Exclusive: “Just Mercy” Star Karan Kendrick Talks Working With Jamie Foxx, Her Most HATED Character, Oscar Buzz & More!

5th Annual Asian World Film Festival - Opening Night Premiere Of "Just Mercy"

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Exclusive Karan Kendrick Interview

If you’ve been paying attention, you know there’s a Black actress renaissance (quietly) happening in Hollywood where talented beauties like Karan Kendrick are landing roles in Oscar-buzzy films like “Just Mercy” while making power moves in a suffocatingly white industry.

At this point, it’s safe to say Black womanhood is a superpower that resonates from the sweet as pie southern belle who opened up about her role as Jamie Foxx’s fiercely loyal wife in the soon-to-be movie of the moment.

Let’s start with the basics. How did you get involved with “Just Mercy” — did you audition?

“I did, I auditioned for “Just Mercy” through Carmen Cuba’s office and it’s an office that I’ve gone into several times before, but this one was the fit. This was the one. When I got the audition materials there was an image of Minnie McMillian and there was some video footage of her — and I saw my grandmother. I immediately felt that I knew her and connected with her.

She is a woman who represents, for me, the Black women that I knew growing up. Women who understand the necessity, not just the importance, but the necessity of choosing to love and what that looks like. The necessity of journeying with someone through experiences that may not be warm and fuzzy. And, the question then was ‘What would we do without the love of a Black woman?’ What we do?”

That’s what I ask myself. Because your character, y’all are in a relationship that’s imperfect and I was like ‘I want that.’

“You want an imperfect relationship?”

Not imperfect, but I want somebody to hold me down like you held Jamie down in the movie. Tell me about how you came together and formed this very believable relationship.

“I think that I had to consider Minnie McMillian’s ‘why.’ First of all, knowing that you’re gonna play opposite Jamie Foxx, who is an incredible actor, professional, human, everything, you want to come correct. There’s no space for fan-girling. You have to honor this space with the work. Knowing that you are sharing a story that is so important, you want to honor the work.

You can’t take anything for granted and you can’t waste time freaking out. So I had to enter this space understanding her ‘why.’ Why does she forgive him? Why does she choose to love him? And I think that she understands that making a different choice then changes who she is.”

Wow.

“So in doing this, in making this choice, she maintains her identity.”

OK, Karan!

“Alright now! (Laughs).”

I know you went to Spelman, so I was expecting this profoundness from you. How did your experience at an HBCU shape your voyage in Hollywood, your path, your direction, how you accepted roles…?

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I grew up in an HBCU town — Fort Valley, Georgia. The Fort Valley State University, and so I always had an understanding and appreciation. My experience at Spelman helped me to understand who I am as a Black woman in America. You can learn everything else in a class.

You can study Shakespeare, you can study Greek classics, you can study the American classics but understanding who you are then allows you to maneuver through time and space in a very specific way. I would like to say that I choose these roles but I honestly audition for what (laughs), for what I’m called in for most of the time. Not always, but most of the time — there are some things that I’m like ‘Nah I can’t do that.’”

Like what?

“There are pieces that sometimes don’t speak to me. If it’s a space that I don’t know that I can enter, or contribute in a way, then I will respectfully decline and make room for someone else to tell that story that can speak to it. It’s not necessarily something that’s like ‘Oh this is scandalous,’ but it’s just if it’s a story that I feel like ‘That’s not mine.’ Then I just say no. ‘Thank you, but no.’”

Well you’ve been doing a good job. You have diversity on your resumé. You have “Hunger Games,” you have “Just Mercy,” you have the movie that I hated you in… well not really hated you in… (laughs).

“Let me guess, The Hate U Give?”

Yes… (laughs).

“Iesha is so misunderstood.”

But, you know, you’ve had a great run at the beginning of your career. What do you think is fueling that? Your team? Your management? God? Prayer?

“God, absolutely. Absolutely, and I think it’s a combination. I think that in the work I seek to — when someone said it last night, I was like ‘I’ma steal this’ — my work is a love letter to Black women and to Black womanhood. It’s an opportunity to share us in a way that people may not have. Every one of us. Every part of who we are. From Iesha, who you look at and you see her in blonde hair, green fingernails, and pleather leggings, and you think you know her. You may know a part of her. You may know that she’s gonna absolutely turn out this funeral ‘cause she wants to see her son.

But, do you also know that she wants to see her son so desperately because she has not been able to? You know that she’s in the hallway trying to get her drink on, as she says, but do you also know that she would do anything for these kids, including putting herself in harm’s way because she loves them? We are not one thing. We are not a monolith. We are complex.

Minnie McMillian is a strong, Black woman who stands by her man, but she’s also terrified. She’s also conflicted. She also, like we see in the family scene, is leaning on the community to hold her up and to stand by her side and to let her know that she is not alone. She’s all of those things and so much more. You learn about her in the silences.

