Denzel Washington says he ‘wondered if something was wrong’ with Chadwick Boseman’s health

"He never said a peep about it. He just did his job," said Washington about the actor's cancer battle.

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Denzel Washington says the late Chadwick Boseman “suffered quietly” while filming his final film role, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. 

Boseman starred opposite Viola Davis in the Oscar-winning 2020 Netflix movie that Washington produced. The Black Panther star died in August 2020 at 43 after a four-year private battle with colon cancer.  

“A man among men. He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know,” said Washington in a cover story for Variety. “He never said a peep about it. He just did his job.”

Denzel Washington Chadwick Boseman thegrio.com
(Credit: Getty Images)

Washington admits he was concerned about Boseman’s declining health during production.

“I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes,” the actor/director added. “We had no idea, and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself.”

Boseman revealed in 2018 that Washington played a special role in getting him started in Hollywood. theGrio previously reported that while studying at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Washington and veteran actress Phylicia Rashad (also a Howard alum) both served as his benefactors.

When Boseman and several of his Howard University classmates were selected for an exclusive Oxford acting program, Rashad and Washington quietly covered the costs. Boseman shared the story in June 2019 during a ceremony honoring Washington with American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Many of you already know the story that Mr. Washington, when asked by Phylicia Rashad to join her in assisting nine theater students from Howard University who had been accepted to a summer acting program at the British Academy of Dramatic Acting in Oxford, gracefully and privately agreed to contribute,” Boseman said at the time. 

“As fate would have it, I was one of the students that he paid for. Imagine receiving the letter that your tuition for that summer was paid for and that your benefactor was none other than the dopest actor on the planet. … There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington.”

'Black Panther' European Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals
Chadwick Boseman (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

During his 2018 Oscar’s interview with Good Morning America, Boseman revealed to host Michael Strahan that when he finally had the opportunity to meet Washington and thank him, the Hollywood icon had jokes. Boseman said the Oscar-winning actor told him, “You owe me money. And I came to collect.”

In a statement after Boseman’s death, Washington said the beloved artist “was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career.”

The Hollywood community celebrated Boseman’s legacy on what would have been his 45th birthday on Nov. 29. #WakandaForever became one of the top trends on Twitter after stars like Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kerry Washington paid tribute to the star on his born day. 

“Happy birthday in Heaven! Oh how you’re missed…..your talent, your heart, your legacy! Love you King,” Davis captioned an Instagram video montage of Boseman.

In an interview with Deadline, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, debunked rumors of a computer graphics-generated version of Boseman in the Black Panther sequel, theGrio reported.

 “We’re not going to have a CG Chadwick and we’re not recasting T’Challa,” he said, noting that the long-awaited sequel will explore the “mythology and inspiration” of Wakanda.

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