Exclusive: PARENTHOOD and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS’ Michael B. Jordan Interview

michael b jordan
From the time he was Wallace on The Wire, Michael B. Jordan has captured viewers’ attention with his talent and charisma and he currently lights up the screen playing two complex, dynamic characters on powerful NBC dramas. On FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, he’s Vince the talented but troubled star quarterback who struggles to make the right choices. On PARENTHOOD, he’s the earnest Alex, who has dealt with his own share of problems and is building a better life for himself while sweetly romancing Haddie.

Daemon’s TV talked to Michael about his two roles, what those of us without DirecTV can expect to see in the final season of Friday Night Lights, and about his film ‘Red Tails.’

DirecTV users have already seen the end of the ‘Friday Night Lights’ series. But those of us stuck with cable like me –

Michael B. Jordan: I know you guys have to wait until April, I’m sorry. It’s so hard for you guys to have conversations with people who have actually seen it already and the spoiler alerts are all around.

Your character, Vince, was such a wonderful addition to the show in season four. How was it joining a show that already had such devoted fans?

Michael B. Jordan: It was a little, not intimidating, but there was more of a nervousness to it just because it’s a show that’s already existed for three seasons and they had their fans. It was a living machine already. The machine was already working. So kind of as a new piece of the puzzle you don’t want to come in mess up anything, especially filling the shoes of Taylor Kitsch and like Gaius [Charles] who plays Smash Williams and other characters that have already left their mark on the show. Coming in I was a little nervous, but being down there in Austin, Texas with Peter Berg and Jason Katims and Kyle Chandler and all these other actors, they made it so welcoming. It’s like one big family and I’ve been having a blast since I was down there.

Fans loved you right away. What is it about Vince that speaks to so many people?

Michael B. Jordan: I think it’s because Vince has layers. He’s got a lot of issues. There’s a lot going on, on the inside, with him. He’s constantly coming through so many forks in the road, so many decisions that he has to make, either good or bad. He’s constantly fighting with himself and I think a lot of kids, a lot of people can relate to that. You’re constantly having to make a choice, either backsliding and making wrong decisions or you can do what’s right, make the right choices.

I love to show those options and show those moments within a real person because Vince represents so many kids throughout the country, from inner city kids that didn’t have a father that was around. Mom might be in an unfortunate situation and to have so much responsibility as a kid, everyday choices, and so it’s a constant decision to do the right thing. Sometimes Vince messes up and sometimes you see a glimpse of a young man doing the right thing. I think a lot of people took to that. They feel bad for him, too. Vince went through a lot. He had a lot going on in season four.

In season five we know that Vince’s father reappears. How much of the season does that affect and how does it affect him as he’s trying to grow up?

Michael B. Jordan: Without giving you too much, Vince’s dad–at the end of the day his father is going to be his father no matter what he’s done in the past. No matter their relationship, a boy needs his father and vice versa. A father needs his son. He definitely takes over.

In a nutshell it’s kind of a war between two worlds. Vince kind of establishes himself as doing the right thing, being a football player, organized sports and listening to Coach Taylor. Coach Taylor has kind of been that father figure in his life and now that his actual father has come back into his life it’s another fork in the road, making decisions between doing what’s right, what you’ve been doing or going back to your past and going with what naturally feels right. So, this season is basically a toss up between right and wrong or just.he has choices to make. Vince has a lot of choices to make this season and his father has a lot to do with that. It’s interesting and it’s a roller coaster ride. Just leave your heart open for Vince. He’s going to make some mistakes, but don’t just completely hate him.

Are you happy with Vince’s journey over the two seasons and how it’s ended for him?

Michael B. Jordan: I am. I’m actually really satisfied. Coming into season four I didn’t realize the amount of material that I was going to get. It’s not like a film where you have a beginning and an end. These scripts are constantly coming and we’re constantly figuring out where our characters are going to go. So we try to pace it and arc it out as much as we can, character wise, with levels of growth throughout the season.

Season four he went through a lot, but he came out on top. Season five he starts off in a good place and he lets some stuff go to his head. He gets a lot of new attention. Vince excels and becomes one of the top quarterbacks in all of Texas. So that’s a lot for a young kid. It’s like all those sports athletes today. We have to remember that these are kids even though there’s a lot of money to be made and a lot of people fail to gain from these kids success, but you can’t penalize them as adults. You have to give them some leeway. You have to give them a little slip up room because at the end of the day these are kids and they have to learn. It’s a constant learning experience and sometimes these corporations – I’m trying to stay away from bashing anybody – all these big opinions in the media they crucify these kids for making regular mistakes that we’re supposed to be allowed to make. Why? Because we’re all human. It doesn’t matter.

I’m completely satisfied with Vince’s journey and season five is awesome. I would’ve loved to see him play out his senior year of high school, but it’s bittersweet. I would rather the show go off now with the fans wanting more rather than going on eight seasons and having people say, ‘We’re done and tired of this.’ So I’d rather go out with the legacy that we have right now. It’s pretty good.

