Secretly battling the disease that would kill him, Chadwick Boseman had an emotional moment on set of his final film

By Ale Russian
December 07, 2020 12:40 PM
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Chadwick Boseman had a devastating moment on set of his final film, months before his death at 43.

The actor's last role comes as trumpet player Levee in Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. In a new interview with WSJ. Magazine, the film's director, Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe, recalled how one scene turned surprisingly poignant for the late star.

The scene came as Levee belittles Colman Domingo's Cutler for being a man of faith, ending in an emotional monologue the director didn't think Boseman would attempt in one take. The speech sees Levee look up to the skies and challenge "Cutler's God," according to the magazine.

“We were doing it in a very casual way, and I assumed that when Levee got to the big speech that Chadwick was going to stop. But he didn’t stop. He kept going, and Levee took over—it was raw and explosive," remembered Wolfe. "Afterwards, Chadwick just started to sob, and Colman hugged him, and then Chadwick’s girlfriend basically picked him up.”

Chadwick Boseman
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Boseman was dating Taylor Simone Ledward at the time, though the two married before his death. Boseman died in August four years after being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

Credit: NETFLIX

Also speaking to the magazine, Domingo remembered how Boseman would often seem preoccupied on set.

“I could tell with Chad sometimes, he had something on his mind. He’d walk into a room and he wouldn’t speak to anyone,” Domingo said.

Domingo then jokingly confronted the actor, saying, “Oh, you’re just not going to say hi to anybody?” Domingo remembered Boseman smiling at the time, subsequently making it a point to shake Domingo's hand and give him a hug every day on set.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is based on August Wilson's 1982 play about the "Mother of Blues" Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her experience with white management at the time. The movie takes place in 1927 Chicago and explores the racial tension in the music world as white record executives profited off of Black artists.

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
| Credit: Netflix

Last month, Netflix confirmed its plan to campaign the late star as the lead actor in the upcoming film. Netflix will also campaign him for supporting actor awards for his turn in Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods this summer.

Should he be nominated for Best Actor at the 2021 Academy Awards, Boseman will be the first posthumous nominee in the category since Massimo Troisi for 1995’s Il Postino. If he is nominated for Best Supporting Actor, he would become the third person in Oscar history to do so, following Ralph Richardson in 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Heath Ledger in 2008’s The Dark Knight.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom starts streaming on Netflix on Dec. 18.