Academy Award winner and Hollywood icon Denzel Washington has opened up about working alongside Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman so close to his death. Washington, who was on board as a producer for Netflix’s biographical musical drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Boseman, described the late star as a “man among men,” and revealed that he wondered whether “something was wrong.”
“A man among men. He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job. I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes. We had no idea, and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself.”
Speaking with Variety, Denzel Washington, like many who had worked with Boseman while he had been secretly suffering, praised the actor for his fortitude and grace in dealing with his illness so privately. Star of such movies as Black Panther, Da 5 Bloods, and 42, Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away on August 28, 2020, at the age of just 43 following a four-year battle with colon cancer that the actor had decided to keep secret.
The links between Denzel Washington and Chadwick Boseman run deep, with the former having famously helped pay for Boseman’s Howard University peers’ tuition for a summer drama program at Oxford University. During an event in 2019 at which Washington was presented with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Boseman thanked the Training Day star and honored his legacy saying, “There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington. Not just because of me, but my whole cast, that generation stands on your shoulders.”
Directed by George C. Wolfe and written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was released by Netflix in November last year and finds Chadwick Boseman as the talented-but-overconfident trumpeter, Levee Green. Based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, the movie details the tensions and temperatures that arise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians awaits trailblazing performer, the legendary Mother of the Blues, the titular Ma Rainey (Academy Award winner Viola Davis).
The movie saw Chadwick Boseman receive a lot of awards attention, including being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. He went on to win a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an NAACP Image Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a London Film Critics’ Circle Award, among others.
Denzel Washington can next be seen in director Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, which finds the actor starring as Shakespeare’s doomed ruler alongside fellow Academy Award winner Frances McDormand. Written and directed by one half of The Coen Brothers, Joel Coen, The Tragedy of Macbeth follows a Scottish lord who becomes convinced by a trio of witches that it is his destiny to become the king of Scotland, and is due to be released onto Apple TV+ later this month on January 14.