The Best Chadwick Boseman Roles That Aren’t Black Panther

The Best Chadwick Boseman Roles That Aren't Black Panther

The untimely passing of renowned actor Chadwick Boseman has truly left a hole in the creative universe. Aside from the fact that just about anybody who knew him, or worked with him, says he was quite possibly the best person (and actor alive), isn’t the only reason why this beloved thespian is missed. There’s obviously the questions about what to do with certain projects to which he had been attached. The one looming over all of those is just how will Black Panther 2 continue without him? As the iconic role of T’Challa/Black Panther isn’t going to be recast, one has to wonder what’s going to happen to that film without the larger than life actor/character no longer being the central figure holding it together.
Boseman was such a force on screen as that character that, for many, they probably had no idea that the actor had been many other films. In fact, he brought that Boseman-gravitas to every role he played. Whether it was Stormin’ Norman in Da 5 Bloods, James Brown in Get On Up, or Vontae Mack in Draft Day, Boseman was always 300% invested in whatever role he was playing. It didn’t matter the size of the film or the role, he truly embodied the term of being “an actor’s actor.” So enjoy this list of thrillingly interesting and nuanced performances from the gone, but never to be forgotten, Chadwick Boseman.
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Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee’s brilliantly conceived, imperfectly executed Netflix film couldn’t be anything less than a masterpiece about the quagmire that was the Vietnam War. Recalling Apocalypse Now in size and scope, this tale about 4 United States, African American soldiers returning to the Vietnam to find what’s left of their dead squad leader was not going to please everyone. However, Chadwick Boseman shines as the deceased soldier Stormin’ Norman. He helped the other men hide a lot of gold and they’ve come back to the scene of the crime to get that too. However, Boseman’s portrayal of a dead military man takes on a mythic stature as he may be gone in this film but he’s on these former soldier’s minds every second. With an outstanding cast that includes Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Jean Reno among others, Da 5 Bloods is a war movie that manages to comment on the past, present, and future. Given that Boseman is no longer with us, like the mythos his character has in this film, that makes what he does on screen here that much more special.
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Another offering from Netflix, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom may be smaller in scale than Da 5 Bloods but it’s every bit as ambitious. Set in the 1920s, this film is based on the play of the same name by August Wilson. The story takes place during a recording session with Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) over a long afternoon. Parts of this dramatic, musical tale are told in flashback, but Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a film in which every character has been perfectly cast. This no more true than in the case of Boseman as the character of Levee. This trumpeter has big dreams and goals, but at first seems content to be the butt of all the jokes the other players make about him. However, as the onion peels on this film we come to see just how serious of a person Levee can be. As I mentioned, the cast featuring Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, and Michael Potts (among others), is nothing less than outstanding. However, Boseman really stands out as the multifaceted Levee who displays laughs one moment and then brutal honesty the next. With an incredible blues soundtrack to help set the mood, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a film that fans of Boseman desperately need to see. He may not have been honored with an Academy Award but it certainly isn’t because his performance wasn’t worthy.

