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In a new interview, Denzel Washington revealed that he worried about Chadwick Boseman’s health during the mid-2019 production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the late actor’s last film role.
Speaking with Variety, Washington reflected on the loss of Boseman and said no one on the set of Ma Rainey’s knew he was sick at the time. The Black Panther star privately battled colon cancer for years, and his death was a shock when it was announced in August 2020. Washington served as a producer for the Netflix film starring Viola Davis, and during production noticed that Boseman “seemed weak or tired” on set.
“A man among men. He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job,” said Washington, 67. “I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes. We had no idea, and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself.”
This isn’t the first time Washington has spoken about the legacy of Boseman, and he famously once paid for Chadwick and his Howard University class to attend an acting program at Oxford University. “He didn’t get cheated. We did,” Washington said after Boseman’s passing. “I pray for his poor wife and his family. They got cheated, but he lived a full life.” Washington also described the late actor as a “gentle soul.”
In 2018, Washington jokingly told Late Show host Stephen Colbert that he wanted Boseman to reimburse him for the costs of those school funds he provided. “I went to the premiere for Black Panther here in New York,” Denzel said, “and I saw Ryan Coogler and Chad and he said, ‘Oh, I just wanted to thank you for paying…’ I said, ‘Yeah that’s why I’m here.’ I like the movie Black Panther, yeah, good, Wakanda forever, but where’s my money?”
Washington is now starring in Joel Coen’s black-and-white rendition of The Tragedy of Macbeth opposite Frances Dormand, with an Apple TV+ release set for Jan. 14. See the latest trailer, released today, below: