Michael B. Jordan Gets Real About The Emotional Toll Playing Killmonger In Black Panther Took On Him

 Michael B. Jordan in Black Panther
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a massive place, but there are a few properties which stand out as fan favorites. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is definitely in that category, with both of the movies being box office, critical, and Award Season successes. The first movie featured Creed’s Michael B. Jordan as the villainous Killmonger, and the actor/director recently got real about the emotional toll that playing that iconic role took on him. And that’s not counting the physical cost of his various action sequences. 

Killmonger is widely regarded as one of the MCU’s best villains, as he’s got an emotional backstory that makes his motivations understandable. His death scene was also gorgeous, and fans were thrilled when he returned for a brief sequence in Wakanda Forever. Michael B. Jordan recently spoke to Variety about his process working on the first Black Panther movie, and why it was so emotionally grueling. As he put it,

Killmonger allowed me to access the pain. And the unapologetic frustration that I had. But then, obviously, there’s a sadness that comes along with that. I dove into that for a lot longer than I ever had before. So coming out of that [role] it was hard to want love. Because during shooting I kept myself from family and children, and away from everything that Killmonger never had.

That’s definitely one way to get into character. In addition to the long grueling hours that usually come with film sets, it sounds like Michael B. Jordan also put his heart through the ringer to bring Killmonger to life on the big screen. And this was done by depriving himself of his loved ones in order to feel the isolation and bitterness his MCU character lived. Sounds pretty rough, no?

Michael B. Jordan might have put himself through it while filming the first Black Panther movie, but it does ultimately feel like those efforts were worth it. His performance as Killmonger was equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking, and that character’s legacy continued to live on through Wakanda Forever. Because on top of being referenced a number of times throughout the 161-minute runtime, he also returned to the big screen in a scene opposite Shuri in the Ancestral Plane.

Filming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was obviously much shorter and less intense for Michael B. Jordan than the original. Still, it wasn’t without challenges. Security was unsurprisingly intense, so that the public went into theaters without spoilers. Jordan also had to grow his hair to rock Killmonger’s signature locs. Finally, he and the cast/crew had to be sure to not to accidentally let slip that he was back.

The strong emotional experience Michael B. Jordan likely impacted his future acting projects, and I have to wonder if it has any influence on his work behind the camera. Jordan is making his directorial debut in Creed III, where he also plays the title character. In fact, he was working on both that movie and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at the same time.

Black Panther 2 is currently streaming on Disney+, and doing huge numbers. Creed III will hit theaters on March 3rd. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.  

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.