George C. Wolfe is remembering an emotional moment with Chadwick Boseman. In an interview with WSJ. Magazine, the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom director recalls Boseman reacting to an emotional scene after the cameras stopped rolling. Boseman died in August after a private cancer battle. He was 43.
In the emotional Ma Rainey scene, Boseman’s Levee gets into a physical altercation and verbal argument with Cutler (Colman Domingo) over the latter’s belief in God.
“We were doing it in a very casual way, and I assumed that when Levee got to the big speech that Chadwick was going to stop,” Wolfe says. “But he didn’t stop. He kept going, and Levee took over — it was raw and explosive.”
“Afterwards, Chadwick just started to sob, and Colman hugged him, and then Chadwick’s girlfriend basically picked him up,” the director adds of Taylor Simone Ledward, who Boseman married prior to his death.
While Wolfe, like many in Boseman’s life, didn’t know of the actor’s illness prior to his death, some of the Black Panther star’s comments make more sense in retrospect. One such comment came when Boseman was preparing for a scene where his character reveals a scar on his chest, a result of a traumatic childhood experience.
“He talked to me about having a secret, and how intense it is to reveal a secret to someone else, how vulnerable that makes you feel,” Wolfe recalls.
As for Boseman’s co-star, Domingo, he notes that he “could tell with Chad sometimes, he had something on his mind.”
“He’d walk into a room and he wouldn’t speak to anyone,” Domingo says, before recalling how he jokingly confronted Boseman for his behavior.
“Oh, you’re just not going to say hi to anybody?” Domingo recalls saying, to which Boseman responded with a grin. From that point on, the late actor always shook Domingo’s hand and gave him a hug when he got to work.
Even when the Ma Rainey cast reconvened in May to rerecord bits of dialogue, Wolfe didn’t know about or suspect Boseman’s condition.
“I knew only what I had before me, so there was no weight,” Wolfe says. “There was only the exhilaration of the work.”
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will debut on Netflix Dec. 18.
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