Chadwick Boseman is about to hit the big screen as one of most essential players in American history. The Southern born actor will star as James Brown in Get On Up, a film produced by Mick Jagger and directed by The Help‘s Tate Taylor. This role marks the second American legend Boseman has played, and an assured ascent to the top of Hollywood’s list of most talented actors.
The film comes out August 1.
Here’s what you need to know about him.
1. He Received His BFA In Directing
Boseman attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing. He later traveled to Oxford to study acting at the British American Drama Academy. Some of Boseman’s stage credits include: Breathe, Romeo and Juliet, Bootleg Blues, Zooman, and Willie’s Cut and Shine.
He won the AUDELCO award for his work in a 2002 play by Rob Milner called Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms.
Boseman first appeared on the TV in the mid-200s as a guest star in Third Watch, CSI:NY, and All My Children. He booked other guest star roles on ER, Lie to Me, The Glades, and Cold Case, while shooting a reoccurring role as Nathaniel Ray on ABC Family’s Lincoln Heights.
2. He Played Jackie Robinson
It’s a dream deferred. And when a dream deferred is fulfilled, it’s like, Oh my gosh.
Brian Helgeland, the film’s writer and director, was determined to cast an unknown in the lead role for reasons of being believable. He told Time,
I just have a much easier time buying into the whole thing when the actor is not very well known… otherwise the audience is trying to get past the person they know and into the movie.
To prepare for Robinson, Boseman read multiple books on the baseball star and watched hours of baseball footage. Boseman also got the opportunity to talk to Robinson’s widowed wife, Rachel. Though she was initially hesitant about having such a young actor cast in a huge role, Rachel ended up being impressed and moved by Boseman’s performance.
I was thrilled by Chad’s depiction of Jack. I was moved to tears by the performance. I felt the warmth and passion that Jack and I felt for each other. It’s quietly portrayed. I cherished it so much.
3. He Was Born In the Blue Ridge Mountains
Boseman was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, a city of 26,000 people. It’s nestled into the Blue Ridge Mountains in a place that isn’t terribly conducive to a successful acting career. He tells Time,
No one is supposed to come from there and do this right here, what I’m doing.
Boseman’s birth in Anderson is what struck the film’s director as being an essential part of his being cast as James Brown. The director told ABC News,
When I found out that [Boseman] was from Anderson, South Carolina … something told me that he would have what was needed just in his DNA, in his veins.
4. He Stayed In Character During Filming
Boseman dived into the character of James Brown by studying countless hours of the musician’s footage. At first, he found the role daunting, but once he found James Brown’s “groove”, the rest came naturally. Tate Taylor, the film’s director, said Boseman stayed in character during the filming process, regardless of where they were or what scene they were shooting.
He would show up as James Brown. It was amazing. The people around Chad would call him Mr. Brown. When he was picked up in the morning it was, ‘Mr. Brown in the car. Mr. Brown is on-set.
Taylor also added on that Boseman spent so much time studying his role that he rarely, if ever, showed up for dinner with the cast and crew.
He was working so hard, he would make a rare appearance out to dinner, and it would just be odd that Chad was there.
For the film, Boseman had to play Brown from ages 17-60 and relied on a photograph from James Brown’s grandson to help him get into an older mindset. He told Billboard.com,
Some days, I was 63 in the morning and 17 after lunch, and then 35.
5. He Has 42 First Cousins
In an interview with Ellen in April, Boseman brought up the fact that his huge family consists of 42 first cousins.
Boseman had never been officially trained in dance before he took on the role in Get On Up. In fact, apart from doing some hip-hop theater, he was worried he wouldn’t be able to pull off the Brown moves. Boseman worked with a choreographer for hours a day to develop his dance skills prior to filming. It seems like the hard work paid off, because even Brown’s family believed Boseman’s portrayal of the soulful singer. Jason, Brown’s grandson, told THR:
Chadwick’s work ethic was outstanding. He knew how important the role was to the world, and he gave his world to play James Brown.