What is reality and fiction in the romantic drama “A Journal for Jordan”

Dana Canedy, left, is played by actor Chanté Adams in “A Journal for Jordan”, directed by Denzel Washington. (Jesse Dittmar / For the Times)

“A Journal for Jordan” is a story of love lost and found.

Directed by Denzel Washington, the film tells the true story of former New York Times editor-in-chief Dana Canedy (played by Chanté Adams) and 1st Sgt. The unlikely love story of Charles Monroe King (Michael B. Jordan).

“Dana just knew she wasn’t going to end up with someone like Charles,” Adams said. “It wasn’t the man she had painted in her imagination of who was going to be her future husband and father of her child. But they loved each other despite their differences. Their connection was magnetic, and eventually she had to give in. to that and it was probably the best decision she had ever made. “

King, a decorated soldier, began recording advice and guidance for his toddler son in a 200-page diary shortly before being deployed in 2006 to Iraq, where he was killed by an improvised explosive device .

Canedy recounted the experience in a 2007 New York Times essay and later a book, “A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor”, in part to help heal from loss. Seeing that effort come full circle in a movie, in theaters this Christmas, is gratifying, she says.

“Back when I was writing the book, part of the reason I did it was to help me get through the heartache,” said Canedy, now senior vice president of Simon & Schuster. “I had to find a positive way to channel the pain. Now, I’m not focusing so much on the healing as on the pride I have in sharing Charles with the world. It’s funny, women all over the world tell me. that they fell in love with Charles, which makes me smile and I know it would make him blush from above. “

The Times sat down with Canedy, Adams and Washington to discuss the 13-year journey to bring history to the screen.

How was this film born?

Washington’s production partner Todd Black bought the rights to the book and article in 2008 before it was published and hired Virgil Williams as a screenwriter.

“When Todd and Virgil gave me this script, I was like ‘Wow’,” Washington said. “I could see a movie. And we already knew we were going with Michael B. Jordan. We had seen him in ‘Fruitvale Station‘and Todd and I both really loved him. It was really just a matter of trying to find [an actress to play] Dana. “

Canedy contributed early on, working closely with Williams to get the details of the story. “We went through every page of the script,” she said. “Denzel regularly asked me questions [over] the last two years: “What color was Charles’s car?” Tell me about the first time you went on a date. What was it like when he came back from Iraq to meet his son? ‘”

“Between 2008 and 2018 was a period of trying to develop the script to get it somewhere comfortable,” Washington said. “And it was really Todd Black doing that. He [and] Virgil brought me a script in 2018 that moved me, which made me want to direct the film. “

“I still have pictures of Denzel holding Jordan on the set of his [‘The Taking of Pelham 123“] movie when Jordan was 3, “Canedy said of their first meeting.” So he knew me and my son not just as characters, but as real people. And he got to know Charles as a real person through us. “

What made Michael B. Jordan the right fit to play Charles?

“He’s an amazing actor but [he and Charles] also look a lot alike, “Canedy said.” And talking to him before we started filming I realized wow, to everyone he’s that great movie star but he’s also a nice and decent man and he is gentle and humble and he is a gentleman. I have the impression that he was singularly right about this project and I feel very deeply that God has led us all to this. “

“Michael was such a generous and supportive stage partner,” Adams said. “The first day I showed up for the shoot he said, ‘Just so you know, this is your movie and I’m supporting you.’ And just hearing that from Michael B. Jordan, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, was so reassuring and spoke to the kind of man he is. “

A woman in black and white stands next to a seated young woman in red.

Dana Canedy, left, and Chanté Adams, who portrayed her in “A Journal for Jordan”, pictured at the Whitby Hotel in New York City. (Jesse Dittmar / For the Times)

What made Chanté Adams the right person to play Dana?

“She’s there alone no one to play me, “Canedy said.” There’s no one else for this role. “

Canedy and Washington auditioned something like 200 actresses for the role. “And he kept saying, ‘I’ll know her when I see her,'” she said.

