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Chadwick Boseman America's Sweetheart

Story By Lauren de Normandie, HFJ Editor-in-Chief Photos Copyright Š 2013 Warner Brothers Studios 34


Photo Copyright © 2013 Warner Brothers Studios

The buzz is incredible, the bases are loaded, everyone is anticipating the release of 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic sliding into a theater near you April 12th. The crowd holds its collective breath as the tall, dark and handsome hero steps up to the plate. He signals, waits for the pitch, swings and knocks the damn thing right out of the park – a grand slam. I had the pleasure, nay the honor, of crafting the questions which allowed me to peel back the layers of America's newest darling, Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick (Chad) is not exactly what you would expect from the next Hollywood Megastar, he's humble, down to earth and about as far from a primadonna as you can get. In the weeks leading up to Chad's 42 Premiere, or "beautillion" as I've lovingly come to refer to it, he graciously took the time to sit back, take a deep breath, and answer some easy, and some not so easy questions. You’re from South Carolina, what inspired you to become an actor and what do you enjoy most about acting? I'm an artist. To this day I'm not sure if I enjoy acting more than directing and directing more than writing. I thought I was going to be the next Spike Lee or John Singleton. A lot of directors have been inspired by the same notion. I liked working with actors. I learned quickly that a lot of directors don't like working with actors. Some of them actually despise the actor because they don't really understand how to communicate with the actor.

They would rather play with the toys and treat the actor like a puppet. I never wanted to do that, so I acted to get a real understanding of the actor's process. Professor Katz at Howard made that suggestion to me early on, to act to become a good director. Acting was one of the most terrifying things I had attempted. I had to get over the fear of it. Over time I started to forget that I was a writer/director studying the actor and I started to enjoy rehearsing, making choices, finding new things in a scene, losing myself in it. Maybe I always wanted to act and I didn't know it. Maybe I just couldn't admit it. I still really haven't gotten over the initial fear of performing. There are still days when I feel just as nervous as I ever did. So I guess I still have some more acting to do We saw you graduated from Howard University, was there something that drew you to choose that university your undergraduate degree? It wasn't really a well thought out decision. God takes care of babes and fools they say. I understood Howard's rich history in a general way. I didn't really know its lineage of great artist until after I got there. The professors there were committed to the cause of advancing the black artist. It was not just a job to many of them. Sybil Roberts used to teach an unlisted writing course from her office after hours. It was a calling to many of them, a cause. They wanted you to find your own voice before you got swallowed up by the world. I'm not sure if I could have obtained that anywhere else. But I would be lying if I said I knew all that beforehand. I was a kid. I was just trying something.

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Photo Copyright Š 2013 Warner Brothers Studios

"Just a Kid" Even After many of us graduate and take our grown-up place in the world we fail to recognize our stages of development. I know that up until I had the opportunity to look back over how Chad answered some of his questions I hadn't realized (I ignored) how much of a child I had been at 18.

Chad's remarkable insight into his own psyche is, in my opinion, what makes him such a phenomenal actor. It is nearly impossible to connect with a character, especially if that character was a real person, if you don't first connect with yourself. What inspired you go overseas and attend the British American Dramatic Academy in Oxford, England? Phylicia Rashad, a Howard alum taught an acting course there once a week. She encouraged a few of us to do the summer exchange in Oxford. She also helped us to find money to pay for it. She is still one of my most adored and trusted mentors. You won an AUDELCO Award in 2002 for an onstage performance, do you prefer one type of acting over the other? I don't have a preference. I will always love theater, and film is theater revised, remixed. They inform one another in the same way that jazz informs the blues. They affect one another. Exposure to moving photography continues to evolve the rhythm and aesthetics of theatrical storytelling. And theater will always feed the film medium with voices. Being able to go between mediums as an artist is essential to bringing film's subtlety to the stage and stage presence to film. I love both challenges.

Photo Copyright Š 2013 Warner Brothers Studios 36


Not only do you get to step into a blockbuster with Harrison Ford, but as Jackie Robinson you get to portray a historical icon, the first African American to break into MLB in the modern era, this has to be both challenging and rewarding. Did you feel any additional pressure with this being a biographical role as opposed to a fictional character? Of course I did, but all you can do as an actor is search for what's true. Seeking approval outside of honesty is the enemy of art. It instantly compromises it. I could name at least ten different factions of pressure off the top of my head, but the only one that drove me to a positive place was pressure from the Robinson family. I should redefine "pressure" to "challenge". Rachel Robinson challenged me in a very loving, wise and stately way. And how appropriate, since she and Jackie Robinson met and conquered so many challenges. How could I play the role if I was too weak to meet her challenge?

Photo Copyright Š 2013 Warner Brothers Studios

I felt that having met so many challenges in her life that she would recognize my honest attempts at meeting the challenges of the role. What was it like working with film legend Harrison Ford? One of the first things Harrison said to me was that he cherishes every single role like it's the first or the last. He doesn't take any role for granted. Seems simple, but there's a lot to learn from that. I've seen actors with far less prestige and experience who fail miserably at that. That's something you can work on for the rest of your career. And that's what it's like working with him. You get a whole lot when he does/says a little. He doesn't seem to waste time on things that don't matter. So if he makes a point of something everyone takes notice. If he makes a point of focusing on you it makes you really consider what he's zeroing in on. He's just being himself, but I'll be coming to realizations of why he might have done or said things for years to come.

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Outside of sports training, what kind of research did you do to prepare for this role? Rachel Robinson was the most important source. Other than her, I just made it part of my everyday life. I read a few biographies. I particularly enjoyed Rampersad's take on the history. It detailed the time period so well. I also liked Wendell Smith's biography, because he traveled with Jackie Robinson. Smith is also a key character in 42. And "I Never Had It Made", Jackie Robinson's autobiography,

ut ing abo lk a t t it . I'm al tone Smith accoun n c o v is ry o an h dell on't me than the Wen 's documenta age, d I , e voic ter foot Burn ice. By itten much la open. Ken all of Fame hotos, o v is h e s, p mor 's H 's wr e of a sens e. Because it e. It seemed kie Robinson apters, article e m e gav Jac voic , ch ectiv l inner ifferent persp l as well as s other clips a e r is h s fu countle lightly d ry help has a s was also ve e were also ll er baseba by MLB. Th d provide . tc music e Photo Copyright Š 2013 Warner Brothers Studios 38


Photo Copyright Š 2013 Warner Brothers Studios

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Photo Copyright Š 2013 The Jackie Robinson Foundation

Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) brings the story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson to life. "42" features newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in playing opposite Harrison Ford and Christopher Meloni. The film centers on Robinson's historical signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, paving the way for minorities in sports by being the first AfricanAmerican to play in Major League Baseball since the establishment of legal racial segregation in the United States in 1876 with the ratification of the Jim Crow Laws.

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In addition to being the first African-American to play on a Major League Baseball Team, Robinson was the first African-American television analyst in MLB and the first Black vice-president of a major American corporation. Jackie Robinson has become an icon both in and out of the Black community. After his death in 1972, his widow, Rachel Robinson, founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The foundation give scholarships to minority youth for higher education while preserving the legacy of Jackie Robinson.


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Chadwick Boseman - Exclusive Interview  

Chadwick Boseman, Star of "42" Lands Cover and Give Exclusive Interview with the Hollywood Film Journal

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