Since making his acting debut in an episode of The Sopranos in 1999 and breaking out as Wallace, a guilt-ridden drug dealer in The Wire, in 2002, Michael B. Jordan has gone on to star in several Ryan Coogler-helmed films, including Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, and Creed.
Jordan has proven his versatility as an actor in dramas as well as comedies, such as That Awkward Moment, and even TV soaps, like All My Children. The 36-year-old actor has made it clear that he’s here to stay, and we’re not complaining. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the Creed III star.
1. The “B” stands for Bakari.
Michael B. Jordan was named after his father, Michael A. Jordan, and although he has no plan to continue the tradition should he have a son, his middle initial is pretty cool. The “B” stands for Bakari, which means “of noble promise” in Swahili.
2. Michael B. Jordan had no intention of becoming an actor.
Although Jordan is one of the biggest names in Hollywood today, he didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming an actor. While leaving a doctor’s appointment one day, he and his mother met someone whose own kids were doing some modeling, which gave Jordan’s mom an idea. She took him to an audition, and he quickly booked a commercial. Then another. He did a bit of modeling, too, appearing in advertisements for companies such as Modell’s Sporting Goods and Toys ‘R’ Us. Those gigs led to a small role on The Sopranos, which is when Jordan started thinking bigger.
“I kinda got into it, and it just sort of elevated,” he told Inside Jersey. “It wasn’t something that I always wanted to do. But like a lot of kids, you know, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. And modeling, acting, it got me out of school early, got me a chance to go into the city, so I was all into that.”
3. He credits much of his success to luck.
Though it would be hard to reach the level of success Jordan has without talent, he believes that it has a lot to do with luck as well. When discussing a rash of upcoming projects (including Fantastic Four and Creed) with Inside Jersey in 2015, the actor—who grew up in Newark—credited much of his success to being in the right place at the right time.
“I wish I could take credit for a lot of it, but the roles that were in front of me were in front of me,” Jordan said. “I’ve just somehow managed to string together this career that’s allowed me to push forward and grow. A lot of it’s luck—but I know it’s up to me to make the right decisions.”
4. People still want to talk to him about The Wire.
In 2002, Jordan landed a plum part in The Wire, playing a 16-year-old drug dealer named Wallace who struggles with the violence and other harsh realities that come with his occupation. Though—*spoiler alert*—Jordan didn’t make it to season two, his character made a powerful impact. “Wallace was the heart of the show,” Jordan said in All the Pieces Matter, Jonathan Abrams’s oral history of the series, which was released in 2018.
“To see that end so viciously with his two boys, his two best friends … That death scene is something people always come up to me and talk about and say how they were crying and how much it affected them,” Jordan continued. “Years later. It’s just a testament to the writing and the crazy performance. It was awesome.”
5. Michael B. Jordan asked his mom to stay away on his final day of filming The Wire.
As Jordan was still a teen while filming The Wire, his mom was often there on set with him on shooting days. In speaking with Abrams, he recalled how he asked his mom not to come to his final day of filming—as he knew that it was going to be an emotionally taxing day. He told Abrams:
“I kind of knew it was coming. Especially when you get that knock on your trailer door from David Simon. I’ll never forget it. He said ‘I love you. The audience loves you. We’ve got to kill you. We’ve got to kill you off.’ I remember telling my mom not to show up on set that day. My mom gets extremely emotional, and this was kind of too much. I didn’t want her to see it. It was a long time to shoot that shot. We definitely overshot that for sure. I remember them having to duct-tape the windows, so the lights wouldn’t go through, because we were going so late into the night, to the morning. But it was really quiet. The crew knew.”
He continued: “Everybody showed up. Even if they weren’t working, they kind of showed up on set. I know Andre Royo did, for sure. He was definitely a mentor of mine on that show. He showed up to help me get into the mindset and really talk me through it. I remember getting the squib under my shirt. They had a tube running down my leg with warm water for when he peed himself, when he got scared and sh**. Me and J.D. Williams, who played Bodie, we’re both from Newark, New Jersey, and we both spent a lot of time on that show together, and I learned a lot from him over that show. We was just talking to each other, and then [when we started shooting the scene] it was like I didn’t even know him.”
6. Michael B. Jordan was considered for two Marvel roles before he was cast in Fantastic Four.
Although 2015’s Fantastic Four was a complete flop, Jordan thankfully got another chance to act in a Marvel film, scoring the role of Eric Killmonger in Black Panther. But before all of that, the actor was considered for the role of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), which ultimately went to his Chronicle co-star Dane DeHaan, and for Sam Wilson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), a role that went to Anthony Mackie. It was clearly fate for Jordan to be in a superhero film ... or two.
7. Michael B. Jordan nearly quit acting.
In a 2018 cover story interview with Vanity Fair, Jordan recalled how he struggled after moving to Los Angeles and came very close to quitting the acting game altogether. “I remember when I first came to L.A., and me and my mom, we went to all these agencies trying to get representation and they passed on me,” Jordan recalled. "WME passed on me, CAA passed on me, Gersh, all these guys f***ing passed on me.” Jordan came close to calling it a day on his acting career altogether, but then he bumped into Andre Royo—who played Bubbles on The Wire—at a party, who helped him look at his situation from a different perspective.
“He was stressed out,” Royo said. “He was like, ‘Yo, I’m not working enough, sh*t is crazy, I think I’m going to go back to New York.’ And he was really on some ‘boo-hoo’ sh*t. And I was like, ‘Yo dog, are you kidding me right now? You in your early 20s and you’re around motherf***ers trying to feed families who ain’t working. Snap out of it.’”
Fortunately, Jordan listened.
8. Michael B. Jordan lived with his parents until a few years ago.
While it might seem like an adult living with their parents would be due to financial problems, it was kind of the opposite for Jordan. While on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the actor explained how it was always his dream to buy his parents a home. In 2015, he fulfilled that, purchasing a mansion in Los Angeles for the whole family to live in. However, he said he moved out in 2020.
9. He’s obsessed with comics and anime.
In a feature on Jordan from DuJour, he was described as a “closeted nerd,” as he told the publication he spends his free time collecting graphic novels and watching anime. He also uses social media to talk about both subjects, and has called anime his “guilty pleasure,” though he backtracked and jokingly changed it to “women” instead.
10. Michael B. Jordan plans to become a “one-man movie studio.”
Like many actors before him, Jordan knows that the best way to shape his future in Hollywood is to secure a place behind the camera as well as in front of it. As such, he has started producing some of his own work—he served as an executive producer on both Fahrenheit 451 and Creed II—and has plans to take his behind-the-scenes work even further.
“I want to create projects for Brad Pitt, but at the same time I want to be able to create a movie for Will Smith, or Denzel, or Lupita, or Tessa,” Jordan told Vanity Fair. “It’s gonna be eclectic. It’s gonna be animation. It’s gonna be non-scripted. It’s gonna be digital. It’s gonna be film, television. It’s gonna be video games.”
A version of this story originally ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2023.