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall
While Boseman might be best known for his role in Black Panther, it’s the character of Thurgood Marshall (who he plays here) that is the real superhero. The film follows the ground breaking lawyer (who became the first ever African-American to serve on the Supreme Court) as he takes a case in Bridgeport, Connecticut in the 1940s. Marshall is defending an African-American chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) who is on trial for rape. When Marshall isn’t allowed to speak in court, the white lawyer, Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), who is also working on this case, suddenly has to be the face of a defense he doesn’t feel qualified to handle it. What unfolds is a legal drama with a lot of twists and turns, but one that shows just how brilliant of a lawyer Thurgood Marshall was. Boseman is outstanding as this iconic lawyer and the rest of the cast as also incredible. Aside from the solid performance of Gad, this film also features James Cromwell and Kate Hudson. Boseman is clearly the cherry on top of a well casted film that shows how, sometimes, the right thing can happen in a very wrong situation.
Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up
Continuing with the real life characters that the late Chadwick Boseman inhabited, Get On Up sees him playing none other than James Brown. How in the world does an actor inhabit such a larger than life star? Well, Boseman makes it looks effortless as he does everything in his power to get to the heart of this dynamic performer. This film follows James Brown’s humble beginnings to eventually becoming the iconic star that he was. With numerous hits, a bigger than life personality, and the demons that always seem to lurk around situations like this, Boseman is incredible as he literally became “Soul Brother Number 1”! Supporting Boseman in his portrayal are excellent performances from Viola Davis, Dan Aykroyd, Nelson Ellis and Craig Robinson. Director Tate Taylor (Ma) really has his pulse on what drove James Brown to do the things he did in his life. This is the biggest similarity that the late Boseman shares with the late James Brown. These two performers were consumed by the artistic nature of their chosen crafts. As a result, they made every performance count for something.
Chadwick Boseman in 42
You don’t even have to like baseball to get sucked into this incredible film. Boseman plays Jackie Robinson and is aided, in an incredible performance, by none other than Harrison Ford. Ford plays Branch Rickey, a man who has hired Robinson to help break down the color walls that existed around the sport in the 1940s. As you can imagine, there are many roadblocks placed in Robinson’s way. On top of that, Robinson was not given to being treated badly and just going about his business. In this situation Robinson has to endure many vile things, keep his composure, and show just how adept he is at the sport he loves. Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of Robinson is the heart of this film. His scenes with Harrison Ford also help bolster the emotional core of 42. Boseman plays this role as a man who doesn’t have any choice but to be fulfilling this calling. In many ways, it actually recalls his work in Black Panther as the two roles share so much in terms of what the characters are going through and up against. Obviously, Jackie Robinson overcame something that was much bigger because and important because it was real. He took on the racist institutions that were in place and had never really been challenged before.
Chadwick Boseman in Justified
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In Justified, which ran for 5 five seasons and starred the electric Timothy Olyphant, Chadwick Boseman was only in one episode. It was titled “For Blood or Money” and Boseman played the part of the always hustlin’ Ralph ‘Flex’ Beeman. His role was short and Beeman wasn’t around long but his work on this solid show is worth checking out for a few reasons. First of all, Boseman played this role right before he became “Chadwick Boseman” – the superstar actor. So it’s worth watching for that alone. However, this small part really helps show how the actor was always pushing the diversity of his roles. Also, Boseman wasn’t new to acting at this point. Even though the majority of his work had been in TV, he didn’t shy away from a part that some might’ve thought was too small for him. Instead, as ‘Flex’ Beeman, Boseman plays this thing full tilt it and it is just a sampling of the intensity this actor brought to every part that he played.
Chadwick Boseman in The Kill Hole
In this film Boseman is back in the military fold as Lt. Samuel Drake. Haunted by things he did when he was in Iraq, Drake is trying to get his life together while basically living in squalor. Eventually, Drake is contacted by a private military contractor who wants Drake to kill a former soldier that could expose a lot of the bad things that went on during his time in Iraq. What ensues is a look at the battles that wars often rage even when we are no longer fighting them. Boseman is excellent in this film that seems like it came to straight-to-DVD. This is no slight on the film’s merits as many a great movie now simply comes to us via streaming. Is The Kill Hole a film like The Deer Hunter? Hardly, but there are great performances from Boseman, Tory Kittles, Peter Greene and Billy Zane. This film is interesting, exciting, and keeps you guessing the entire way. Boseman truly captures the torture that a wounded soldier must feel after they’ve left battle. The fact that he’s having a hard time coming to terms with his role in the war and now in his civilian life, is only compounded when he’s given a mission that goes against everything that makes up the code of a soldier.
