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Michael B. Jordan

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Actors get praised for having the “bravery” to portray famous historical figures, but it’s a heavier burden to embody a real person whom few know. Show only one aspect of a character and that is how history will remember him. So as Oscar Grant III, the victim of a 2009 shooting by a transit cop, Michael B. Jordan, 26, carried the hopes and fears of Grant’s family on his shoulders. He could have played the father/son/ex-con/pot dealer as sinner or saint. Instead, he chose to play him as neither. In a single grocery-store scene in Fruitvale Station, Jordan chats up his pal, flirts with a young woman, has a sweet phone call with his grandmother, and then confronts his former boss with genuine menace. “Real people are like that,” Jordan says. “Flaws and all, that is who Oscar was. We wanted him to be truthful. To be able to play all those things, man, it’s why I do this.” Is that brave? Maybe. Star-making? Definitely.

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