Chadwick Boseman: 42 and Beyond

by Zoe Heredia

Chadwick Boseman. An actor, an icon, and a hero for millions of fans around the world. Boseman changed the game of the film industry by playing important historical figures such as singer James Brown in Get on Up (2014), civil rights activist and lawyer Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017), and further gained recognition and prominence playing the titular character in Black Panther (2018). The foundation for this mainstream success was first brought to light when Boseman starred as Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013). 42 was a sports drama film based on the life of Jackie Robinson, a baseball player who was the first African American to play Major League Baseball and broke the color line playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that became a Boseman-fan favorite film.  

“I knew it was a life-changing experience…it’s just one of those things that everybody has a stake in, so the responsibility is a great responsibility.” These were the words of Chadwick Boseman during an interview in 2013 discussing playing the role of Jackie Robinson. Boseman was a man of integrity, especially when it came to playing such an important figure in American history like Robinson. Boseman did not slack on doing his research and did not take his role lightly; he went through months of training in preparation for the role. Through a few connections, Boseman had gotten in touch with Dennis Reits, a former high school baseball coach. Boseman began training, learning everything he could not only about how to be a baseball player, but how to be a ball player like Jackie Robinson. This included the way he would either throw or pitch, his stance, even how Jackie slid into the bases. Boseman even learned how Robinson held the bat toward the umpire instead of at an angle like most ball players. It was every detail like this that were important to Boseman so he could fully incapsulate the great ball player.  Boseman had himself filmed on video in order to capture his movements and would play both his and Jackie’s captured video performances on the field, side-by-side to fully master his moves. 

By the end of filming, almost everyone had an idea of Chadwick Boseman, a hard-working man who kept going when the going got rough. He was the type who wanted to go one more round, who wanted to practice one more swing at the bat to get it perfect, despite how tired and worn out he had felt; then again, it seems only fitting that this be the proper response when he was playing a legend. Boseman was a hard-working and humble guy and playing the role of a very famous baseball player was not going to change that. 

Those that worked closely with Boseman on the set of 42 had the honor of seeing where his foundation for playing important figures began. At the 42 premiere, Boseman was the same down-to-earth guy everyone knew during filming; the difference this time was that he was the star of the show on the red carpet and all eyes were on him. 42 then went on to receive positive reviews from critics, citing Boseman’s performance and its historical accuracies as authentic. After the success of 42, Boseman went on to star in many successful films, his most iconic role playing the superhero T’Challa a.k.a Black Panther. The success and praise Boseman received playing these characters is a testament to how seriously he took each role.  

Personally, Chadwick Boseman is one of my favorite actors in the world. I first discovered who Boseman was from watching 42 one night with a friend of mine. We were scrolling through the movie selections trying to decide what movie to rent. I scrolled across 42 and did not think much of it. Only my friend had stopped me and said we should watch the preview and check it out. We then watched the trailer and decided that since there was not any other good movies on, we settled for 42. I was amazed at how well Boseman portrayed Robinson and I could see the dedication he had while playing this role. I was impressed with the actor’s portrayal of Robinson. I had enjoyed watching Boseman on the screen. After, I didn’t think I would see him in too many movies, and even thought he might be a “one hit wonder” type of actor, so I didn’t bother to remember his name. Little did I know over the next five or six years, Chadwick Boseman started to become a household name.

I had started to see Boseman’s name pop up on commercials on tv and started to see movie posters with his face on them. I did not think he would have become so popular, until the trailer for Black Panther graced our screens. It was really an amazing thing to see how far Boseman had come and to see that he had landed such a life changing role on the big screen. From the outside perspective of a fellow movie lover, I thought it was so cool to think about how Boseman went from a guy playing Jackie Robinson in 2013 to just five years later playing one of the biggest superheroes in the Marvel Universe. However, 42 has remained my favorite film by Boseman because it was the movie that introduced me to the late actor and was a movie surrounding my favorite sport. Boseman helped me see how much racial prejudice and struggle Robinson went through on and off the field, with me having a better understanding and greater respect for both Robinson and Boseman. Chadwick Boseman was an inspiration to many on and off screen, and to see where it really began in 42 was an inspiration in itself. Boseman would become one of the biggest Hollywood stars in the industry and a hero to many. Rest in peace to a legend.  

Zoe Heredia is a Cinematic Arts Major at HBU. In her free time she enjoys watching movies and geeking out over anime with her friends.

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