How to Listen Like
How to listen like Michael B. Jordan
October 29, 2021
October 29, 2021
Alexa, turn on the sprinklers. Alexa, dim the lights. Alexa, add bath oils to my shopping list. Whatever the command, Michael B. Jordan is listening. He is cheekily following directions and getting wet, taking off his shirt, and making a list.
Every year during the Super Bowl, Amazon Alexa runs a commercial and gives the artificial intelligence voice assistant a new persona. It’s been Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson, Cardi B, and now Jordan. And America is swooning over his sultry spot.
But Jordan is more than just a set of gorgeous abs. He is a critically acclaimed film and TV actor with roles in Fruitvale Station, Black Panther, and Creed. He’s also a producer and will be making his directorial debut with Creed III. Jordan has received many accolades for his acting and for other things he excels at like, well, those abs for People’s Sexiest Man Alive.
Most acting coaches will tell you that one of the keys to being a good actor is to also be a good listener. Listening and reacting are usually two of the main things that casting directors look for in actors at auditions. That’s because the most important lines in a script aren’t the ones the actor is saying, but the ones they are hearing and responding to from their scene partner.
Casting director Michael Shurtleff put it this way, “Listening is not merely hearing, it is receiving the message that is being sent to you. Listening is reacting. Listening is being affected by what you hear. Listening is letting it land before you react. Listening is letting your reaction make a difference. Listening is active.”
In 2009, Jordan was cast to play star quarterback Vince Howard in the Emmy-winning TV series Friday Night Lights. The drama centers on the players and coach of a high-school football team in Dillon, Texas, where football is near religion. Vince was a troubled and underachieving student but with the help of Coach Taylor he eventually became the team’s leader on their way to a state championship.
Kyle Chandler played Coach Taylor. Jordan shared how listening played a part in acting with Chandler, "Working with him in the scene was like playing tennis. You work with really talented actors, I think they make other actors look really, really good. He definitely helped me out a lot, stepped up my game. Just like the volleying back and forth. Listening. He taught me how to listen very well and reacting. There's a lot of improv. And to be able to do that on the spot you really have to be in tune with what the other person is saying instead of just waiting for your cue line or waiting for a word for you to deliver your next line."
Jordan was listening to two specific words that Frances McDormand said in her acceptance speech for best actress at the 2018 Academy Awards. McDormand stated, “I have two words for you — inclusion rider.” The inclusion rider allows actors, along with others in the industry, to put a clause in their contracts that stipulates diversity in the hiring of cast and crew. This point inspired Jordan and, “I was like, ‘Oh! So, there’s something in writing I can put in place to make sure our cast and crew is a reflection of the world I live in, and is diverse?’”
Outlier Society Productions is Jordan’s production company that he founded in 2016. Within a month of McDormand’s speech, he insisted his company adopt inclusion riders. He also pushed Warner Bros, who he had worked with on his hits Creed and Creed II, to use an inclusion rider. Now all companies under Warner Media have the policy. So not only is Jordan listening for ways to improve the film industry but he’s also getting others to listen and take action too.
Jordan has worked with some of the greatest actors of our time. He’s now filming Journal for Jordan and is being directed by Denzel Washington. Jordan tries to listen and learn everything he can on film sets and, “Being directed by the GOAT — Denzel, himself — and being able to work with a very talented cast … I’m getting a masterclass and a crazy education on character development, directing, and producing. I'm a sponge right now, just soaking it up.”
But believe it or not, he credits a soap opera with shaping his intense work ethic and where he listened a lot. Jordan says, “Honestly, soaps are great training. You’re doing 90-plus pages a day. It was my acting class, where I built my foundation for showing up and being professional.” In 2003, Jordan played the character Reggie Montgomery as a series regular on the soap opera All My Children. And in a little known fact, he took over the role from his Black Panther co-star Chadwick Bosman who had been fired after only one week on the job for complaining about the stereotypical nature of the part.
Jordan was recently asked what he learned about himself during the pandemic. He shared how listening to himself helped him grow, “… I’ve been able to get back to the basics and the bare necessities of things. You’re still able to cope and listen to your voice by being still and letting your intuition and gut lead the way. It really allowed me to grow personally and to have more patience. I grew up a lot last year…”
And as Jordan continues to listen to himself, his career will only continue to grow more and more. We wonder what will be next for him … let’s go ask Alexa.
Subscribe to our ioAudio email newsletter and get more listening tips straight to your inbox. ioAudio’s “How to Listen Like” series shares ideas for how to be a better listener in relation to well-known individuals. Have a good listener we haven’t heard of? Comment below or Contact Us.
To inspire more listening.
To be the world leader of