When Chadwick Boseman was cast as the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson in last year’s movie biography 42, baseball and movie fans everywhere asked, “Who?”
Yet his portrayal won critical acclaim, even though Boseman’s only baseball experience was playing in Little League in his hometown of Anderson, S.C., and his main high school sport was basketball.
When Boseman was cast as the legendary entertainer and South Carolina native James Brown in this year’s movie Get On Up, music and movie fans everywhere asked, “Who?”
Those who have seen the movie in the Augusta preview showing would agree that Boseman has Brown’s mannerisms, speech patterns and stage movements pretty down pat. Some people who were very close to Brown have expressed concern that as Brown, Boseman uses a lot of cuss words, but they contend that in all their years around Brown, they never heard him cuss.
Many early viewers already are predicting that Boseman just might pick up an Oscar for his role as the Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite and The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, just as Jamie Foxx did for playing Ray Charles in Ray.
The music tracks used are mostly Brown’s own unmistakable recordings.
Boseman, who turns 32 on Aug. 18, covers Brown’s life from his youth detention time in Toccoa, Ga., about 1952 until he staged a successful comeback concert in 1993, director Tate Taylor has said.
Never mind that Brown’s first real successful comeback concert was in June of 1991 with a pay-per-view concert staged at Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater.
Before he landed his career-changing role as Cairo, Ga.,-born baseball player Robinson, Boseman mostly was known to television fans.
The Web site imdb.com lists him landing a small part in All My Children in 1970 when he was 12. As recently as three years ago, he was playing a minor role on the TV detective series Castle in an episode about a magic store owner being murdered. Other TV roles have included being on ER, Lincoln Heights, Law & Order, Cold Case and CSI: NY.
Boseman’s life growing up in Anderson has been covered by the Anderson Independent Mail newspaper and in interviews with other media.
Boseman’s parents live in Belton, S.C. His father, Leroy Boseman, owns an upholstery business in Anderson and his mother is a nurse.
He took part in school and community theater before graduating from T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson in 1995. He went on to graduate from the theater program at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford, England.
Boseman tried out for a supporting role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained but didn’t get it.
However, that movie’s casting director, Victoria Thomas, who also was casting director for 42, has told reporters that Tarantino turned to her after Boseman’s audition and said, “That guy is going to be something.”
Most recently, Boseman has been in Australia filming a movie called Gods of Egypt due out in 2016 that is set in ancient Egypt. He is portraying Thoth, the god of wisdom.
Hopefully with his successful roles as Jackie Robinson and James Brown, fans of Egyptian lore won’t be asking, “Who?”
Don Rhodes is the author of Say It Loud! My Memories of James Brown, Soul Brother No. 1, which was reissued nationwide in paperback on July 1 as Say It Loud! The Life of James Brown, Soul Brother No. 1.