Applause is automatic for any actor who can portray baseball legend Jackie Robinson is one movie and then in another the polar opposite of Robinson, Black music icon James Brown.
“Daunting” is a word the fast-ascending Chadwick Boseman has used to describe taking on such roles. But, clearly, he is up to the task.
Boseman is currently starring in “Get on Up,” the much-talked-about James Brown biopic that also features the Academy Award-winning Octavia Spencer, Oscar-nominated Viola Davis, Nelsan Ellis, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd.
The film, directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”), was filmed in Natchez, Mississippi, and Jackson, Mississippi.
BOSEMAN, who has won wide acclaim for his acting and dance moves in “Get on Up,” has joked that he got so much into the James Brown character that he had to be “exorcised” after filming was done because it felt like he was still the Godfather of Soul.
At first, he thought he wouldn’t be able to handle the role. “There’s no way in the world,” he thought to himself.
But in due time he acquiesced. Maybe it was providence.
To get the feel of the music, Boseman listened to virtually the entire, vast James Brown catalogue. He said he “just sat and listened to every song” until they were ingrained in him. He also said he took “a crash course in James Brown movement.”
Boseman was, perhaps, a casual fan before of Soul Brother No. 1, but now he is a big fan.
“WHEN you’re acting, you need a little bit of something to channel, transport you into another place,” he said. “When you’re doing a character, you want to know the full landscape. You want to know them spiritually, mentally and physically.”
Boseman feels that portraying iconic figures such as Brown and Robinson is a means of having a role in the telling, and celebrating, of Black history.
“Some people have said, ‘You don’t need to do any more biopics,’ but I don’t agree with that,” said Boseman. “A lot of our stories haven’t been told.”
Chadwick Aaron Boseman, 32, was born in Anderson, South Carolina. Upon graduation from high school he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Directing. He subsequently attended the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.
“I started out as a writer and a director,” he recalled. “I started acting because I wanted to know how to relate to the actors.”
IN ADDITION, he spent time at the Schomburg Center for Research in Harlem, New York, studying African (and African American) history.
Although he had done a significant amount of stage and television work prior to being cast in the lead in “42,” the Jackie Robinson story, it was that role that took Boseman’s career to the next level.
“I’m overwhelmed by it,” he said at the time. “It’s a huge responsibility. I wake up every morning, working and prepping on it and I’m having the time of my life playing baseball, studyng footage. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
HE WOULD love to portray Jimi Hendrix on screen, even though someone else has already done it.
Boseman’s television work includes “ER,” “All My Children,” “Law & Order,” “CSI: NY,” “Lincoln Heights,” “Persons Unknown,” “Castle” and “Detroit 1-8-7.”
Chadwick Boseman has come a long way since his first television role in 2003. Within the entertainment industry, and outside of it as well, the consensus is that he has arrived and that his career will be a long one. — SVH