In the upcoming sports drama Draft Day, Chadwick Boseman
plays Vontae Mack, a linebacker looking to secure his family’s future by
earning a spot with the Cleveland Browns.
On the day of the draft, Mack and a series of other NFL hopefuls
plead their case to general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) as he wheels and deals to put together the lineup
that will save his team.
Boseman’s star is on the rise after starring in Jackie Robinson biopic 42
last year. We’ll next see him in Draft
Day, Universal’s James Brown biopic Get
On Up, adventure fantasy Gods of Egypt, and there’s still
buzz of him entering the comics arena as Black
Panther or Green Lantern. While
promoting Draft Day, Boseman made
time to talk about what’s next for his career.
JAI TIGGETT: With this film, I can’t help but think of William Rhoden’s
Forty Million Dollar Slaves and the power dynamic between young black athletes and
the owners, managers and coaches that run the teams. Here you have your
character, who’s trying to take some power back for himself and be active in
deciding his fate.
CHADWICK BOSEMAN: What I love about his actions in the movie
is that he’s knowledgeable about the draft in a way that the other characters
are not. He doesn’t even have the prototype agent that [favorite pick] Bo
JT: He’s the
CB: Right, but he knows his stuff. He knows
what he needs in his life, more so than what other people project for him. The
fact that he’s calling out what he needs and there’s a sort of prophetic, even
Muhammad Ali type aspect, that was appealing to me along with the fact that he
is this family guy.
His sister has passed and he’s taken on the
responsibility of taking care of her kids. And so
he’s dealing with Sonny not like a boy, but as a full-grown man who has
responsibilities. They have these conversations one on one, it’s not the agent
passing the phone back and forth telling him what to say. And it’s striking
that he’s strong enough and savvy enough, and sometimes when he’s not savvy, his
heart still wins over. Those things stood
out to me.
JT: Coming from the Jackie Robinson biopic to Draft Day, you had a pretty big change in appearance. Tell me about how you prepared.
CB: I had lost a little weight [for 42] so I actually had to gain a considerable amount of weight. I was up to 215, close to 220 pounds, and I’ve never been that heavy. So it was at least 25 pounds in three weeks. I ate things that I wouldn’t normally eat. I put beef in my diet, I started eating steak, a lot of carbs, protein shakes, and I was lifting heavy weights. So I just did that for the month prior and then I continued to gain weight as we shot it.
The only specific football preparation that we had was a couple days before [filming], when we ran through the plays that we would be doing. When Sonny is looking at the scrimmages from the year, we had to actually do those plays. They picked them from actual games and we reproduced them. That was it.
JT: It’s an
interesting time in your career. You’ve been acting for a while and you’ve also
directed, but now you’re starting to book larger roles and get more of the
world’s attention. How are you handling that transition?
CB: Lord have mercy. It’s two different things.
With the films, you’re doing what you always have done. You’re doing the
research, going through whatever the obstacle is for that film, getting into
the character. None of that changes because it’s Harrison Ford in front of you or Kevin Costner on the phone with
you. It doesn’t matter who it is, you still have to do your work.
In terms of people recognizing and being aware,
that is constantly a battle. Because you also have to make time for the art, and
you have to decide how much you want to do it and how much you let it intrude
on your personal life. That’s just something you’re learning each day, by trial
played Jackie Robinson, and now you have Get
On Up coming up where you play James Brown. What sort of pressure do you
feel to do these characters justice as icons in American history?
CB: There’s a lot of weight that goes with it,
some sleepless nights. There’s a lot that comes into play with these kinds of
roles. You don’t have to talk to the
family when it’s a fantasy character. You don’t have to deal with differing
autobiographies. You don’t have to deal with people who think they know the
person and they really don’t, or their opinions about who the person is, what
they’re supposed to sound like. You don’t have to worry about any of that
For instance with James Brown, there are a lot
of people who only know the old James Brown. They’ve never seen him perform at
Olympia or T.A.M.I. Show or any of that stuff. They don’t know anything about
his influences. And so they’re judging you based on the one or two things they
know or the one interview they saw. All those things, you sort of have to put
out of your mind because you’ve studied it on a different level than them, and
you have to be at peace with that.
JT: In terms of finding a balance between the true events and fictional
story, do you feel you’ve achieved that?
CB: There’s always the battle between the truth
and the movie, and there has to be some venturing from the truth just because
you’re compressing it into such a short amount of time. There’s no possible way
that you can show it exactly how it happened.
But you feel responsible for things being as
authentic as they can be. You don’t want to show the sugarcoated version of the
person. You’re not free unless you can show the good and the bad, all sides of
them. So to me, when I play a character it’s important that I can show every
aspect of them. And I feel like I’ve definitely found the truth.