Michael B. Jordan revealed that he maintained a journal for his character Erik Killmonger in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther while filming. Well, the actor actually maintains journals for all the characters he plays. It’s part of his process.
A somewhat hoarse (yet still quite charming) Jordan told Late Show host Stephen Colbert that he writes journals for the characters he plays as a means of giving them backstories and deeper contexts. “I write journals,” Jordan explained to Colbert. “So, I have journals or diaries… for every character that I have. From the earliest memory up until the first page of the script.”
And how was Killmonger’s life growing up? Not surprisingly, Jordan admits that it “was particularly dark.”
“It was a very sad journal; not having his mom growing up, he was in and out of the system, foster care, foster homes, whatnot,” said Jordan. “It’s a lot of dark stuff that’s probably not right for television. It was deep, man. But it allowed me to go to that place before a scene. It allowed me to lock in.”
Jordan’s process in portraying the role as a man with a rich yet sad and painful backstory may be one of the reasons critics and fans alike found Killmonger to be one of Marvel’s most sympathetic villains. (Well, it doesn’t hurt that Jordan is also a fantastic and engaging actor.)
The discussion of Black Panther begins around the 1:30 mark, with talk of the journal starting in around 2:35. If you stick around to the end, Jordan also discusses his upcoming project: the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, set to premiere on HBO Saturday, May 19.
By the way, Jordan’s need to humanize Killmonger sounds very similar to Joe Manganiello’s desire to do the same with the character of DCEU villain Deathstroke he’s (theoretically) set to play. In a conversation with Chris Hardwick, Manganiello said “the best quote-unquote … ‘villain’ is [the one where you’re] understanding where they’re coming from,” adding: “There are villains who are the people who are opposing them but from the inside this is a person who is struggling with all types of things.”