Brie Larson, Jamie Foxx, and more joined the actor at the Toronto International Film Festival for an impassioned discussion about Destin Daniel Cretton's 'Just Mercy.'

By Joey Nolfi
September 07, 2019 at 01:05 AM EDT

Just Mercy

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There wasn’t a dry set of eyes in the house following Friday night’s premiere of director Destin Daniel Cretton’s latest feature Just Mercy — including star Michael B. Jordan‘s.

Luckily, the Black Panther actor — who leads the fact-based film as Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard-graduated lawyer known for defending and helping exonerate innocent minority prisoners through his Equal Justice Initiative — had moral support from Captain Marvels Brie Larson, who embraced her costar and helped him wipe away tears of joy as they took the stage for a post-screening Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival‘s Elgin Theatre.

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“These are real-life superheroes,” Jordan told the audience of his fellow cast and crew in attendance, as well as the real-life Stevenson, whose presence also had Cretton choking up. “For me, this was very intimidating at first. After I got a chance to get to know [Stevenson] and his work, I felt like I had a great deal of pressure to get it right,” Jordan said. “I felt honored to be able to carry that weight and to be able to go to set every day and try to make a difference, and try to be a part of that change.”

“I get emotional thinking about it,” he continued, fighting back tears once again as he remembered Stevenson’s life story, “because I truly believe this is going to help [Stevenson’s ongoing cause].”

Jamie Foxx, who plays Walter McMillian, a former Stevenson client wrongfully sentenced to death after faulty evidence and racial profiling led to his murder conviction for the death of an 18-year-old woman in 1987 Alabama, added that he was inspired by the work of the actors and contributors around him as he navigated the complex material adapted from Stevenson’s 2014 memoir Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

“You see all of these beautiful performances up here? That’s what rings true: That feeling of not knowing hope is going to come, and to see someone like Bryan Stevenson’s whole journey play out like we’ve seen it, it’s hard not to cry, not to cheer,” Foxx said. “I hope this will change the narrative of how we see folks and how we see people.”

Larson costars as Eva Ansley, a state advocate who assists Stevenson with his work. The Oscar-winning performer — who reunited with her Short Term 12 and Glass Castle director for Just Mercy — admitted the film made her a better ally and advocate for causes relating to injustice, as well as a compassionate supporting performer as opposed to her recent leading roles in films like Room and Captain Marvel.

“I would go into the drudges for [Cretton] any time. But, really, the question was: Does Michael want me there? Because my only role in this was to support. This is the true definition of supporting role. I just wanted to be there for him, and to be given the opportunity to hold space for him was one of the most incredible experiences of my working life,” she remembered. “We shared moments that mean so much to me, and this story is so powerful; Bryan’s voice is so powerful. Every day was a treat.”

The real Stevenson also shared his appreciation for the people who brought the case to the big screen.

“[They gave] not just performances, but they gave their hearts to this story. It’s the humanity and dignity of the people who’ve been thrown away and forgotten,” he said. “We won’t change [injustice] until we get to understand we’re talking about human beings…. basic human rights. All of these talented people make it a little easier to see what’s at stake when we tolerate injustice, what we lose when we put up with inequality, and what we suffer when we permit discrimination and bigotry to rule and shape our lives. We’ve been governed by fear and anger in too many places in our world. We’ve got to fight against it.”

Also starring Rob Morgan, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Karan Kendrick, Just Mercy — co-written by Cretton and The Glass Castle‘s Andrew Lanham — enters limited release on Dec. 25, followed by a nationwide rollout on Jan. 10, 2020. Watch the film’s trailer above.

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