If you don’t know who the guy above is, you need to reevaluate your life choices (and also reference my HBM post from a while ago). Michael B. Jordan has been in a bunch of critically and fan acclaimed TV series and movies, but for some reason has never received the true recognition that he deserves. In fact, he’s been acting since he was 12 years old, and managed to be one of the few child actors who has not only been successful, but hasn’t gone down the Lindsay Lohan/Amanda Bynes route.
Michael has especially proven he’s at his best when it comes to dramas, pulling out performances that tug at your heartstrings to the point where you’ll cry until you’re out of tears and then you remember that one scene and you cry all over again. Of course, it’s a testament to the projects he chooses to do and the writing of said projects, but really, it takes a special kind of actor to make you weep uncontrollably. Here are a few of my favorite performances by MBJ that have made be question my sanity after shedding so many tears for fictional characters (save Fruitvale Station).
I just started watching The Wire a few weeks ago, and unfortunately knew the outcome of Michael’s character, Wallace (obvs, spoiler alert). Michael was just 15 years old when played a smart kid who ended up on ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ in season one. Wallace spent his days as a drug dealer in the low-income projects in Baltimore, but you could tell he had a heart, especially when he was taking care of the younger kids in the community. He tried to leave the dangerous world behind and even gave the police details about the drug organization, but once the leaders found out about his snitching, they ordered Wallace’s friends to kill him. What’s so heartbreaking about this is not just the fact that he died, but that he had so much potential. Michael played him with so much hope, so much desire to want to be better, and the last few moments of his life live on much longer than his 12 short episodes on the series.
Friday Night Lights
Friday Night Lights was the program that introduced me to this gem of a man. Although Michael joined the cast for the last two seasons, he made a huge impact on the show when the characters’ (and fans’) loyalties switched from the Dillion Panthers to the East Dillon Lions. When ❤ Coach Taylor ❤ moved from a school with literally the best football team in the state to a school with no football team at all, he had to scramble to put together a group of guys who not only could play the damn sport, but wanted to do it in the first place. Someone who kind of involuntarily became the star quarterback player was Michael’s character Vince Howard. He was at his last straw with the law, and in exchange for not locking him up in jail, he promised Coach he’d play for the Lions. While Vince’s father was off in jail and his mom a drug addict, he had no real parental supervision or role models to look up to – until Coach came along. Eric Taylor may have been a father figure to a lot of his players, but none more so than to Vince. In this scene in the fifth season, Vince is feeling a lot of pressure to essentially, be an adult. Coach, with his infinite wisdom, helps him out.
Eric Taylor: I first met you, you were climbing out of a police car. People said you were a punk, you’d never last in the field. You know they still believe that?
Vince Howard: Screw them. I work hard for everything I’ve got!
Eric Taylor: I know you do and you ought to be damned proud about that. I am. I’m proud of you. Your teammates are proud of you. It’s about character. It’s about striving to be better than everybody else.
Vince Howard: Coach, my dad just got out of prison. He’s staying with me in my house… and I can’t stand him. My mom, she asked me to forgive him. To be ‘better’. And you’re asking me to be ‘better’. I don’t know how to be ‘better’ because he never taught me how! He never taught me how to be ‘better’! He’s not around!
Vince Howard: And I’m supposed to be ‘better’ than them? I’m supposed to be ‘better’?
Eric Taylor: Listen to me. I said you need to strive to better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the try.
Because it’s hard to turn down Jason Katims and also because Jason Katims is one of the greatest TV writers ever, Michael had a fantastic arc on Parenthood as Alex, the troubled teen turned responsible adult who dated Haddie
and her horrible hair. I like to think that in some weird Katims universe, Alex is just a grown up version of Vince Howard. Alex is a recovering alcoholic who emancipated himself from his parents when he was 16 (the age of Haddie when they start dating), but now runs a local homeless shelter. Naturally, Haddie’s parents aren’t too excited about Haddie dating a 19 year old who attends AA and has his own apartment, but they come to love him as much as Haddie loves him. Alas, their course as a couple ran out, and surprisingly, it wasn’t their breakup that brought tears to everyone’s eyes – it was his breakup with Haddie’s mom, Kristina (played by the Emmy-snubbed Monica Potter) that felt like we were simultaneously breaking up with him too.
Alex: I just want to say I’m sorry for bringing you guys into my mess. I really regret that, Mrs. Braverman. I really do. I know that when we first started dating I wasn’t exactly what you guys expected.
Kristina: We’ve gotten past all that stuff. You’re like our family.
Alex: I know you probably already know this but you’re a really good mom. I lost mine a long time ago, and I feel really lucky to have gotten to know you, Mrs. Braverman.
Kristina: You’re a good kid, You’ve been through a lot. And we love you.
Alex: I love you guys too. Can you just tell your husband I said thank you for everything? Tell Max I said keep working on his jump shot, okay?
If you see one movie this weekend, make sure it’s Fruitvale Station. No doubt this will break your heart into a million pieces, but now, more than ever, Americans everywhere need to see this film. Not to mention, if the above examples haven’t convinced you that Michael B. Jordan is one of the best actors of our generation (and deserves all the awards), then this will.
Based on a true story, Michael portrays Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old two time convicted felon, who’s turning his life around in hopes for a better future for his girlfriend in daughter. The movie mainly focuses on the day leading up to the moment he was fatally shot and killed by a BART (subway) officer in San Francisco who believed he was involved in a brawl that broke out on a packed train. And it was all caught on camera.
Thinking about it, Oscar is the adult version of Wallace (basically MBJ likes to play the same character evolved over time). Oscar is someone who’s had a rough past, and just when he tries to leave it all behind, injustice occurs. First-time director Ryan Coogler could have easily made Oscar seem like an ex-con who was killed and had it coming. But he and Michael decided to give Oscar Grant the legacy he deserves – the lasting impression that he was a good boyfriend, father, son. He humanizes Oscar so that viewers don’t even get a chance to think that he possibly could be in the wrong and “deserved” to get shot. Plain and simple: an innocent man was pulled off a train and shot by a transit officer who thought he reached for his taser and not his actual gun. And Michael plays it in such a way that makes your heart sink into your body the second you hear that gunshot. It’s as if that one sound was the sound of all his potential, everything that he could have been, a better boyfriend, a better father, a better son – all gone in an instant.
And I suppose this goes without saying, but make sure you bring some tissues with you. You’ll need them.