A Journal for Jordan Virgil Williams
Michael B Jordan and Chanté Adams in a Journal for Jordan. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures

A Journal For Jordan screenwriter Virgil Williams learned one “incredibly powerful” mantra from director Denzel Washington during the making of the movie that he’ll never forget.

Starring Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan and adapted from the memoir by Dana Canedy, A Journal for Jordan tells the heartwarming — and heartbreaking — true story of how Canedy lost her husband, First Sargeant Charles King, and the handwritten journal he left for their infant son, Jordan.

Williams told MovieMaker all about the piece of advice he got from Washington during the making of A Journal for Jordan ahead of its U.S. theatrical release on Christmas Day.

“Here’s one mantra that I took from this whole experience. And I’ve actually heard Michael B. [Jordan] talking about it too, so I know that Denzel shared this knowledge with him as well. It is that the universal stems from the specific,” Williams said.

“It’s applicable to life in so many ways. The specificity really informs all the universality. And like any good mantra, it sounds like, well, yeah, of course. It seems so obvious, but we overlook the obvious often, and I don’t think that we spend enough time on the obvious. We’re trying to do something they don’t see coming, but… when we do that, we overthink, or we press, or we try to imprint our — for lack of a much better word — shit onto the story. We stop listening to the story, and the story will tell you what it wants and what it needs.”

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Williams also recalled Washington emphasizing the importance of listening to the story when writing a script.

“This is another thing that Denzel really leaned into, is this listening aspect of writing. Because when the universal stems from the specific — when you allow that to happen — all you need to do is listen, and listen intently. That’s something that I always practiced before, but to have — I mean, look, I’m Black and Puerto Rican, so I didn’t even know I could be in Hollywood at a certain level if it weren’t for Denzel and Spike [Lee]. So to have [Washington] affirm his method that I had crafted over years of network television writing and writing features that didn’t go and so forth was incredibly, incredibly affirming, and incredibly powerful.”

This isn’t the first time Williams and Washington have worked together. They got to know each other when developing a television project that, although it never made it out of the development stage, is still memorable to Williams years later.

“Just to know that, hey, I’m doing this right and here I am reading lines with one of the greatest actors of my generation… I had these moments when we developed a television show together about a decade ago, where it was like, I almost don’t care what happens with this project, because this moment, I’m running lines with Denzel Washington,” Williams said. “I call them ‘tweeners’ —all the gold that I’ve ever found in my career happens in the moments in between these little moments that no one else sees. There’s no celebration, it’s not about ‘you got the job’ or ‘you’re nominated for the Oscar.’ It’s these little, these ‘tweener’ moments that are the real wins.”

A Journal for Jordan hits theaters in the U.S. on Christmas Day. In the meantime, watch the trailer here.

Main Image: Michael B Jordan and Chanté Adams in A Journal for Jordan. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures