordan said during a SiriumXM Urban View town hall in New York City on Tuesday hosted by political and news personality Mike Muse. “As humans, it’s human nature sometimes to hire your friends, people that you know, people that you previously worked with. And that can turn into a vicious cycle of keeping people on the outside.”
Jordan, 32, best known for his roles in Black Panther and the Creed movies, initially made the promise to use an inclusion rider for his production company Outlier Society last year shortly after actress Francis McDormand mentioned it during her 2018 Oscars acceptance speech.
Jordan says “Just Mercy” is the first film under this inclusion act with Warner Bros. He announced that his company would be using inclusion riders in March 2018, according to The New York Times.
A Different Level
During the town hall, Mike Muse delved into the experience of Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx, as he played the role of Walter McMillan, a man wrongfully accused of murder on death row. Foxx said it was “the most important” film he’s ever done, and his own father’s experience being jailed for seven years over $25 worth of substance made him empathetic.
“I detest jail,” Foxx told Muse. “If you’re Black, you’ve got plenty of people that have gone to jail. I don’t like going to jail.”
But Foxx also sang Jordan’s praises and efforts on the movie, saying the star’s performance during filming earned him a standing ovation on set.
“He didn’t get a chance to see the standing ovation, I had to text him and say listen man what you just did…people in the fourth row are weeping. Really get behind this young man because he’s doing it on a whole different level,” Foxx said.
Despite national conversations about the lack of diversity in Hollywood via #OscarsSoWhite and other campaigns, the industry still falls under heavy criticism for failing to hire enough racial minorities or women.
Jordan says the message of his inclusion rider and the Just Mercy film is crystal clear — Black people in particular have what it takes to take care of their own communities.
Watch the full clips from SiriusXM’s town hall below, and catch the full special on Sunday, December 22 at 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM ET with replays at 10PM ET and 2AM Monday.