Chadwick Boseman, an actor beloved and revered for his depictions of legendary Black figures, has earned yet another award after his tragic death in August 2020. On February 28, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association presented the actor with a Golden Globe for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He is the first person to receive the award posthumously since 1976, when Peter Finch won for Network.

Boseman, who died at the age of 43 after being diagnosed with colon cancer, filmed Ma Rainey while undergoing chemotherapy and multiple surgeries. He kept his diagnosis private, telling neither the director nor his castmates.

“There was nothing that existed in Chadwick’s performance—or being, or anything—that caused me to have any degree of concern,” director George C. Wolfe told Vanity Fair. “He would dive fully into the work.”

Boseman’s turn as Levee, an ambitious and indignant cornet player, has positioned him as an Academy Award front-runner. “Chadwick played a character that is probably the greatest role written for a young Black actor ever in history,” Viola Davis, who acted alongside Boseman in Ma Rainey, told Vanity Fair. “Levee is a complete character that is driven by trauma. For me, he represents every Black man at that time, and at this time, driven by trauma that he doesn’t know what to do with, and has dreams and talent that he doesn’t know how to harness. You hope that people get that.”

Viola Davis, George Wolfe, and Chadwick Boseman on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

DAVID LEE/NETFLIX

A graduate of Howard University, Boseman first received widespread attention as Jackie Robinson in 42, before going on to become an iconic superhero as T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther. He is one of only a small number of actors who have received posthumous award nominations, including James Dean, Heath Ledger, Massimo Troisi, and Spencer Tracy.

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