Who is Just Mercy’s Bryan Stevenson?

The lawyer at the heart of Just Mercy is a real – and incredible – person. But who exactly is he?
In Just Mercy, Michael B. Jordan (Creed, Black Panther) plays lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson. But who exactly is this pivotal, revolutionary figure in the American legal system?

30 years ago, Stevenson did something huge: he founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Since then, he’s worked tirelessly to free over 100 prison inmates, many of them black Americans, who are disproportionately discriminated against. Stevenson’s aim is to overturn as many unjust, unfair convictions as he can.

Stevenson recently rocketed into the public eye, however, after giving an incredible TED talk that went viral. The talk became one of the most widely shared ever from the iconic series.

Then, he wrote a bestselling book, called Just Mercy. But Stevenson, as you can see from his TED talk, has a unique, dynamic speaking style and a way of conveying ideas with passion and clarity that has literally saved lives over the years. Stevenson himself will be appearing onscreen in the new HBO documentary series, True Justice.

And now, the film Just Mercy is bringing Stevenson’s incredibly brave, tireless decades of work to the big screen. It focuses on Stevenson’s first case: Walter McMillan was sentenced to death for the murder of an 18 year old white woman back in 1986. The evidence tying McMillan to the case was inadequate, but a questionable legal system – and embedded racism – drew Stevenson to dive headfirst into defending McMillan, played in the film by Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx.

Perhaps the most incredible thing about Stevenson, and something you’ll see in Just Mercy through Michael B. Jordan’s uncanny performance, is that he has an innate faith in what the legal system can do for people who’ve been discriminated against. He’s an optimist, and it’s his optimism that has drawn him headfirst into the public eye recently. And it’s this optimism that makes Just Mercy such a striking piece of cinema.

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