Black Panther may have been the highest-grossing movie in the U.S. in 2018, and arguably the most crowd-pleasing, but that doesn’t mean it was always easy to work on it. Star Michael B. Jordan has opened up about the mental toll the production took on him, and why he went into therapy after filming.
Jordan took on the role of supervillain Erik Killmonger, going head-to-head against Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, in director Ryan Coogler’s Marvel Comics adaptation. At turns charismatic and terrifying, Jordan was one of the highlights of the whole movie. But Jordan, 31, went into a personally dark place along the way to getting there.
“I was by myself, isolating myself,” Jordan told Oprah Winfrey during a Tuesday taping of her SuperSoul Conversations TV special. Winfrey had asked where he went to “get all that nastiness” embodied in Killmonger.
“I spent a lot of time alone,” Jordan said. “I figured Erik [Killmonger], his childhood growing up was pretty lonely. He didn’t have a lot of people he could talk to about this place called Wakanda that didn’t exist.”
He dove headfirst into the psychology of his character, something that’s common enough among actors, but it seemed to have rubbed off.
“Of course it’s an extreme, exaggerated version of the African diaspora from the African-American perspective, so to be able to take that kind of pain and rage and all those emotions that Erik kind of represents from being black and brown here in America… That was something I didn’t take lightly,” Jordan said.
“I didn’t have a process,” Jordan said of his getting into character. “I just did whatever I felt I needed to do or whatever I felt was right in the moment every step of the way.”
But at the end of each scene, “I didn’t have an escape plan, either,” the Creed actor added. “When it was all over, I think just being in that kind of mind state… It caught up with me.”
Seeing a therapist to work through his feelings at the time “helped me out a lot,” Jordan said. Ultimately it was all about getting back to being himself. “Readjusting to people caring about me, getting that love that I shut out… I shut out love, I didn’t want love. I wanted to be in this lonely place as long as I could.”
And he doesn’t have time for people who stigmatize others who seek professional help. “As a man you get a lot of slack for it,” Jordan told Winfrey. “I don’t really subscribe to that. Everyone needs to unpack and talk.”