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Why Glynn Turman Calls Chadwick Boseman A Hercules In His Final Role - Exclusive

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2020, earning a 99 percent Certified Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes after hitting theaters in a limited theatrical run on November 25 before heading to Netflix for streaming on December 18. There's a lot to love about Ma Rainey's Black Bottom — not the least of which is the late Chadwick Boseman's performance as trumpeter Levee Green. 

When Looper spoke with actor Glynn Turman, who plays Toledo in the movie, about how he landed the role and what he wants the audience to feel after watching the film, we also asked about the specter over Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: It contains Boseman's last on-screen performance. In opening up about Boseman, Turman shared that "getting to work with Chad was wonderful." 

He also gave high praise to the late actor's abilities and work ethic while battling stage IV colon cancer. "He was a very determined and very professional young actor who took his job absolutely seriously and was always ready to do another take — which, when we thought about it later, it was like, 'Wow, he's ready to go again?' after you realized what he was going through at the time," Turman told Looper

He then applauded Boseman has having "Hercules strength" for staying so energetic and focused during the late stages of cancer.

Chadwick Boseman on the Ma Rainey's Black Bottom set

Boseman kept his illness secret from almost everyone, including all the performers on both Black Panther and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Looper recently conducted an interview with Reginald Hudlin, who directed Boseman in Marshall and whose newest movie Safety is out on Disney+ now, and he confirmed that "no one had any clue" about the actor's illness. Hudlin said that Boseman was "a guy who kept his private life private." 

When asked if there were, in retrospect, any hints about Boseman's condition that surfaced during the filming of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Turman came up with a specific example: "Chadwick had a small group of people with him, maybe four or five people with him that were there with him every day." The other actors chalked it up to an entourage, "as though they were there to fix his hair and fix his makeup." According to Turman, Boseman had people doting over him, including his "his wonderful fiancée," who was often on set. 

"It was not until after he passed that we realized these people had a very specific function in terms of taking care of this young man," Turman added — ultimately noting that, as everyone later came to know following Boseman's passing, the people who accompanied Boseman were "part of a health team that was there in terms to make sure that he stayed healthy."

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is in select theaters now, and is also available to stream on Netflix.