Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan Are Collaborating Once Again, This Time on a Film Penned By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan first showed the dynamism of their work together with Fruitvale Station and Creed, the first being Coogler’s directorial debut feature, following a day in the life of Oscar Grant, who, at the end of that day, would be killed, while unarmed, in the Fruitvale BART Station by a police officer. 2015’s Creed, meanwhile, was a surprisingly good Rocky spinoff/sequel (“Rocky spinoff/sequel” never sounded good), in which Jordan played the son of Adonis Creed, Rocky Balboa’s former rival. And following that hit, Coogler signed on to direct Marvel’s Black Panther film — and Jordan was unsurprisingly announced as a cast member of that, too (playing Erik Killmonger). Now, they’re adding another project to their list of collaborations — and thankfully it won’t just be superhero movies and sequels from here on out.

Their next project is based on a 2014 New Yorker article written by Rachel Aviv, with Ta-Nehisi Coates adapting it as a screenplay, and Brad Pitt’s Plan B (who were behind MoonlightOkja, Ryan Murphy’s Feud, 12 Years a Slave… to name a few) producing. Coogler has spoken of his admiration for Coates’s writing — Coates’s recent Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet books have “absolutely” influenced Coogler’s take on the character. “He’s my favorite writer right now in the world. Since being turned on to his work, I’m reading everything that he does,” said Coogler of Coates at Comic Con in 2016. 

According to Deadline, Coogler and Jordan have been discussing turning Aviv’s New Yorker story, “Wrong Answer,” into a film since they worked together on Creed. The film will see Jordan playing Atlanta-area middle school math teacher Damany Lewis (who’ll be serving as a consultant on the project, alongside Aviv). In 2006, Lewis became immersed in a scandal surrounding Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests — standardized tests affiliated with the Bush-implemented (arguable misnomer) No Child Left Behind. NCLB could see the shutdown schools that didn’t perform well on their tests, which themselves failed to take into consideration socioeconomic variations that might impact the scores of underprivileged students. Aviv’s New Yorker piece described:

Lewis photocopied the math, reading, and language-arts sections—the subjects that would determine, under the No Child Left Behind guidelines, whether Parks would be classified as a “school in need of improvement” for the sixth year in a row. Unless fifty-eight per cent of students passed the math portion of the test and sixty-seven per cent passed in language arts, the state could shut down the school. Lewis put on gloves, to prevent oil from his hands from leaving a residue on the plastic, and then used his lighter to melt the edges of the cellophane together, so that it appeared as if the package had never been opened. He gave the reading and language-arts sections to two teachers he trusted and took the math section home.

No details about a production schedule have been provided; Black Panther, however, will be out on Feb. 16, 2018.