“[Then] he called me one day and said, ‘Open your computer’, ”she recalls. “And I said, ‘I’m at the supermarket.’ And he said, ‘Well, go home, turn on your computer and type in this name: Chanté Adams.’ “

“Her picture popped up on the screen and I was like, ‘Well, she sure looks like me around that time, 15 or 20 years ago.’ And I looked at her bio and she did classical training and won a Sundance award. And I was like, “She definitely has the skills.” And then talking to her, I realized that she had too. heart and that she was a faithful person, and when you combine all of that, there’s no one else for that role. “

“We started talking right after I got the part,” Adams said. “My anxiety was at its peak. I was so scared to talk to her the first time, just because I knew the weight this story had.” Be here. No one else can do that. It’s you, it’s me, and we’ll do it together. ”And she held my hand the whole process.

“I was trying to be polite so I only called her once every three weeks at first,” Adams added. “But the moment we started filming, we got so close that I was like, ‘Girl, what are you doing? I [have] some questions.’ And she would drop out any time, no matter what she was doing, just to help guide me through the process. “

“Now she’s part of the family, she’s my little sister,” Canedy said of the actress. “She really brought her heart and soul to it. And so did Mike. The first day I was on set I brought a gym bag full of things – so he was wearing Charles’s name tags. that day he was keeping the diary and he saw the outfit Jordan was wearing at his father’s funeral. It all made the experience very personal for everyone involved, and because of that you can clearly see in their performance a love story like no other. “

How did the actors flesh out the romantic aspects of Dana and Charles’s relationship?

Washington gave the actors carte blanche to uncover the emotional truth of Canedy and King’s relationship for themselves. “It’s the job of the actors, and they did a great job,” he said. “And Chanté was on the phone with Dana [often], I mean they’re close. I know they both did extensive research with Dana. “

“They had this amazing chemistry [that] was really palpable on set, ”said Canedy. “And it helped them really capture the passion that Charles and I shared. But they also captured the humor simply because they were playful with each other on set. I think they’ve come to really respect each other as actors and as people. It’s a very personal experience to shoot a movie like this and I think they helped each other through the difficult scenes. “

“I would call [Dana] the day before I had to shoot everything that was really big and she graciously guided me through every moment, ”Adams said. “Even the most difficult that she doesn’t like to talk about, she was very open with me. But these weren’t just sad times, they were also happy times. I wanted to know what she fell in love with about Charles and so just being able to hear it from her mouth really helped in the process for Michael and me. “

What was it like working with Denzel Washington to tell this story?

The chance to work with Washington is what initially drew Adams to audition for the role. “It was probably the first thing that attracted me, because the script was shrouded in secrecy throughout the audition process,” she said. “So I didn’t really know the story until later, but I knew the caliber of work Denzel attaches to and I knew I wanted to learn from him and study with him.

“Denzel is the best director I have ever had,” she added. “He just knows how to communicate with his actors. It was an amazing experience to be able to learn from him.”

“The Denzel Washington I know is a friend,” Canedy said. “And obviously we all know he’s a brilliant filmmaker, [but] he is also a man of faith, a father of a family. And knowing that it made me incredibly comfortable [putting] my life and my Charles life story in his hands … I tell him all the time that I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life. “

What does Jordan think of the film?

“He’s so proud,” Canedy said. “He is proud of his parents. To see him become this young man makes me proud. The parts of Charles that everyone talks about were his humble mind and soul. He gives, he loves. [and] it is Jordan. He stands up straight like his father when he walks. Sometimes I get a glimpse of that and I’m like, “Oh my God, he’s becoming her father.” I think Charles would be very proud. “

Why is now the right time for this story?

“Because we need love in this world,” Adams said. “And there is so much love in this movie. It’s not just romantic love – we see platonic love, family love, love between mother and son and even between a father and son [both] while he’s here and when he’s gone. As we are going through a pandemic, we need as much love as possible right now. “

“I think it’s just a beautiful love story,” Washington said. “And he’s a real hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. It’s about lost love, service and honor. He’s a real hero, a real gentleman. A man. who sacrificed everything and loved harder than most. She kept it alive and hopefully to a small extent we have it too. “

“I think [the movie] is a testament to the enduring power of love, ”Canedy said. “Even though there are parts of the film that are sad, it’s also funny and joyful to see these characters, who are me and my Charles, fall in love.

“You can’t love so hard and not feel the loss so hard when it happens,” she added. “But I also think the film is about resilience, hope and optimism. We are not victims or tragic characters. I had this incredible love that produced this incredible child – and being able to share it. ‘history of patriotism, black fatherhood, honor, dignity and love are a blessing. “

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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