On the heels of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom debuting on Netflix Friday, friends of Chadwick Boseman are revealing some of their treasured memories of the actor to The Hollywood Reporter.
The actor’s last performance is captured in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Viola Davis. While fans will see the film as a last chance to see the actor in his element, Boseman’s inner circle–including personal costumer Craig Anthony, makeup designer Siân Richards, hair designer (and sister of Jamie Foxx) Deidra Dixon and agent Michael Greene–are able to remember personal moments with the Boseman only they were privy to.
“He came into the makeup trailer [for Message From the King] for a makeup test, and he was one of the most potent people I have ever been around, and yet had such inner peace,” said Richards. “I knew he was different because I’d grown up in the business. This is the only thing I’ve known my entire life. He never announced himself physically in entrance. He would just appear. Like a ninja. And we just hit it off. It was bizarre. I felt like I’d known him forever.
The group’s closeness became a central part of Boseman’s presence on set. For instance, Greene’s contract for Boseman included the prerequisite that Richards, Dixon and Anthony were also allocated for. Anthony called Green “the conductor amongst all of us,” denoting how close the group became during their four to five years of working together and with Boseman.
The insistence on Boseman having his personal crew with him sometimes ran afoul of film productions, including Da 5 Bloods, but Richards said how Boseman would stand up for his crew and for their pay.
“They were really pushing back on him having his team, and production was going, ‘No, you can’t have this entourage,'” she said, adding that Boseman said, “‘No, it’s not an entourage. You don’t understand.'”
“He really did say, ‘I don’t need to do this film. If they don’t come, I don’t come.”
It’s still pretty tough to deal with because everybody looks at it as work, and it wasn’t for us,” said Dixon, who is now uncertain if she will come back to Hollywood after losing both Boseman and her sister, DeOndra Dixon, in the same year. “We were the last people that he would see before he had to get in front of the camera. And we always wanted to make sure that he could do his best when it was time to say action.”
“He always wanted to do things that mattered or were meaningful,” Greene said of Boseman. “Like, every role, even if it was a series or a TV show, it had to be something that would represent something positive. Because he was always a speaker–on debate teams and so on, he dtold me. And when we went to the Congressional Black Caucus together when 42 came out, he was standing there with Jesse Jackson and it was like had been doing this for his entire life, he was so comfortable.”
Anthony, Dixon and Richards became more than just Boseman’s personal team on set. As Boseman battled colon cancer, the three made sure to make Boseman’s experience on set was nurturing enough for him to complete his tasks. Greene said Boseman called the three “his three angels.”
“He wanted them around becaue he knew he’d be safe and taken care and they cared so deeply about him,” he said.
Boseman also spread that care to others, such as on the set of Black Panther. Greene describes Boseman helping an elderly woman on set, probably Atlanta native Dorothy Steel, who, at 93 years of age, portrayed one of the tribal elders during the film’s production on Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios.
“I remember him calling to me and saying, ‘I don’t think she has had anything to eat,'” said Greene. “He was stopping everything he was doing to make sure that this little older lady from the tribal scenes was taken care of. And that’s what he did. He never changed from the day I met him, ever, which is so unusual in Hollywood.”
You can read the full account at The Hollywood Reporter.