The world was stunned when Chadwick Boseman tragically passed away last summer, news that came completely out of the blue given that the actor and his inner circle had gone to great lengths to maintain privacy and keep his battle with colon cancer out of the public eye, with the incredibly determined star shooting seven movies after his initial diagnosis.
Boseman’s final ever credit on a film or television project will fittingly see him reprise the role of T’Challa in animated Disney Plus series Marvel’s What If…?, with Kevin Feige confirming that he’d recorded lines for multiple episodes. In terms of a live-action legacy, though, Black Panther‘s leading man is right in the thick of the awards season race thanks to two powerhouse performances on Netflix.
Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods has him firmly in the running for Best Supporting Actor, while his phenomenal turn in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has made him the frontrunner to pick up Best Actor. It’s easily the finest work of an all too brief career, with his Levee delivering three monologues that are markedly different but equally powerful.
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The stage adaptation dominated the streaming service’s most-watched list for weeks after debuting last month, but Boseman’s longtime friend Anthony Mackie admitted in a recent interview that he’s not yet in the sort of emotional space where he can enjoy the movie for what it is without thinking of the man behind the character.
“I met Chad in ’98, ’99, so I’ve known him, I knew him for a long time. What was great about Chad, unlike everybody else today, Chad kept his circle close to his vest. He kept his world very private. That’s one thing, one of the things, that we had in common. Our time at work was our time at work, but our time at home was our time at home, and we didn’t allow the two to cross because that’s what keeps you grounded. That’s what you know if you look at the relationship he had with his wife, you look at the relationship he had with his family.
I haven’t seen it yet. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom holds a very special place, with the relationship to that, and my relationship to Chad, I haven’t been able to pull myself to the point, emotionally, to be able to sit and take that experience in, because I wouldn’t be able to watch it for the performance and the art. It would just be too emotional of a process for me.”
Having been friends for over 20 years, you can completely understand why Anthony Mackie would find it difficult to watch Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but millions of Boseman’s fans around the world still tuned in on day one to bid farewell to a talent who had so much more to give.