Michael B. Jordan says lockdown allowed him to ‘focus on what really mattered’

The 'Black Panther' star is revealing his true feelings about quarantine and the importance of Black ownership in Hollywood in an exclusive interview with theGrio

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After spending nearly 20 years in the spotlight, Michael B. Jordan had to adjust to quieter life when the coronavirus pandemic forced Hollywood to shut down in March 2020.

The Creed alum, who says that he’s been working “as far as [back] as I can remember,” revealed exclusively to theGrio that 2020’s struggles—which included police brutality protests and the unexpected loss of his close friend and co-star Chadwick Boseman—allowed him to reassess, refocus and realize the importance of the present. Jordan took a step back from work last year, prioritizing family and his personal life.

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“I think for me, [with] so much tragedy and death and negativity, and just the state of the world that we were in this past year, it allowed me to sit still,” he said while discussing the International WELL Building Institute‘s WELL Health-Safety Rating on Jan. 22. “I think I’ve always been ripping and running and moving. I’ve been blessed to continuously work as far as I can remember. There was a time for me to shut down all the distractions and really just focus on what really mattered.”

He continued, “[My] sister had a baby. I have nephew now. I couldn’t see him as much in the beginning, but I got a chance to kind of see him grow a little bit and spend time [together]. When we were able to kind of be around each other, you know. [I could] change diapers, those things that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was abroad or somewhere filming.”

That’s not to say that Jordan let all work fall by the wayside, however. The 33-year-old actor continued to develop projects through his production company, Outlier Society, which he launched in 2016. The company, spearheaded by studio exec Elizabeth Raposo, has already produced several hit films and shows, including 2019’s Just Mercy.

BET Presents The 51st NAACP Image Awards - Red Carpet
Michael B. Jordan attends the 51st NAACP Image Awards, Presented by BET, at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 22, 2020 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

“I got a chance to focus in on my business, my production company,” explained Jordan. “Plant as many seeds as possible, really line things up and anticipate for what’s going to happen next. …I’m not gonna wait for things to get back to somewhat normal to start figuring out what I’m gonna do. [I’m going to] use [my] time wisely, and that’s kind of what I tried to do.”

Outlier prides itself on diverse storytelling and authenticity, which can have a “universal” appeal, according to Jordan. In June 2020, amid the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Outlier partnered with Color of Change to launch an initiative that provides “concrete, measurable solutions for Hollywood to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives,” the company announced at the time.

“If you don’t have creative control, you gotta leave it up to people who may not be best suited to tell those stories. As we’ve seen quite a few times,” said Jordan. “I think controlling your own destiny and being in a position of power when it comes to telling the stories that are sensitive to your culture and your experience, who better to tell those stories than somebody of the culture?”

2019 Toronto International Film Festival - "Just Mercy" Press Conference
Michael B. Jordan attends the “Just Mercy” press conference during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 07, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“I pride myself on trying to build the culture within my production company of telling stories that are specific, but then some stories that are…the universal stems from the specific,” he added. “I think that’s something that I want to bring to all my movies, and that is inclusion of everyone. That everybody can feel like they’re pulling something away from the stories that I want to tell.”

In Outlier’s latest production, Without Remorse, Jordan stars as John Clark, a U.S. Navy SEAL who seeks vengeance for his wife’s murder, only to discover a larger conspiracy. The Newark native said the film, which is based off a best-selling book, allowed him to combine both physical and emotional storytelling.

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“I think it was fun [taking on the role],” Jordan shared. “You know, playing [the video game] Rainbow Six growing up and understanding the video games, [it’s like] ‘Okay, man. This is cool.’ Then really getting into the novel a little bit and reading the backstory of who John Clark was, it was fun to give my version of that, you know? To try to kickstart this franchise in a real way. Whenever I can be physical, bring some action, and then bring some emotional stakes into the game, it’s gonna be a good time.”

Without Remorse will be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on Feb. 25. Fans can learn more about the the International WELL Building Institute’s WELL Health-Safety Rating on their official website.

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