The lines are often blurry, but there’s definitely a distinction between being an actor and being a movie star. In the broadest sense of the term, you could describe it as the difference between taking challenging roles to test yourself and the desire to churn out populist entertainment designed to provide something that as many people as possible can enjoy. For example, Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix are actors, but Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson are movie stars, despite all of them having the same job at the end of the day.
Chadwick Boseman may have played the title role in the twelfth highest-grossing movie in history before going on to lend support in two epic blockbusters that earned over $2 billion apiece, but Viola Davis says that the late actor had no designs on A-list stardom. The duo have been winning rave reviews for their respective powerhouse performances in Netflix drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, with Boseman virtually guaranteed to scoop a posthumous Best Actor Oscar having swept the board during awards season so far.
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Outside of his role as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther, Boseman was more interested in character than commercialism, with the obvious exception of being the only thing worth recommending about the otherwise risible flop Gods of Egypt. One of the words you hear most often associated with the star when his peers talk about him is ‘integrity,’ and in a new interview, Davis was no different.
“What I’ll remember about his legacy is his integrity, and I know people say that so often. They dole that out just like they dole out the word brilliant. But, there’s not a lot of integrity out there. I think it takes a lot of courage to be authentic. Like they say, ‘Courage is just fear said with prayers’. I just felt that he was not interested in being a movie star as much as he was concerned with being a really great artist.”
Boseman only got the chance to appear in fifteen movies before his tragic passing last summer, but Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom looks to put a fitting exclamation point on his legacy, even though he had so much more to give.