Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan revealed the painful experience he went through playing the MCU villain Killmonger.
In the past ten years or so, Jordan has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, having taken on headlining roles in Black Panther and the Creed franchise. This has even led to the actor's first foray into directing in the upcoming Creed III.
Despite being killed off at the end of Ryan Coogler's first Wakandan adventure, the Killmonger actor came back to reprise his MCU role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever after "[not even] know[ing] if [a return was] a possibility."
And despite Jordan's Marvel character being presented on-screen as a villain, he sees Killmonger as misunderstood. He really related to the character, and even "didn't think [the villain's] argument was completely wrong" in the first Black Panther.
The Heavy Toll of Playing Killmonger
In a feature interview with Rolling Stone, Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan got candid about his time playing Killmonger in the MCU and the emotional toll it took on him.
Jordan said that "Killmonger allowed me to access the pain" and "unapologetic frustration" he had with the world.
He remarked that he dove into these frustrations "for a lot longer than [he] ever had before:"
“Killmonger allowed me to access the pain. And the unapologetic frustration that I had. But then, obviously, there’s a sadness that comes along with that. I dove into that for a lot longer than I ever had before. So coming out of that [role] it was hard to want love. Because during shooting I kept myself from family and children, and away from everything that Killmonger never had.”
All of this bringing up of both personal and societal trauma on the biggest stage was something that Jordan lamented he "never thought a n**** from North Jersey’d be able to [do]."
Connecting his role as Adonis Creed in the Creed franchise, a son of Apollo Creed and budding Black boxing superstar, to Black Panther's Killmonger, Jordan said, "this is what Adonis is the most current iteration of." His character is "Black in the world," working "through the aftereffects of what Killmonger was fighting for" in Black Panther:
“So this is what Adonis is the most current iteration of. He is Black in the world. He has to work through the aftereffects of what Killmonger was fighting for, and how Oscar wasn’t seen or respected. Adonis is trying to start a family, and dealing with childhood trauma, not knowing how to talk and not knowing how to express himself. Not knowing why he feels less, why doesn’t he feel worthy.”
In a previous interview with Oprah Winfrey (via USA Today), the actor mentioned that playing Killmonger took such a toll it made him seek the guidance of a therapist:
“I went to therapy, I started talking to people, starting unpacking a little bit.”
Getting to "all those emotions" that "Erik kind of represents from being black and brown here in America" was not something Jordan took lightly:
“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.”
Looking back he revealed he "didn’t have a process" when working as the villain, he simply "did whatever [he] felt [he] needed to do:"
“I didn’t have a process” for being Killmonger. I just did whatever I felt I needed to do or whatever I felt was right in the moment every step of the way.”
However, that meant the actor "didn’t have an escape plan, either.” Jordan added that when he finished filming on the MCU epic "it caught up with [he]."
He had to "[readjust] to people caring about [him]" after shutting out love for so long for the role:
“It was a little tough for me at first. 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.”
The 36-year-old revealed that getting professional help "helped [him] out a lot:"
“Your mind is so powerful. Your mind will get your body past a threshold that it would have given up on way before. Honestly, therapy, just talking to somebody just helped me out a lot. As a man you get a lot of slack for it. … I don’t really subscribe to that. Everyone needs to unpack and talk.”
Will Michael B. Jordan Return to the MCU Again?
It is not often audiences get to see a movie star/actor get as candid as Michael B. Jordan has gotten about their emotions.
Playing Killmonger was obviously a painful experience for the actor, drumming up all sorts of latent generational trauma that he didn't even know was there.
However, while emotional for him, it does not sound like he regrets taking on the role. And in mentioning his Creed character Adonis Creed in relation to his MCU villain he can see the importance of bringing these very heavy realities of what it means to be Black in the world to the masses.
So could the actor ever return to the MCU somewhere down the line?
After reading some of these quotes, it seems like Jordan would not be up for a potential MCU reunion. But he did pop up in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, years after his initial appearance, so perhaps he is more open to the idea than one may think.
In the lead-up to Ryan Coogler's Wakandan sequel, there was some speculation that Jordan would actually come back to take over the mantle as Black Panther. And while Letitia Wright ultimately got that honor, a heroic turn for Erik Killmonger could be an interesting way to have the actor back in a less emotionally taxing way.
With the celebrated reputation that Michael B. Jordan has built for himself over the past few years though, a Killmonger return feels like it would be a decision he would ultimately make the call on as opposed to the brain trust at Marvel Studios.
Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever are available to stream now on Disney+.