TORONTO — Actor Michael B. Jordan says before committing to a project, one of the things he considers is whether his character will live or die.
The star of “Just Mercy,” which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, said early in his career he took several roles that didn’t seem like stereotypes at the time, because the characters had so much emotional currency.
But every time his mother couldn’t bear to watch him play another young black man who met an untimely end, said Jordan, whose credits include ”Fruitvale Station” and “The Wire.”
“I never thought about what my mom went through seeing her son die so many times, and how she would cry so hard,” he told a TIFF press conference Saturday.
“I was like, I can’t die anymore. I want people to see me live.”
In addition to sparing his parents grief, he said the decision to seek out different roles was also “strategic.”
“Your audience gets conditioned to seeing you die also, so you want to put those heroic tones in it,” said Jordan.
“Leading man, that’s kind of what I was going for.”
In ”Just Mercy,” not only does his character survive all three acts, but fights to save another man’s life.
Jordan stars in the true story of civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who goes to Alabama to defend death-row inmate Walter McMillian, played by Jamie Foxx.
In 1988, McMillian was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of a young white woman. He was exonerated in 1993.
Sharing a stage with Stevenson, Jordan said the role gave him a chance to play a “superhero in real life.”
“As a black man in America, these issues directly affect me and my community,” Jordan said.
“Wanting to be a part of that change was really important to me, especially at this time in my life.”