Michael P. Jordan has a knack for playing troubled young men with hearts of gold. This season he has shone as delinquent turned star quarterback Vince Howard on “Friday Night Lights” and alcoholic turned food bank manager Alex on “Parenthood.” His memorable debut as tween drug dealer Wallace on the first season of “The Wire” is still winning him fans. With the final season of “Friday Night Lights” airing on NBC, Jordan is in the enviable position of starring on two critically acclaimed shows simultaneously. Jordan previews the drama in Dillon, explains how he realized acting was more than just an extracurricular activity and revealed why he thinks it’s time that FNL finally gets some Emmy love.
You have starred in what most people agree are two of the greatest television shows of all time: “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wire.” Are you worried that it’s all downhill from here?
I am a little spoiled. I’ve worked with some really talented people. David Simon is incredible. Peter Berg and Jason Katims capture the American family in such a way where so many people across the country relate to the characters, relate to the storylines. I’ve been really blessed. What’s next? I don’t know. I really don’t know. Maybe a collaboration project with all three.
A lot of people would watch it if you could just bring them together.
I’ve been working on something like that. I can’t talk too much about it. But I think that might be my next project.
Everyone remembers Wallace from “The Wire.” Why do you think the character struck such a chord with people?
I think he was the heart on the show. It was a show that was a slow bubble. It didn’t grab a lot of attention or a lot of awards. It didn’t get a lot of the publicity of a lot of other big shows. So I think people who really watched it at first were diehard fans. They just loved the show so much. I was one of the characters that a lot of people loved. The way they killed Wallace, I think it pissed a lot of people off. So when people started catching up on “The Wire” in 2005, 2006, [with] a DVD boxed set, Netflix, I think a lot of people started to catch on. I’m a modest dude, but they say I did a good job.
Michael B. Jordan On Vince’s Success:
How were you able to put together such a mature performance at an age when most kids are worried about getting braces
Everybody always told me I was born with an old soul. That’s just been me. I guess from working at such a young age, being around my parents, being around adults, gave me this kind of a swagger that I could put [in] characters – give them layers. That’s the fun part, becoming someone else and giving them realistic layers. Wallace was just the beginning. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I never knew that I wanted to become a professional actor. It was just extracurricular. I played basketball on the weekends and then during the week I’d go to school and then go down to Baltimore to shoot the show and then I’d become a regular kid again. When I started working on “All My Children,” that’s when I started to understand the business and more of the potential, [that] this could be a career. When I went to my first Emmy awards and started working with Erica Kane [Susan Lucci] – people like that. Then it turned into a snowball effect. When I decided not to go to college, that’s when I decided to take it seriously as a career and put my all into it. I’ve been doing it ever since.
How did you get the role on “The Wire” without major acting experience?
My Mom, when I was 12, she picked up a Backstage newspaper. I’m from Newark, New Jersey. Newark isn’t necessarily the best place. It was rough. So my mom and my father did as much as they could to keep me out of that. New York was that place for me. So we went over there one day and I auditioned for my manager. We randomly picked from Backstage a manager who was having open calls for talent. I auditioned. She signed me that day. The next day I went out for an audition for print work. I started out doing print work then I slowly got into commercials and started working. That’s when I got “The Wire.”
What will happen to Vince on the final season of “Friday Night Lights”?
Vince ended season four in a good place. He’s becoming comfortable in his own skin on the football field, especially with Coach Taylor [Kyle Chandler] being more of a father figure in his life. He and Jess [Jurnee Smollett] are on good terms. So at the beginning of season five, Vince is good. His mom is doing great. Things start shifting gears when Vince’s father comes back around. He has a choice to make. I try to play Vince with the decisions that he makes. He comes across a lot of forks in the road. He can either go with the father figure that he has now, Coach Taylor, representing the smart choice. Then you have his actual father. Every son needs his father. It’s a choice between them throughout the season and ultimately it works out in the end for everybody.
You have played a lot of characters with dysfunctional families. Your own family is very supportive and loving. Why do you think you keep getting cast in those roles?
It’s not me at all. That’s the fun part about it. I love going against stereotype. So it’s kind of a stereotypical kid from the inner city, home situation is real dysfunctional. He’s got a lot of responsibility on his hands. But he’s a kid. That’s not always the case. But everybody doesn’t know these kids’ stories, what they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis coming home to no water, no light, no food. A lot of those nights growing up – what do you do when Mom’s in a messed up place? I always like playing layers, giving people a chance to see [the reason] things are the way they are. It’s fun for me. Is it everything I want to do? No. I would love to play a doctor, an action dude. I don’t want to be typecast or stereotyped into any one thing. My goal in the next couple years is to do as much as possible.
What were your favorite scenes from the final season of “Friday Night Lights”?
The scene when I first interact with my father. That was the first day I met Cress [Williams] and it was the first time [Vince] saw his dad in a really long time. It was electric. We’re actually submitting it for the Emmys. Another one was a scene with me and Kyle [Chandler] in the [coach’s] office. He was cooking bacon. It was a really fun scene. It was so random. It was so Texas.
What do you think happens to Vince after the series finale?
In my mind, Vince played out his last season, all star numbers, championship, went to a top [Division] 1 college, moved his mom there with him. Vince became the number one draft pick in the NFL. Vince Howard is off living lovely with his family. Jess stops by from time to time.
What was it like shooting the final episode?
It was awesome. We felt like we were in an all-star line-up. We were feeling good, surrounded by so many talented people. It was getting the best of everybody, all in one room, all on one show, on one episode. A lot of people were cracking jokes, bringing up old times. Every scene we enjoyed. [Taylor] Kitsch came back, and Jesse [Plemmons] and Minka [Kelly], Zach [Gilford]. We had a lot of fun.
“Friday Night Lights” is in the same position that “The Wire” was. Critics and fans love it, but it never wins Emmys. Do you think that will change this year?
We’re hoping that a lot of people, once they see it when it airs on NBC will give it some attention, from the Academy, from the Emmys. We don’t think about it. That’s not the goal that motivates us. But at times like this, when the show is done and over with, it would be a nice little cherry on top.
Is the character you play on “Parenthood,” Alex, as good a guy as he seems?
Yeah, he is. Alex is that guy. He’s honest. If you’ve ever came in contact with someone in A.A., that’s how they have to live their life. They have to live moment by moment, being honest. Alex is that guy that Adam [Peter Krause] wants to hate so badly, but can’t because he knows he’s a really good guy. Haddie’s [Sarah Ramos] his daughter. No guy’s going to be good enough. Alex is definitely one of those guys that has been through a lot. He’s nineteen years old. He’s been emancipated since he was sixteen. He has a lot of maturity to him. Haddie’s sixteen. So we’re always playing that back and forth.
Is there a chance you’ll be back on “Parenthood” next season?
There’s definitely a possibility. Those talks haven’t really came up yet, but I love those guys. I’m having a really good time. If it makes sense, I’ll be there.