Actor Michael B. Jordan has become more powerful in Hollywood than he’s ever been, after star turns in critical and commercial successes like “Creed” and “Black Panther.” Both directed by pal Ryan Coogler, theirs is a relationship that began with the critically-acclaimed drama “Fruitvale Station,” a fictionalized account of the true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III who was fatally shot on New Year’s Day 2009 by a transit officer. And since playing Grant, Jordan said, to his exasperation, that he’s been inundated with biopics on other black public figures.
Speaking Saturday at the 2019 Produced By conference, where he was speaking as part of a panel titled “Content With a Conscience: Social Impact Entertainment Across All Platforms,” Jordan said that just about every script that tells a story centered on “every historical black figure has come across my desk.”
And while he’s certainly not complaining about the opportunities, he realizes the limitations that come with these specific roles, adding, “As much as I would love to play all of them, I can’t.”
Forest Whitaker's Significant Prods./Og Project/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
The “Creed II” actor was responding to a question asked by moderator and founding partner of the Producers Guild of America Social Entertainment Impact Task Force, Kia Kiso. Via his Outlier Society production company, Jordan said he intends to produce content that is both socially-conscious and entertaining, and Kiso asked how he and his team plan to successfully meld the two seemingly disparate worlds.
“We try to balance that as much as you can, to run a company where it’s not its entire identity but, at the same time, it’s an important silo and something that we care about,” Jordan said.
Alana Mayo, president of development and production at Outlier Society, who was also on the panel, added to Jordan’s thoughts on being driven to produce thought-provoking, impactful work for a mass audience. “We struggle with the happy, mindless entertainment that doesn’t feel like it has some sort of substance to it,” she said. “And sometimes we just want to hit an issue that I think the both of us will continue to make content about, until we feel like we start to see the impact and the change in the real world.”
Neither Jordan nor Mayo dished out details on any of their upcoming projects, nor did Jordan talk specifics in terms of the biopic scripts that he’s being flushed with, or if he’s going to take any of the roles being offered.l
The Produced By panel also included contributions from Bonnie Abaunza, founder of Abaunza Group; writer, director and producer Scott Z. Burns; and CEO of ShivHans Pictures, Shivani Rawat.
Jordan’s Outlier Society, which has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures, was one of the first production companies to announce that it would adopt inclusion riders, contract addendums that require studios to hire diverse cast and/or crew on any particular project.
During the panel, Jordan said the move was “natural” for him, “long before the word inclusion became a thing,” he said.