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How Michael B. Jordan Went From Wallace in 'The Wire' to Erik Killmonger: A Visual Guide

By Petr Knava | Celebrity | February 23, 2018 |

By Petr Knava | Celebrity | February 23, 2018 |


You know the story: Once upon a time, we all watched The Wire—AKA. The Greatest TV Drama Ever Made.

Seriously, it was perfect. The writing, the direction, the performances—all at the very top of the game.

Acting-wise it was a remarkably rich buffet of talent. From Michael K. Williams to Dominic West to Amy Ryan to Idris Elba to Sonja Sohn to Lance Reddick to Aidan Gillen to Pablo Schreiber, it was truly just an embarrassment of riches. Watching it now it’s fascinating to see where all these people have ended up in their respective careers, and specifically how that compares to what we would’ve expected when we first saw the show all those years ago. Some had the arcs of success you would expect—**cough**Idris Elba**cough** For other it worked out differently.

But if you had told me at the time that of all those people in that show it would be Michael B. Jordan whose star would be shooting to the heavens in such a way as it is now… Well, I’m not sure I’d be buying it. No disrespect meant to the actor, who was quite brilliant as Wallace in the early stretches of the show, but it was not a part that seemed to be gearing him up for a shot at the big time.

If you had additionally said that little Wallace would somehow transform from this:


Into this:


Then, well, I would’ve definitely been looking for the hidden camera, cos I know when I’m being pranked, I wasn’t born yesterday for god’s sake.

Nevertheless, he did. The now 31-year old California native took himself from this sweet, slight, almost-bit player:




Into this jacked acting powerhouse:



It seems like it came from nowhere, without warning, and it’s almost freaky.

But then we remember 2015’s Creed.


And it starts to make some sort of sense. Because not only did Jordan completely transform himself physically for the role; he brought a level of skill that might’ve also appeared to appear as if from thin air.



But, of course, that’s also not true. Ryan Coogler, the writer-director behind Creed and Black Panther had already given Jordan a chance to truly flex his impressive acting chops (if not pecs—it wasn’t really that kind of movie) in 2013’s harrowing Fruitvale Station.



A year before that, in now-somewhat-disgraced director Josh Trank’s found footage superhero flick, Chronicle, Jordan was clearly already quite buffed up, and emanating a powerful charisma in what was otherwise a relatively small and thankless role.


So, yeah, I mean. I guess his transition from poor little Wallace to Killmonger soooorta makes sense…

AND NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, THERE’S FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS too! In which he was also already in pretty great shape.

So, really, all the evidence is right there.


What a curious phenomenon. Like a ridiculously drunken journey home that you cannot remember but somehow manage to piece together through external pieces of evidence, it still doesn’t feel quite right. Even when you track it step by step, cataloguing and ordering, it still doesn’t really make sense. Like, I know that at some point I was at the pub.


And somehow I got home.


I’ll be damned if it makes a lick of sense though.


Petr Knava lives in London and plays music

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Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.