“As an actor you’re waiting a lot to be called to set, to be ready to go,” says Michael B. Jordan of the latest shift his career has taken as Marvel’s Black Panther gets ready to open very wide on February 16. “When you’re the director on the other side of the camera, they’re coming to you for all the questions. There really is no break for you.”
While the Panther villain and Creed star has set a feature adaptation of David Barclay Moore’s novel The Stars Beneath Your Feet as his directorial debut, it’s actually a new Black Panther- and inspiration-themed spot for Brisk that marks the Independent Spirit Award nominee’s first solo turn behind the camera.
Quietly put together late last year in conjunction with the Pepsi-Lipton partners, the spot explores Jordan’s preparation for his Erik “Killmonger” Stevens in the Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman led pic in parallel with a younger artist’s own homage to the film based on the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created character. (Check out the Jordan-directed spot above.)
Just before last night’s Hollywood premiere of Black Panther, Jordan chatted with me about the spot and its intentions, his move into directing and The Stars Beneath Our Feet. Getting ready for another round as Adonis Johnson aka Creed in the sequel to the 2015 Rocky franchise revival, Jordan discussed where that project is at and the arc he envisions for his fast-moving career.
DEADLINE: So how did this spot about your Black Panther preparation and homage to the character and the movie come together?
JORDAN: You know, so often we see the finished product and we don’t understand how much time and energy and sacrifices go into the preparation for that — whether it’s for a mural or whether it’s for a concert, a musician getting to perform, whether it’s for an actor preparing for a role. I just saw the parallel that Brisk was trying to do with the campaign, their initiative that they’re trying to do with these young, emerging artists to show the process behind the art. It just so happened that Brisk was the official drink sponsor for Black Panther and it kind of went hand in hand. When they reached out to me and the Outlier Society, my production company, to produce this Hidden Hustle content and then it was available for me to direct and also to star in, I thought it was a perfect match.
DEADLINE: Now, my colleague Mike Fleming Jr revealed back in November that the adaptation of The Stars Beneath Our Feet would be your directing debut, but this spot is your actual debut behind the camera, isn’t it?
JORDAN: (laughs) We can say that. I’ve co-directed a few things, a couple little spots here and there — but as far as really being in preproduction, working on the script, the creative, really going into and pitching the idea and concept with the brand and the agency, this would be considered my directorial debut. I was lucky to work with Pretty Bird and my mentor Paul Hunter, who actually helped me direct especially during the times when I’m in front of the camera, but as far as a total project is concerned, this could count as my first alone.
DEADLINE: Having seen some high-level talent do their thing working with Ryan Coogler all the way from Fruitvale Station to Black Panther and the likes of Anthony Hemingway on Red Tails and Ava DuVernay on Jay-Z’s ‘Family Feud’ video, what was the biggest surprise about being the one behind the camera running the show, so to speak?
JORDAN: You know, I think I was most surprised by how quickly the day goes. As an actor you’re waiting a lot to be called to set, to be ready to go. When you’re the director on the other side of the camera, they’re coming to you for all the questions. There really is no break for you.
You’re constantly addressing something that needs to be done. You’re constantly trying to tweak things in order to find that perfect frame, that perfect shot, the perfect performance, the perfect lighting. I think coverage is the biggest thing also, at least for me. Just making sure you have enough material so when you actually get to post you could have options to cut around things. I think those are the two biggest things, two biggest surprises — time and coverage.
DEADLINE: To that, and with so many things like Creed 2 coming up on your schedule, where are things at with The Stars Beneath Our Feet?
JORDAN: That’s a little farther down the line for me as far as development’s concerned. We’re still working on trying to get a draft together and we don’t even have a script at the moment. We’re just trying to get our ducks in a row. My schedule has gotten pretty crazy the last couple of years and for the next year or so, so trying to find the right time to put everything together.
I’ve learned that directing takes a lot of work, and I want to really be able to focus. I want to put my all and my everything into it until it’s finished, until it’s done and not worry about having to act in this and going over there and do that. I really want to be locked in and focused, so I want to clear some things off my plate first and then be able to give this project the attention that it deserves and needs.
DEADLINE: And Creed 2?
JORDAN: Well, Steven Caple Jr. is going to direct it, and I’m really excited about working with him. Right now, we’re in the process of getting the script tight and making sure that it’s perfect.
DEADLINE: Have you penciled in a start date for production?
JORDAN: Not exactly sure when we’re starting, but in the next few months we’ll get back to it and try to deliver a solid project in Creed 2.
DEADLINE: Listening to you, you sound as much a producer and a director as an actor now. You have been putting some key people in place in Outlier Society in recent months, for you now moving into directing with this spot and Stars and shifting into producing with the Netflix series Raising Dion and other things, is that how you want to evolve your career so eventually it’s more on the other side of the camera?
JORDAN: I think that’s a fair assumption. I think in time we grow as people, as humans, as artists. We want to continue to grow and elevate, I know I do. For me, producing and creating opportunities and telling stories is something that I’ve always been fascinated with.
To be able to have my own production company, be able to start telling more stories and get more on that side of things, it’s important to me. So I’m not going to put a timeframe on it or whatever, but in the future for sure I’ll spend more time producing and hopefully directing and telling stories. Then I’ll pick my projects that I’m really passionate about, that I really want to do as far as getting in front of the camera and I’ll do those as well. It’s about trying to find a balance.
DEADLINE: Balance must have been a part of trying to keep this Brisk project under wraps. I mean I remember bumping into you in downtown L.A. last year and you saying you wanted this to stay under the radar for a bit, which I get, but how hard was it to keep this new move under wraps with the whole world looking for anything Black Panther?
JORDAN: (laughs) It was tough. Man, it was tough. I mean, I’ll tell you one thing that really helps is that I’m not really on social that much so I’m not really documenting everything that I’m doing. I stay quiet and then usually these things come out of nowhere. Keeping things quiet has been kind of tough but at the same time we’ve always been this quiet storm at Outlier. We’ve always worked hard underneath the radar, and then out of nowhere we just kind of pop up. It’s been tough, but that’s our business. You know, we try to keep as much stuff as we’re doing under wraps until the right moment and then we come out with a bang.