Chadwick Boseman in 21 Bridges
One of the last films to come out when Chadwick Boseman was still with us, 21 Bridges is a really spellbinding film from Director Brian Kirk (Penny Dreadful; Dexter). Boseman plays NYPD detective Andre Davis. He’s got his back against the wall as he’s searching for two men who have killed police officers, while also rooting out massive corruption and conspiracy within the police department. Manhattan is placed on lockdown, the 21 Bridges are closed, and Davis has a certain amount of time to solve all of these mounting problems. 21 Bridges is one of the better police movies you’re likely see in this day and age. With so much talk about the police, politics, and how the two are intertwined, 21 Bridges does a good job of showing just how important it is to have a competent police department. Boseman does an excellent job of showing grace under pressure, as well as the nuance and complexity that is inherent in such a role. Like Black and Blue (which also came out in 2019), these are some incredible police procedurals that, like Serpico before it, are pushing the “cop film” forward.
Chadwick Boseman in Gods of Egypt
With the exception of probably Daniel Day Lewis, you could look through any actor’s resume and find something that is maybe not indicative of the great actor they are. In Gods of Egypt, Boseman plays the role of Thoth in this film about empires won, lost and overthrown. Bek (Brenton Thwaites) joins forces with Horus (Nikolai Coster-Waldau) to overthrow Set (Gerard Butler) who has turned Egypt in a den of turmoil. Thoth’s role is a bit smaller, but no less important, as he is the Egyptian God of Wisdom after all. While Gods of Egypt seemed to be roundly panned in its release, one has to wonder how this film may have fared if it had featured more Chadwick Boseman. After all, it was after this that he would go on to do Black Panther and in the process show just how marvelous Marvel could be. While there was some controversy over Boseman’s role in Gods of Egypt, what isn’t controversial is that Thoth is well cast and Boseman gives a very solid performance here.
Chadwick Boseman in Message from the King
In this Netflix Original, Boseman plays the role of Jacob King. Hailing from South Africa, his sister has gone missing and Jacob comes to Los Angeles to find her. As you can imagine, this drama, mystery, crime thriller has more than it’s share of twists and turns. At the same time, it’s also a really good film that showcases other solid performances from Luke Evans, Teresa Palmer, and Alfred Molina. This film opens with Jacob mysteriously not hearing from his sister. From there he comes to Los Angeles trying to put together what might have happened. This leads him into a veritable den of iniquity in the Los Angeles underbelly and, like George C. Scott before him in Hardcore, Jacob realizes he’s going to have to get dirty if he’s going to have a chance of discovering the whereabouts of his sister. Message From the King is a solid film but what really makes it pop is Boseman. He brings an electricity to this role that really helps his performance stand out. He’s an actor that really understood how to use the space he was given AND display emotion. As a result, Message from the King is a film you need to see if you are going to parse through Boseman’s canon.
Chadwick Boseman in Draft Day
Kevin Costner plays Sonny Weaver, Jr. He’s a man who needs to make some power moves in the NFL Draft if this General Manager has any hope of keeping his job. So what does he do? He goes all in, not trusting his instincts, when he trades for Bo Callahan (Josh Pence) over the guy he really wants, Vontae Mack (Boseman). The biggest problem is that Mack is the better player and more deserving of the opportunity, but politically it looks better to trade for Callahan. However, Vontae Mack knows the deal and over the course of the film, his true, solid character is revealed to Weaver. In the end Sonny gets it right when he makes the choice again. Boseman plays Vontae Mack with confidence and swagger that is understated yet powerful. He knows what Sonny Weaver should do but at the same time, he also knows that Sonny needs to know Vontae’s worth. As a result, Boseman doesn’t give us some off the wall performance. He plays things fast, loose and always cool. What ends up transpiring is a turn of events that seems ripped from the pages of a thriller, rather than a macro look at a sports transaction. All of this is because of the combined prowess of Costner and Boseman in one of most under-appreciated sports movies ever.
Chadwick Boseman in Persons Unknown
This may have been a short lived TV show but it featured Chadwick Boseman so that makes it something worth watching. The story follows a bunch of strangers who wake up to find themselves in a ghost town with no real recollection of how they got there or what they are doing in such a place. Boseman plays the role of Sergeant Graham McNair. This mysterious Iraqi war veteran does his best to help people escape this mysterious purgatory they find themselves in. McNair is also the moral compass of the show and someone who the others look to as peacemaker when things get emotional. Boseman does some solid work here. It’s actually kind of shocking that this show only lasted one season. His is clearly the most interesting character and one that the creators could’ve certainly done a spin-off show about. Either way, Persons Unknown is a nice bit of TV residing in the diverse and interesting Chadwick Boseman canon.

Topics: Black Panther

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