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Denzel Washington reflects on his relationship with the late Chadwick Boseman: 'A man among men'

·Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·2 min read
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Denzel Washington never shared a scene with the late Chadwick Boseman, but the two actors' lives were closely intertwined. In 2018, the Black Panther star revealed that the stage-trained Washington paid his way to study acting at Oxford University, and the Oscar-winning Training Day actor later produced Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which featured Boseman's final film performance. The actor died from colon cancer on Aug. 28, 2020, and received a posthumous Oscar nomination for his role.

In a new interview with Variety, Washington reflected on his off-camera relationship with Boseman, calling him "a man among men." Like the rest of the world, the 67-year-old Washington — who returns to his stage roots by playing the title role in Joel Coen's acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth — wasn't aware that the younger actor was seriously ill during the production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, adapted from August Wilson's award-winning 1982 play.

Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' (Photo: David Lee / Netflix)
Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. (Photo: David Lee / Netflix)

"He suffered quietly," Washington told Variety. "He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job. 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."

Washington's new comments echo what he told CBS Sunday Morning in December 2020, four months after Boseman's death. "He kept it to himself; it was nobody's business," the actor said at the time, adding that only those closest to him knew the full story.

"Certain members of his team knew," Washington remarked. "His wife [Taylor Simone Ledward] 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."

The Tragedy of Macbeth is currently playing in theaters and premieres Jan. 14 on Apple TV+.