Michael B. Jordan has built a career on weighty roles: from his breakout performance as teen drug dealer Wallace on The Wire, to his portrayal of troubled quarterback Vince on Friday Night Lights, to his star-making turn as real-life shooting victim Oscar Grant III in Fruitvale Station (one of this year’s most glaring Oscar omissions). So his newest role — as one of three dudes navigating the NYC dating world in bro-mantic comedy That Awkward Moment, co-starring Miles Teller and Zac Efron — is a welcome departure. Turns out the 26-year-old actor is just as natural at charming the ladies and fielding dick jokes onscreen as he is exercising his serious dramatic chops. Vulture spoke to him about dating, dancing, and what it’s like to punch Zac Efron in the face (“it felt great”).
Michael B. Jordan: What’s up?
I saw the movie last night.
What did you think about it?
It was fun. It was different than the other roles I’ve seen you in.
In the past, I’d imagine you had to go through some deep stuff, psychologically, to get into character. How did you get into character for this part?
It was crazy, because when I shot the film, I’d never had a real girlfriend before. I literally met my now-ex-girlfriend the day I got back from filming, almost a year ago today. And that was the first time I’ve ever worked to make a relationship work out — you know, really put in the [effort]. And it’s not easy. I think the character taught me a lot about relationships: Sometimes you gotta work through the hard stuff and sometimes two people grow apart, and that’s the harsh reality, that’s what love is sometimes … knowing when it’s time to let something go, just realizing something’s not working.
That awkward moment.
That awkward moment! Exactly. And that’s real. So it’s kind of cool to have a movie that mirrors what people will actually go through.
The other two guys in the movie are kind of scoundrels ...
Scoundrels! Yeah, I made it out safe [his character is unhappily married]. Tom [Gormican, the director] took care of me; he made sure I was the good guy. I think I’m a good guy. I’m not perfect at all, I’m flawed, I definitely had my fun. Guys, we have our fun, we have our moments, we have our growing pains, our processes — we are hardwired differently from women.
You think so?
For sure. I can say something and then you can tell me what you heard and it’ll probably be two totally different things. I think women have a different process as far as trusting, opening up, feelings, what they want, what their expectations are for guys. And I think guys are just a little slower to come around that curve. We take our time. But when we do fall, we fall hard. So it’s kind of cool to give girls a look [at the male experience] — like, cut us some slack, okay? We’re just different, okay?
We just interviewed Miles Teller and he was saying that you guys had a ton of fun —
Probably the most fun I’ve had on set.
Did you guys go dancing together? Miles does know how to Moonwalk.
We went out, we did. Guys don’t really go dancing together — just want to throw that out there — but we did go to a couple clubs. We had fun in New York while we were shooting. Miles is a good-old Florida boy. He likes to party and sweat and dance; he gets after it.
He said your nickname is Michael B. Deli.
Michael B. Deli! Yeah. Growing up on the East Coast, I’m used to bodegas. I have a thing for turkey sandwiches.
Oh yeah, the one-dollar roll ...
Yeah, you know, dollar-roll joint — honey-glazed turkey, cheese, sweet peppers — that’s my thing. But they don’t have that in L.A. at all, so when I was here [in New York], I went to a deli maybe two, three times a day. I would go late night, when I’d get off filming, went straight to the deli, got a sandwich. So, Michael B. Deli — it kind of stuck.
I hear you’re a good cook as well.
Yeah, I cook a lot. My dad’s a chef, he caters, and my mom’s a really good cook. We had a home catering company that we ran out of our house growing up, so as soon as I was old enough to see over the cutting board and hold a knife, I was chopping potatoes, onions, carrots — the whole nine yards. I enjoy cooking for people, too.
Do you cook for women you’ve been out with?
I have. When I first moved to L.A., when I was like 19, 20, 21, that was a thing: Okay, cool [claps his hands together]: I’m going to cook dinner, she’s going to think it’s phenomenal, it’s gonna be amazing, that’s gonna be my move. And then I was like, Whoa. That came with so much baggage and the expectations. Everything you do, you guys are interpreting in a different way! Like, another thing: I like to go out to dinner a lot. I love going out to eat. I love food. I love going to restaurants. And sometimes I don’t like going alone, so I would take somebody to go to dinner. It doesn’t necessarily mean this is the start of a thing — I just like to go to dinner and you’re kind of cool to talk to. But a woman sees it as, Oh, he’s taking me out to dinner.
There’s also a lot of social-media activity in the movie. Zac’s character creeping his girlfriend’s Facebook page and stuff —
You know you’ve stalked somebody’s Facebook page before!
Exactly. So, yes, we do it, too.
And one last thing I have to ask: What was it like punching Zac in the face?
Oh! It felt great.
I’m sure a lot of people were like —
“Oh, no, not the face! Don’t mess up the face.”