September 2002
On His Own : An Interview with Michael B. Jordan

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

On His Own : An Interview with Michael B. Jordan

It takes a lot of talent to be the youngest member of a well-cast ensemble in an well-acclaimed series. Michael B. Jordan, who most recently played the role of “Wallace” in the HBO series THE WIRE, is ready to take on more projects. Prior to the series, he was part of a group of kids in the baseball film “Hardball” which starred Keanu Reeves. Now that the series is over, Michael will be looking to strengthen his acting skills. In an interview with, Michael talks about the role that will somehow get him more recognition and respect.

WM: How did you get your role?

MBJ: I originally auditioned for the role of “Bodee” but my good friend J.D has that role. I was called back twice and it went good. They said I was good but too young for the part, so I was given the role of “Wallace”.

WM: Can you describe the character of Wallace?

MBJ: Wallace is the youngest drug dealer and he moves up in ranking because he does his job. He’s really sensitive and one of the few drug dealers who has a heart. The one that has a conscience as to what they are doing. He feels bad if they do something that wasn’t expected. He wants to be one of the “baddest drug dealers” but didn’t know it would come with a price. He wants to have all the pleasure and all the money but didn’t know that the residue of the drug dealing would come with it. That’s when he starts to feel depressed and be uneasy with himself.

WM: How much research did you do for the role?

MBJ: Not a lot really. I live in an area where there are lots of drug dealers and I know some people who may or may not sell drugs, so this is not new to me. By asking questions, I got a better understanding of “the game”. Baltimore is the area where we were shooting at, and at times you can see people do the hustle. It’s really rough. It’s something that you see a lot, so it’s not new to me.

WM: Although you were in 2 other films, “Black & White” and “Hardball”, how does it feel knowing “The Wire” has given you much exposure?

MBJ: If feels good to be recognized on the streets. If feels good to be recognized by someone you don’t know. Someone who can tell you that you’re doing a good job. It’s always a good feeling. With “Hardball” I didn’t get much recognition because there were other kids and kids my age. The stardom was split up between eight of us. No one person really got that much attention. In “Black & White”, I had a small part, but I did get some recognition for that. With “The Wire”, it feels great. Who really wouldn’t love the attention that they get when they go out to the mall or when someone says they love the show and to keep it up? It makes want to do it. That’s one of the reasons why I love acting.

WM: As a young black actor in the industry, how hard is it to get roles?

MBJ: The one thing I don’t want to get is typecast. The first two major roles I have so far, I went from being on a baseball team to being in a gang, and then being a drug dealer. The type roles I get are probably because of the style I have, with the braids and cornrolls. The way I present myself is what will determine the roles I get. I’m trying to switch it up, probably go for the casual look. With the braids out, I should have more options. I’m being thrown urban roles right now, but I don’t plan on doing these my whole life. For right now, it’s going pretty good.

WM: Are there a lot of roles for someone as young as you?

MBJ: I think so. There are a lot of roles and auditions that call for someone my age. The young people are taking over. They are really coming up the acting industry. There are lots of roles out there but you have to have the right people and the right connections to get called for auditions. You sometimes have to be in the right place at the right time. At the same time, you don’t always have to be in “the business” to get a good break. There are outstanding breakthroughs and “unheard of” actors doing great jobs. You don’t need the connections, but it helps.

WM: What made you want to become an actor?

MBJ: Honestly, I didn’t plan on being an actor. I started off modeling. I was modeling for local companies like “Model’s” and little department stores here and there. My manager asked me if I wanted to try something new, like acting. I said “sure, why not”. I was around 10 or 11 at the time. I went on a couple of auditions. I went for about a year and a half with no call backs, no jobs, not anything. “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this”, I said to my mom. I thought about sticking with modeling and working. On the last audition I had, I got a call back and went on another audition, and got the job. It made me feel pretty good. I kept going after audition after audition after audition. After you get your face out there, people start to recognize you. You have to stick with it and you’ll get work. That’s the reason I started acting. I didn’t really go into the game. It sort of fell on my lap.

WM: You mentioned that you went a year and a half without any call backs, what kept you going?

MBJ: My mother. She came with me to each audition. She drove me back and forth to the city and she was getting me out of school early. She’s been through a lot with me. She stuck it out. She gave me the coaching classes that I never had. I never been to acting school, but she was my coach. She really helped me. She helped me stick with this even when I didn’t want to go on auditions. She would say, “You’ve got to do it”, and “You have to make sacrifices and little things along the way to get where you’re at”. It really paid off.

WM: Are there any actors whose work you admire?

MBJ: There are so many actors out there that I look up to. Denzel Washington is one great actor. Will Smith is a role model of mine. He’s a great person. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him, but from what I’ve heard, he’s a good person. I’ve the opportunity to meet Ice Cube and he’s a real down-to-earth person. He’s from California like myself and to see him go from rapping to acting to running his own business, it’s beautiful.

WM: With “The Wire” now over, is there anything that you are working on?

MBJ: At this moment, I do not have anything lined up. I’ve had little offers here and there. I’m never going to turn down work. I’m not that big. I’m not at that point where I can do that. I’m still learning as I do the work.