There are moments that I don’t say a word, but there’s a whole life, a whole world going on, on the the inside. So, the opportunity to share the nuance, the layers, and the complexities of Black womanhood as I understand it, that is an incredible gift that I’ve been given in my work and a gift that I try to share.”

So, take me through the process of playing a real person…

“Mhmm. There’s a level of responsibility and accountability and you want to get it right… because Minnie McMillian is still with us. And I was like ‘What do I want her to feel when she sees this portrayal of her life on screen?’ And so I thought ‘I want her to feel seen in the best possible way and heard. Not marginalized, not othered. I want her to feel understood, not dismissed. I want her to feel protected. I want her to feel loved.’ In much of my work, when I get a breakdown and I see the different descriptions of character, I begin to pull these pieces and try to layer on what I think about [them]. With Minnie McMillian I had to do the exact opposite.

I had to strip the layers away and open up my heart and that was probably the biggest difference and it was incredibly scary. I had to be very vulnerable. The beauty of the process is: the team of storytellers that I was working with made it so easy. You have the director Destin Daniel Cretton, who is an incredible humanitarian. He’s a person who understands family. Destin is from Hawaii, but he understands universal truth of family and community and so he was able to share that part of the African American experience, although it may not be his own. He was able to show us in community and how we walk together, in a way that I haven’t really seen on film.

You have people like Jamie Foxx, who is a masterclass on camera and a class act behind-the-scenes. So when the camera stops he is pouring into us, whether it’s playing a gospel song that helps us in the moment that we’re in, or telling a joke that helps us through the moment that we just finished filming.

You have people like Michael B. Jordan, who absolutely crushed his work as Bryan Stevenson and also, off-camera, served as producer and is a leader. So, he walked through that space in excellence. He walked through that space in a way that made everyone feel like we had to kind of rise a little higher. We had to grow a little bit in our humanity and our artistry in order to walk through this space.

So, I had to open my heart in a different way, I had to be much more vulnerable, but honestly, the ensemble — from camera to sound to lights to craft services — made it easy. Everybody, hair and makeup, props… we were all in on this one.”

Last question, this is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. What would be your best pitch if you were to tell people why this movie should be considered and actually nominated with a chance to win?

“This is a story about a man whose life was changed forever. It’s a story of a community and a family who, either by choice or by force, chose to journey with this man on his road to redemption. This is all led by a man who I believe was created just a little bit lower than the angels, named Bryan Stevenson, who for over three decades has shown up to do the work that we so desperately need in our country.

So, this story is not just a movie, it’s a movement. It’s an opportunity for us to choose humanity, to choose justice, to choose mercy. It’s an opportunity to grow a little bit more and engage a little bit differently and love a little bit more. It’s an opportunity for us to be our better selves. That’s Just Mercy.”

Amazing answer!

“Just Mercy” opens in select theaters on Christmas and expands nationwide on January 10.

Megan Thee Stallion Sat Next To Michael B. Jordan At NYFW & Blew Up Twitter

Megan Thee Stallion Sat Next To MBJ At NYFW, Sparks Chaos

NYFW 2019 has been a star-studded spectacle that leveled-up when Megan Thee Stallion sat next to Michael B. Jordan at the Coach 1941 Fashion Show in a world-stopping moment that sent Twitter into a starry-eyed tizzy.

We can only imagine what the two stars chatted about with all eyes on their every move at the hot ticket event that stirred up all kinds of chitter-chatter across social media.

Peep the Twitter hysteria over Meg sitting next to MJB at NYFW on the flip.

Get The Tissues Ready! The Trailer For ‘Just Mercy’ Will Take You Through All Of The Emotions [VIDEO]

Just Mercy screenshot featuring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx

Source: Courtesy Warner Bros. / Courtesy Warner Bros.

Watch The Trailer For Jamie Foxx And Michael B. Jordan’s New Film ‘Just Mercy’

It’s here! The trailer for ‘Just Mercy’ arrived this morning and fortunately the it delivered on all the impact promised by the teaser yesterday.

Wow. Just wow. Is it just us or do you think Jamie and Mike should get their award season suits ready? The film arrives in theatres on limited release December 25, 2019 and inn theatres everywhere January 10, 2020.

About Just Mercy:

Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther,” “Creed,” “Creed II”) and Oscar winners Jamie Foxx (“Ray,” “Baby Driver,” “Django: Unchained”) and Brie Larson (“Room,” “The Glass Castle,” “Captain Marvel”) star in “Just Mercy,” an inspiring drama that brings one of the most important stories of our time to the big screen. Award-winning filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton (“The Glass Castle,” “Short Term 12”) directed the film from a screenplay he co-wrote, based on the award-winning nonfiction bestseller by Bryan Stevenson. A powerful and thought-provoking true story, “Just Mercy” follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them.

First Look: The Teaser For ‘Just Mercy’ Starring Michael B. Jordan And Jamie Foxx Just Dropped! [VIDEO]

Just Mercy screenshot featuring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx

Source: Courtesy Warner Bros. / Courtesy Warner Bros.

