How ’42’ helped Chadwick Boseman play James Brown in ‘Get On Up’

In 2013, Chadwick Boseman appeared on the big screen as Jackie Robinson in the Brian Helgeland written and directed “42.”  The movie was by no means Boseman's first feature, but it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that it is the movie which thrust him into the public consciousness. 

After appearing in “Draft Day” earlier this year, Boseman is now back in a new biopic, “Get On Up.”  The movie is about James Brown and directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”).  It counts among its producers Brian Grazer and Mick Jagger and opens in theaters on August 1st.

On a recent Saturday morning, Boseman took some time to sit down with us to talk about the new film, its relation to “42,” and where the actor might go from here.  He made it quite clear that there is a whole lot of effort that is needed to get playing someone else right, and that he isn't ready to do it again any time soon.

James Brown, amongst other things, was an incredible dancer, and for “Get On Up,” Boseman had to learn to emulate those iconic moves.  It required that the actor have dance rehearsal five days a week, after which he would go home and practice some more.  And, that was just the dancing – he also had to study footage, read biographies, and talk to people who knew Brown to get the rest of his portrayal right.

“'42' required a similar physical work ethic,” Boseman said in our interview.  He went on to explain to portray Robinson there was also intense physical conditioning required as well as the studying of video.  For Robinson, Boseman split-screened video of himself at baseball practice and alongside with footage of the player so that the actor could make adjustments as needed.

There are also, the actor noted, some similarities in the men. “They are trying to achieve greatness at a time when America is not really ready for a black man to achieve that greatness,” he said.  Boseman added, “James Brown just kinda kicked down the door and said, 'You have to accept… you have to accept what I have.'”

Even if he may deliver a great performance here in “Get On Up,” don't expect to see Boseman back in biopic mode any time soon.  While there are certainly roles he would consider in that vein, he said, “Picking another biopic right now is probably not the smartest thing for me to do.”

“Get On Up” opens on Friday.  It also stars Nelsan Ellis, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Craig Robinson.