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Denzel Washington Reflects On Chadwick Boseman Hiding His Illness During Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Denzel Washington as Det. Deke Deacon in Warner Bros.' The Little Things and Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green in Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
(Image credit: Warner Bros./Netflix)

Denzel Washington has touched so many actors in varying ways. One of those was late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman – both directly and indirectly. While the two stars never shared the screen, Washington produced Boseman in the acclaimed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which scored Boseman a posthumous Oscar nomination. Like many people in Hollywood, the two-time Oscar winner wasn’t aware of the late star’s cancer battle until his untimely passing. Now The Tragedy of Macbeth star has reflected on Boseman hiding his illness during production.

The A Journal for Jordan director and Chadwick Boseman shared a special bond after the former funded the latter’s Oxford education. It would be years before the two stars would connect. But when they did, there was a mutual love and respect between the two men after meeting in person. Unfortunately, their time together was short. Denzel Washington revealed to Variety what Boseman was like on the set of Ma Rainey despite his cancer battle.

A man among men. He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job. I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes. We had no idea, and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself.

The Equalizer star’s fatherly instinct went off as he suspected something was going on with his leading star. But he didn’t pry or snoop behind Boseman’s back like some might do. Washington respected the Black Panther actor's privacy enough to let him deal with his illness on his terms. Denzel Washington’s recount revealed just how resilient and determined Chadwick Boseman was to complete the film without any special treatment or pity.

Indeed, Denzel Washington has done nothing but heaped compliments to the Get on Up star since his unexpected passing. The two-time Oscar winner praised Boseman alongside The Little Things co-stars Rami Malek and Jared Leto for their outstanding acting skills. Washington’s praise for Boseman wasn’t done yet as he popped up in the Netflix documentary Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist. The Flight star spoke highly of the late actor equating him waterless orange juice for being “too strong, too good, and too powerful.” So, Denzel Washington was fond of both Boseman the actor and the person.

Denzel Washington hasn’t been the only star to sing Boseman’s praises in recent months. His Ma Rainey co-star Viola Davis revealed she had to step up her game to match his acting skills. Other co-stars like Delroy Lindo and Angela Bassett have spoken on the impression the late star left on them. Chadwick Boseman’s absence in the film industry will be felt for years to come. But if you want to witness his final live-action performance, you can stream Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix.

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).