The early 2014 Oscar buzz for “Fruitvale” has officially begun. The film, which focuses on the murder of 22-year-old father Oscar Grant III by BART police at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, California, won both Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic. The film’s star, Michael B. Jordan, recently spoke with Vulture about the project. In the Q&A, “The Wire” alum reflects on why he decided to play Grant, his own bouts with police harassment, and whether he still gets recognized for his old role as teenage drug dealer “Wallace.”
What made you want to play Oscar Grant?
Sometimes when you’re a victim of a shooting, you know, with a police officer involved, the media and everybody wants to take your character and pull it in a million different directions. Somebody wants to portray him to be this monster. They want to pull up every traffic ticket, every class you ditched in elementary school, you know, every piece of gum that you might have stole, so they can make you out to be this monster. Then you have people that are on the complete opposite spectrum that want to paint you to be this perfect saint, and that wasn’t true either. So in that process, sometimes, I feel like Oscar’s humanity was lost. And through this project, through his relationships with the people that knew him the best, his mom, his daughter, his fiancée, and his best friends, we just want to give him a bit of his humanity back.
Have you experienced police harassment before?
Yeah. I’m from Newark, New Jersey, you know what I’m saying? Can’t get a break. I’ve had my fair share of [encounters with the] police that, you know, I felt was a little excessive or did a little profiling or made assumptions and handled things the wrong way. For sure. A lot of times … It’s one of those things where I get my first car, my first car is a BMW. It’s kind of a nice car at that age. I’m 16. I had a cool car, driving places, and I’d get pulled over a lot. You know, “Whose car is this? Who’s Donna Jordan?” “That’s my mom. It’s my mom’s car.” “Okay, cool, get out of the car.” Stuff like that … How can you say no in that situation? Little things like that when you’re not able to voice your opinion. It could happen to a white guy; it could happen to a Hispanic dude. But it just so happens that it happens a little bit more often to black folks.
Do you get that even now that you’re recognizable, at least to people who watch The Wire?
Yeah, it still happens for sure. I’ve had a few, few times where a cop was a little bit of an asshole and then recognized me for something, or his partner recognized me for something, and he’d be like, “Oh, sorry,” and they’d let me go. And that pisses me off I think even more. Because it’s like, “Really? So if I was just some sort of regular Joe Schmo I’d be going through it right now.”
You can read the Q&A in full at Vulture.
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