Michael B. Jordan is at a crossroads in his career. The talented actor is about to break out big for the first time, playing The Human Torch in FOX’s reboot of the Marvel superhero franchise “Fantastic Four.” But he’s appeared for years in critically acclaimed dramas like “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood,” and onscreen in “Fruitvale Station” and “That Awkward Moment.”
And with that wealth of experience behind him, Jordan is giving back. He’s teamed up with Sprite for the Sprite Films program, a program that saw Jordan mentor students, offering a wealth of advice from his experience.
While on a short, much needed break from the set of “Fantastic Four,” Jordan talked exclusively to MTV News about why he’s taking on this mentoring project — and also gave out plenty of info about how reteaming with his “Chronicle” director Josh Trank has yielded a completely new interpretation of Marvel’s first family:
MTV News: This Sprite Films thing is definitely something different for you… How did you get involved, and how did it all get started?
Michael B. Jordan: I got involved a few months back. [At] CinemaCon in Las Vegas, I [was] encouraging first time filmmakers to be ambitious and take chances and risks, because you never know where your career is going to go. The fact that Sprite launched this program really encouraged filmmakers, basically from conception: write a script, giving them [a] platform to show their film.
And then the incentive that [Sprite] was going to be donating toward their school’s film fund. It’s important in starting off their career, and any advice I could give them as an actor from my perspective, and my experience. Much of my experience was working with first-time filmmakers, it made my career, so it would be kind of hypocritical to not give back, because that’s the only way people are going to get better and grow.
So it was the perfect marriage of me and Sprite, to get on board and talk about something we are both passionate about.
MTV: Most of your experience is in acting, but after doing this project would you want to jump behind the camera, to direct or produce?
Jordan: Yeah, definitely. Once I get on my big boy voice and become more comfortable and you learn all the aspects of the industry. Yeah, I definitely want to direct in the near future. This is just another learning experience for me, to get a chance to hear the questions and concerns the directors have, some of their fears. It’s a team sport. You have to give everybody what they need so they are able to perform at their best.
MTV: Do you think you’ll act in any of the Sprite Film projects?
Jordan: In the future, who knows? I mean that is a great idea. Maybe the winner, I could do a little commercial for them. I am open to that.
MTV: Let’s talk about “Fantastic Four…” A few days ago, some mistranslated comments form Kate Mara came out and sent fans into an uproar. What I took from that is that people are dying to know anything about this movie, but what has the experience been like for you guys? There’s so much secrecy, you haven’t been able to say anything.
Jordan: Yeah, we have been pretty much in our own world, that’s really the only way we could get a project like this done. It is so massive, so many moving parts, so many moving pieces, things are changing every day.
The script is evolving, [you make] on set decisions on the fly, things are always constantly changing. Me personally, I block out that extra noise and I focus on the job I have to do. It is an important film for all of us… We’re taking it seriously, taking a lot of risks. I think it’s going to pay off.
MTV: That’s surprising to hear, because you usually think with a big superhero movie that the film is basically built in a computer somewhere months in advance. Do you think this on-the-fly approach is a result of Josh Trank’s approach? Or how is that working?
Jordan: As much as everybody thinks that these projects are cemented in years before, they’re not. There’s so many things that you just can’t account for. You know, you can try and plan as much as you want, but you get there on game day and you get thrown a curve ball, I guess, hey, the game plan goes out the window. You’ve got to adapt.
Josh’s vision is very clear and he knows exactly what he wants, and he gives us room to adapt and to play. That’s what I kind of think sets us apart, is that this is going to be grounded and unconventional.
It’s not your typical superhero film, you know, we aren’t looking at this as like, being superheroes. We’re more or less a bunch of kids that had an accident and we have disabilities now that we have to cope with, and try to find a life afterwards – try to be as normal as we can.
MTV: You usually think of “Fantastic Four” as more Golden Age, kind of a “gee whiz!” approach, but this — and I don’t mean it in a bad way — sounds quite a bit angstier than the average Fantastic Four film.
Jordan: Yeah, I mean we’ve just got layers. We’re trying to make it relatable to people as much as we can [with these] larger than life, larger than this world themes.
It’s superheroes! You know, not just superheroes. It’s fiction. You’ve got to ground it as much as you can to make [audience members] feel relatable to these characters, no matter what age they are or what time of their life.
One of the good things about the Fantastic Four is that everybody is different. And it’s like, sometimes family doesn’t always consist of your relatives or by blood. Sometimes your best friends can feel more like family than your cousins.
