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How Denzel Washington Worked To ‘Lift’ Up His A Journal For Jordan Screenwriter

Chante Adams and Michael B Jordan in A Journal for Jordan and Denzel Washington in The Equalizer 2
(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

A Journal For Jordan highlights the life of Iraq war hero Charles Monroe King from the perspective of his fiancé, Dana Canedy, as they fall in love and have their own son as the first sergeant is serving the United States. The movie is raised by the fact that it's an adaptation starring Michael B. Jordan and directed by Denzel Washington.  Behind the scenes, another Black voice, screenwriter Virgil Williams, spoke to CinemaBlend about the opportunity to shed light on such a heart-wrenching and meaningful true story

Virgil Williams has written for beloved television series such as 24, ER and The Chicago Code, and in 2017, he co-wrote the screenplay for Mudbound, which earned four Oscar nominations, including for Best Adapted Screenplay. While speaking to us about his experience collaborating with Denzel Washington as a director for A Journal For Jordan, he expressed his gratitude for the icon. In Williams’ words: 

You know there's a reason [Denzel Washington] has been a major movie star for over three decades. It doesn't just happen, you know? And I'll tell you this too. I'm Black and Puerto Rican and I've been in the business for a minute and I've had a lot of people have given me guidance. They've given me tips. They've helped me out. They've given me jobs. They've looked out for me, but he is the first person that I've ever worked with that lifted me, like lifted me, my craft, my confidence. The way I approached everything. He changed the way that I approach scripts and write scripts. I'm a better writer now and that was profound to me. And I've certainly never had that kind of relationship with another Black man. I mean and 98% of the people I deal with are white people.

During our Zoom interview, Virgil Williams touched on an important topic that Hollywood should continue to have amongst themselves going forward. How do the few diverse voices who have been given a seat at the table as prevalent as Denzel Washington pave the way for more? Williams continued: 

What an incredible gift that was. It was kind of interesting too cause I had to go to the top of the mountain to find that and collaborate that way. It doesn't get any higher. And what it taught me and what I took from it is that it is now incumbent upon me to provide that service at a slightly lower altitude as it were, for people in different stages of their come up. The collaboration with him was intense. He'd call me at four o'clock in the morning, 11 o'clock at night and I'd pick up. I was there for it.

It sounds like Virgil Williams certainly learned a lot from Denzel Washington, who has been a working actor for the past 40 years. Washington has been part of a lot of firsts for the Black community in Hollywood, which includes becoming the second Black man to win the Best Actor Oscar in 2002 for Training Day. He has proved to be a box office draw throughout his career as well, and starting with 2002’s Antwone Fisher, he’s taken the role of director every few years. 

Alongside the actor/director influencing his own perspective on writing, Denzel Washington also “lifted” Virgil Williams in a way that has inspired him to carry himself differently among his peers, and perhaps pay it forward to other people in the industry and help raise them up as well. It’s a beautiful lesson to be given on a project, and it'll be exciting to see how the screenwriter will proceed going forward. 

A Journal For Jordan is based on the 2009 memoir of the same name by Dana Canedy, who writes about her love story with Charles Monroe King and her experiences becoming a mother amidst the Iraq war. Michael B. Jordan and Chanté Adams portray Charles and Dana in the film hitting theaters on Christmas Day. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.