Chadwick Boseman was beyond thrilled about getting the part to play Jackie Robinson in the biopic 42. But, he was not as much excited for himself professionally, but for the youth of the world to be reminded of what greatness is, as personified by the man who wore the Brooklyn Dodgers number 42.
“He was an inspiration, not just to African-American boys and girls, but also to people of all races. I think he can still be that, and he still is that,” Boseman said of the story teased in the 42 movie trailer. “I have friends that went to pre-screenings and they have sons and daughters that went to those screenings, and they left practicing their swings.”
As the number of African-American baseball players starts to decrease, Boseman is also keen on seeing the film’s effect on reversing that trend.
“They are setting up screenings of the Jerry Manuel Foundation, which concentrates on getting African-American boys to take baseball seriously again. And they’re excited about seeing the movie as well. They have vintage uniforms that they’re wearing,” Boseman proudly said. “I’ve seen pictures of them. I think it’s gonna be a topical and exciting thing for youth.”
Boseman is also pleased that people become aware of the fact that Robinson was a great athlete, regardless of his race. Even without the opportunity brought by Dodgers GM Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the actor feels that Robinson would have made his mark.
“Jackie Robinson was a legend, a Pasadena sports legend, and a national legend before this moment. I think that’s one of the things I learned about him that I did not know, was just that he was better at football. He was a Hall of Fame football player. He led the nation in scoring in basketball. He could have gone to the Olympics. His brother went to the Olympics and got a silver medal, next to Jesse Owens. He broke his brother Max’s records, so he was already a person that was great,” Boseman said.
“So his legend before he ever reached this moment was amazing.”
The actor is also quick to point out that although the Dodgers GM was the one who gave Robinson the chance to break the color barrier, he was not alone -- despite what people may believe.
“Branch Rickey was not the only person who desired this, but he was the maverick because he had already been an innovator in baseball before. Rickey created the farm system that we now know of as the minor leagues. He was the type of person that would take the lead on this,” Boseman said.
Boseman believes that although there were many who could have carried the mantle of color barrier breaker, it was fate that it was someone so divinely gifted athletically where people could forget his race, and simply look at his talent.
“There would have been someone at some point that would have done it, and thank God it was somebody that could not only play baseball, but could handle the pressure on the field and the politics and the social responsibility,” Boseman said.
Much has been made about the lack of great parts for African-American actors and actresses. Yet, Boseman believes that there is something extra special about the Robinson biopic (What are the Top 10 Biopics?). “You haven’t seen this before. I remember when I was reading the script, I said, ‘It’s a love story.’ I realized that I had not seen two black people in love in a major motion picture before. It’s crazy,” Boseman said.
“I’ve seen Claudine. I’ve seen Love Jones. But I’m talking about Warner Bros. putting up the 42 trailer on TV. I have never in my lifetime seen this. And you think you have, but you’ve only seen Denzel have a wife, but not the ‘love story.’ It’s just kinda tacked on to the story, but it’s not a love story. To be a part of that, something that just seems like it’s so simple, but it makes you human, it makes you tangible. I think it’s revolutionary.”