And you have another journey going on with ‘Parenthood.’ Alex is a great character, which probably has something to do with Jason Katims.

Michael B. Jordan: Jason is awesome. We work well together and he has such a knack for creating these characters that have so many layers, so much depth to them. He allows you to bring something to the table. It’s not just these characters where you come to work and these are the words that you must say and live and die by the script. He gives you leeway to bring something to table and let us do our job and act.

Alex is another complex character. He’s been through a lot. He’s nineteen years old, already in AA, six months sober. He’s been on his own since sixteen. He has a lot on his shoulders and he represents another group of kids out there who’ve been in that situation. So I try to represent as much as I can. It’s been a blast, so much fun. Sarah Ramos is excellent to act against. She’s awesome. Peter Krause. I’ve been surrounded by a lot of veterans that I’ve been learning from over the past couple of years and I’ve been learning things that I’m going to take with me for the rest of my career.

When you joined ‘Parenthood’ how much did you know about Alex? Did you know that the Alex and Haddie romance was going to take off the way it did?

Michael B. Jordan: I did not. Jason called me up when I got back to L.A. and said, ‘Look, man, I have this character that’s going to be coming on ‘Parenthood’ and we’re still writing and figuring out the arcs and whatnot, but I think you’d be great for it. It’s kind of like a modern day ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ a ‘Look Who’s Coming To Dinner.” That’s how he explained it to me and I said, ‘Alright, that’s cool. I’m with it.’ I said, ‘You know what, at the end of the day, Jason, I trust you. If you’re telling me something that’s good and your word is enough for me,’ and I kind of left it at that. I found out everything else when I started working. So, literally, his word is that powerful. He can say, ‘Mike, I think it’ll be a good idea,’ and we talked about it once or twice and then that was it and the decision has been made.

Alex is still struggling with issues, but he’s giving back to the community. He wouldn’t think about sneaking behind Haddie’s parent’s backs. Is he too good be true?

Michael B. Jordan: No, of course not. Alex is definitely that guy. He has a conscience. He has morals. He has respect. There’s something about a person that’s in AA that’s so honest. That’s the only way that they can be to survive, to get through the day to day. They have to be completely honest with the people around them and that’s where Alex is. He’s like, ‘Take it or leave it. I didn’t have a cookie cutter past, but it is what it is and this is who I am today and you can only respect me for being honest with you.’ That’s how he approaches every situation that he’s in and it’s gotten him this far. He’s made decisions that other people weren’t going to like, that Haddie might not have liked so much, but at the end of the day was in her best interest.

What can you tease about the rest of the season for Alex and Haddie?

Michael B. Jordan: Oh, man.

There’s rumors about a discussion about getting a hotel room –

Michael B. Jordan: Wrap it up, that’s all I’m saying and I’m going to leave it at that. That’s my teaser. Wrap it up.

Is it left open for Alex to be back if ‘Parenthood’ comes back for another season?

Michael B. Jordan: It definitely is if things work out. If they want me back, I’ll be showing up.

I’ve been reading about the ‘Red Tails’ movie you have coming up. Historically we don’t know enough about the Tuskegee Airmen, so that’s enough to make me want to see it, but also the aerial fight scenes must be amazing.

Michael B. Jordan: It’s going to be epic. The visual effects that George Lucas and ILM have been putting on this project is groundbreaking. It’s right up there with ‘Avatar’ and the rest of them. I’m really excited for you guys to see it. I haven’t had a chance to see the finished project, but we’ve been doing a lot of re-shoots and ADR sessions and so we get a chance to see glimpses of the film. It’s gorgeous.

It’s got an incredible cast. Like you said before, we don’t really know that much about the Tuskegee Airmen and it definitely puts them in a light that needs to be shown. So it’s going to be a good project, hopefully around early next year. I know that they kept pushing it back, but I think early next year is what they’re shooting for.

Any other projects you can talk about?

Michael B. Jordan: Nothing to really speak too much about. I’ve been developing. I’m really big on producing. That’s kind of been my new match. I’ve been writing a lot and collaborating with some really talented writers and putting out some really good projects, just trying to find homes for them, shows and movies alike. It’s an all around concept that I’ve been working on and hopefully in the near future you’ll be seeing some of my work.

Are there any other shows on right now that you’d love to guest star on?

Michael B. Jordan: ‘Boardwalk Empire’ would be one and probably ‘The Walking Dead’ on AMC.

Would you want to be a zombie or one of the people killing zombies?

Michael B. Jordan: I think it might be cool to maybe play both. Play a guy that started off killing zombies and then maybe I got bit or scratched or something and then had to fight for an antidote. Maybe something along those lines. I’m just throwing plots out there and something will stick. Who knows?

The fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights has its NBC premiere Friday, April 15 at 8pm eastern/7 central.

You can read all our Friday Night Lights coverage here.

Parenthood airs on NBC Tuesdays at 10pm eastern/9 central.

You can read all our Parenthood coverage here.

Follow me on Twitter @michstjame

(Photo: Ashley Nguyen)