Michael B. Jordan’s ‘Just Mercy’ Wins Big at the NAACP Image Awards

Michael B. Jordan has come a long way since he started his career. The actor’s first role was opposite Keanu Reeves in the 2001 sports drama Hardball. Since then, he’s become a bankable leading man in his own right, thanks largely to his collaborations with writer/director Ryan Coogler.

Jordan earned acclaim for Fruitvale Station, inherited the Rocky franchise with Creed, and joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Black Panther. But beginning with the 2018 HBO film Fahrenheit 451, Jordan has taken on a new role as a producer himself.

That very same year, Jordan also served as a producer on crime drama Kin as well as Creed II. But the 2019 release of Just Mercy marked something of a personal victory for Jordan. The film just received significant recognition at the NAACP Awards, giving Jordan behind-the-scenes role a big boost.

Michael B. Jordan at the 51st NAACP Image Awards
Michael B. Jordan at the 51st NAACP Image Awards | Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET

‘Just Mercy’ was a sleeper hit in the winter of 2019

Based on defense attorney Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, the film follows Bryan (Michael B. Jordan) as he takes on new client Walter McMillian. Convicted of a murder years earlier, Walter turns to Bryan to appeal his case, an endeavor that becomes a pivotal career moment for Bryan.

Just Mercy received positive notices upon its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival for its inspiring storytelling. Despite a crowded Christmas release, the film performed respectably at the box office. A small-to-mid-budget project, it earned $46 million at the worldwide box office.

The film also reunites director Destin Daniel Cretton and Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, who starred in his last two films. Cretton is next slated to join the MCU as the director of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Just Mercy might not be a blockbuster, but it still earned some accolades.

The film was a passion project for star/producer Michael B. Jordan

Because of the racially charged subject matter, Jordan was particularly passionate about getting Just Mercy in theaters. The actor was attached to star in the film for several years prior to its release. So, seeing it come together — with real-life friend Larson — must’ve been a dream come true.

Moreover, Jordan has made no secret of his aspirations to become a director. He’s said repeatedly he wants to step behind the camera for Creed III. That move would, of course, mimic how Sylvester Stallone stepped behind the camera for several of the Rocky sequels.

With Just Mercy, he’s perhaps one step closer to taking full creative control down the line. Critics praised the film not only for its performances — particularly Jordan’s and Foxx’s — but its intention to incite change. To that end, the movie’s recognition by the NAACP feels absolutely in line with that.

The NAACP Image Awards recognized its achievement

Of course, the NAACP — or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — works “to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.” Just Mercy does its best to tell a story that embodies the same values.

For its efforts, the NACCP Image Awards handed the film four of its major film-related awards. Just Mercy received Outstanding Motion Picture. But it also took home the Outstanding Ensemble Cast award as well as trophies for Jordan’ and Foxx’s performances.

The year’s other big movie winners include the best lead and supporting actress awards for Lupita Nyong’O and Marsai Martin for Us and Little, respectively. Also, the NAACP named Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name the year’s Oustanding Independent Motion Picture. Notably, none of the above films — including Just Mercy — received any Oscar nominations.