Denzel Washington told Chadwick Boseman to get married while filming 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom': 'Man, you need to put a ring on that finger'

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Erin Donnelly
·2 min read
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Denzel Washington helped pay for a young, unknown Chadwick Boseman to take part in an acting program at Oxford University and would go on to produce what would be the Black Panther star’s final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. But Washington says he too was in the dark about the colon cancer battle Boseman was undergoing as he filmed the movie, which has earned the late star rave reviews months after his death at the age of 43.

“Well, credit to him,” Washington told Tracy Smith during an appearance on CBS Sunday Morning about Boseman’s decision to keep his diagnosis secret. “He kept it to himself; it was nobody’s business. He was there to deliver, and he delivered.”

Washington also reflected on the relationship he observed between Boseman, who died on Aug. 28, and his then-girlfriend, Simone Ledward. Washington recalled how he’d urged Boseman to marry Ledward after noting how she cared for him on set. The longtime couple would go on to get engaged last October and wed before Boseman’s death.

“Certain members of his team knew,” the two-time Oscar winner said. “His wife was there — they weren’t even married yet. I used to watch how she took care of him, and I actually said to him, I said, ‘Man, you need to put a ring on that finger.’ Because she kept her eye on him, and she watched him, and I’m like, ‘Man, she loves that guy.’ But I didn’t know what we know now.”

His comments come after the film’s director, George C. Wolfe, spoke in a previous interview about Ledward picking Boseman up after he broke down after shooting an emotional scene.

Chadwick Boseman (at the AFI Life Achievement Award gala honoring actor Denzel Washington in 2019) will "live forever, period," says Washington. (Photo: REUTERS/Monica Almeida)
Chadwick Boseman (at the AFI Life Achievement Award gala honoring actor Denzel Washington in 2019) will "live forever, period," says Washington. (Photo: REUTERS/Monica Almeida)

Washington — who issued a statement after Boseman’s death saying, “He didn't get cheated. We did.” — also spoke about the younger man’s legacy.

“He did all he could do with what he was given, and he left it here for us to enjoy,” he told CBS’s Smith. “Chad will live forever, period.”

Chadwick Boseman’s death this August was a huge shock just not to his countless fans, but also some of his closest peers.

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