I think everybody kind of has that same feeling. When you go through an accident together, when you go through a traumatic event, sometimes that brings you closer together. Yeah, everybody takes their time out to kind of deal with their own stuff, but at the end of the day, you shared a common experience together that you’re able to relate to.
The people, the public, the fans that are watching this can all relate to that because everybody has had to overcome an obstacle in their life before.
MTV: It sounds like you guys are approaching the idea of family as, family based on shared experiences.
MTV: So what’s it been like working with Josh Trank again? Has all the extra money gone to his head?
Jordan: [Laughs] Nah, not at all man. Like Biggie said, “mo’ money, mo’ problems”. He hasn’t changed. I think he’s grown and matured, as we all have. Me and him, we’ve become closer friends, which makes it easier on set for us to talk to each other and explain what we’re feeling and how we’re going to approach these things and I think that’s very important.
But yeah, we didn’t have that big of a budget on “Chronicle” and now we have a pretty big budget – I’m not sure of the exact number. Now you’re actually responsible for more. So he’s more locked in and more focused on what he has to do, but he’s the same in all the ways that really matter.
He’s still super creative and super collaborative and he knows what he wants. That’s very important. If you don’t really know what you want and you’re just kind of like “Oh, let’s see what happens,” I think that’s the wrong approach for this project. I think he’s very specific, which is what we need.
MTV: I don’t know if you’ve seen “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” yet…
Jordan: I did!
MTV: Well, Toby Kebbell is incredible as Koba, it only made me more excited to see him in “Fantastic Four” as Doctor Doom.
Jordan: He kind of steals the film, doesn’t he?
MTV: Totally. So, what’s it been like working with him on set? And has he provided you guys with any good motion capture tips?
Jordan: Working with Toby is a blast. I’ve always been a fan of his work and respected him tons. I never got a chance to meet him, but I heard he was coming on board and I got really excited to be in scenes with somebody that you respect.
Off set and on, he’s a leader. He’s pretty funny. We get along great, man. So you know, actually, it’s a blast. It’s been really good.
Sometimes he’ll start mimicking or go into his ape stuff for a while. You know, just like in between sets. I was asking questions about it because I was actually curious about the preparation that [he] went through to play Koba, to play ape in that film. He tips his hat to Andy Serkis. He says that guy is just phenomenal.
I have yet to meet Andy but I have tons of respect for what they do and it’s pretty incredible.
MTV: So when you like someone on set, does it make it harder to beat them up on screen?
Jordan: Oh no, not at all. I think it makes it a little easier. I don’t feel as bad because I know we’re boys. I don’t feel as bad, you know, whooping his ass. Yeah, it’s pretty cool though.
MTV: Any idea when we might start to see some footage? There’s been rumors you guys might make a surprise visit to San Diego for Comic-Con, which I’m sure you want to spoil right now.
Jordan: No clue. I haven’t even seen anything on set, okay? And I’m here. I’m barely watching playback, so honestly I have no idea about any of that stuff. I think they’re still trying to figure out the direction and what they want to do, so I’m not sure.
MTV: Another project we’re pretty excited about is the “Rocky” spin-off “Creed.” Any updates about that one?
Jordan: Script is in. It’s really good. I’m really excited about it. I think that’s all I can really say about that one. It’s rough – it’s so rough man. I wish there was like [something] official, because we’re not green lit yet, so once everything is solidified and locked in, I’ll feel way more comfortable trying to talk to you about the specifics of that one.
We’re still trying to get casting and all that stuff together, so when we get all that stuff together I’ll definitely let you know.
MTV: Any final words about the Sprite project before I let you go?
Jordan: It’s the first time that Sprite Films is opening up for fans to submit their own 15 second videos, which is really important because if you have a camera, an iPhone, a Droid, whatever kind of cell phone that you have as long as you have a camera, you can be a filmmaker.
You don’t even need extensive equipment or a pro, professional cameras or anything like that. You can just take your iPhone, make your best 15-second short clip video or short film and you upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #spritefilmschallenge.
Five finalists will win $1,500 worth of movie gift cards, which is pretty important. You know, kids nowadays, going to the movies is a big thing and $1,500 goes a long way to watch movies.
“Fantastic Four” is scheduled to hit theaters on June 19, 2015. For more info on the Sprite Films Challenge, head to Sprite.com/films, or check out the hashtag #SpriteFilmsChallenge on Instagram. The contest is open July 15 through August 31.