Michael B. Jordan And Jamie Foxx Star In ‘Just Mercy’, Trailer Drops 9/4

The official trailer for ‘Just Mercy’ drops this Wednesday, September 4th, but Warner Bros. is already anticipating the film will be huge and is teasing the film today. The project stars Michael B. Jordan as civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson, whose book inspired the film, and Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian, the prisoner who changed the trajectory of Stevenson’s career. Check out the visuals below:

This one will be POWERFUL, mark our words!

Here’s more about Just Mercy:

Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson star in “Just Mercy,” an inspiring drama that brings one of the most important stories of our time to the big screen. Award-winning filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton (“The Glass Castle,” “Short Term 12”) directed the film from a screenplay he co-wrote, based on the award-winning nonfiction bestseller by Bryan Stevenson. A powerful and thought-provoking true story, “Just Mercy” follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or who were not afforded proper representation, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds—and the system—stacked against them.

Follow ‘Just Mercy’ on social media:

Facebook – @JustMercyFilm

Twitter – @JustMercyFilm

Instagram – @JustMercyFilm

#JustMercy

First Look: Netflix’s ‘Raising Dion’ Sci-Fi Family Drama Starring Michael B. Jordan [Photos]

Raising Dion

Source: Via Netflix/Steve Dietl

Netflix Releases “Raising Dion” Photos

Netflix is giving fans a first look at their highly anticipated new show. “Raising Dion” will come to the streaming-service October 4 and tell the story of a woman named Nicole Reese (Alisha Wainwright), who raises her son Dion (newcomer Ja’Siah Young) after the death of her husband Mark (Michael B. Jordan).

In the midst of her grief, she finds out that her son has mysterious superhero-like abilities. She’s now tasked with protecting her boy and his supernatural gifts with help from
Mark’s best friend Pat (Jason Ritter).

Raising Dion

Source: Via Netflix /Steve Dietl

The Netflix show is executive produced by Michael B. Jordan and directed by Seith Mann (The Wire, Homeland). It is based on the comic book of the same name by Dennis Liu.

Raising Dion

Source: Via Netflix /Steve Dietl

 

Will YOU be watching this superhero/sci-fi family drama???

Raising Dion

Source: Via Netflix /Steve Dietl

More “Raising Dion” photos on the flip.

Here’s More Details On Serial Swirler Michael B. Jordan’s Back To Black Baeship With Chocolate Cutie Kiki Layne

Kiki Layne Michael B Jordan

Source: Apega/WENN / WENN

Kiki Layne Was Spotted Rubbing Michael B. Jordan’s Head While He Whispered In Her Ear

Kiki Layne and Michael B. Jordan’s Sundance Film Festival flirtation caught the attention of more than one onlooker apparently…

Sources told Page Six the stars of ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ and ‘Black Panther’ arrived to Tao’s Park City pop-up separately but “within 10 minutes of each other,” and wasted no time spending the entire time together!

A source said: “They were put at separate VIP tables, but Kiki quickly made her way over to Michael’s table. And they seriously never left each other’s side. Canoodling to the max.”

The source added, “She would have her hand on the back of his head rubbing it as he whispered in her ear and [he] kept kissing her cheek.”

Even though “it was clear to everyone in the room that they were together,” the source surmised, we hear that the stars’ entourages were “protective about them not taking a photo together.”

Jordan and Layne also left the event at the same time.

Rubbing the back of his head, eh? Y’all know what that means… Chocolatey smithereens!

Hold The Mayo: Michael B. Jordan Spotted Film Festival Flirting With Brown-Skinned Banger Kiki Layne

Michael B. Jordan and Kiki Layne

Source: Dave Bedrosian/Future Image/Apega/WENN / WENN

Michael B. Jordan And Kiki Layne Get Flirtatious At Sundance Film Festival

From what we are hearing, Michael B. Jordan has been avoiding any snow at the Sundance Film Festival this year… In fact, one onlooker told PEOPLE reporters that the
CREED II’ star 31, and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ star Kiki Layne, 27, looked very into one another at the Tao nightclub pop-up Friday night.

“Michael and Kiki were super flirty all night,” the onlooker tells PEOPLE. “He spent literally all night talking and focused on her.”

Jordan arrived with an entourage around 11:30 p.m., when he was escorted to a table, the insider explained. There, the actor partied with Gerard Butler, 49, before turning his attention to Layne at the pop up, where guests drank Casamigos.

Near the end of the night, Jordan “left the club first and she followed,” the source says.

Sounds like a great party to us. Do you think what happens in Park City will stay in Park City — or has Mike finally met his match?

Tony Yayo and Actor Michael B. Jordan Chop It Up With DJ Whoo Kid on ‘Whoolywood Shuffle’ Podcast

The latest episode of XXL’s ‘Whollywood Shuffle’ podcast is here, and it features Tony Yayo and actor Michael B. Jordan.

Continue reading…