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Watch Me Work: Boseman Meets Brown
Among the many qualities Taylor hoped to find in the actor who would play James Brown in Get on Up were Southern country roots-the kind found in people born into a hardscrabble life in 1933's Barnwell, South Carolina. Chadwick Boseman has those roots, and much more, including a deep work ethic.

"Chad just brings it," lauds Taylor. "He's from the red earth of South Carolina, right down the road from where James Brown was born, and that's exactly what this character needs. You can't just put a pompadour wig on a well-trained actor who happens to be African-American. "It's an intimidating role," Taylor continues. "The dialect, the range of ages, the performance sequences. It's a lot to take on. I don't know how he did it, but Chad showed up in Mississippi and he was James Brown. Playing age 17 one day, and 60 the next, he was in it!"

Boseman owned the role so completely that crew members addressed him as "Mr. Brown" every day at work, just as Brown's own team had addressed him. It began organically with one production assistant and grew from there. Boseman appreciated the support. "James Brown is so particular: his movement, his dance, his musicality. You see it when you look at footage of him just talking-that musicality carries over into everything he does," he says. "I had a short time to get all this right, whereas he was doing what he did for his entire life. I didn't have time to break character."

Besides, Boseman is very particular, too, an admitted perfectionist. "I wanted my performance to be an interpretation, not an imitation," he emphasizes. "I think an imitation makes fun of the person at a certain level, but an interpretation gets to the spirit or essence of who the person is. That's another reason to breathe it throughout the day, so that you're not just playing at it."

The actor didn't actually chase the role. In fact, he didn't even want to read the script. After his breakout performance as Jackie Robinson in Brian Helgeland's 2013 film, 42, Boseman thought the last thing he should do was another biopic about a cultural icon. Even if he hadn't played Jackie Robinson, the idea of anyone playing James Brown seemed just about impossible to him. "James Brown was ahead of his time, and we still haven't caught up with him," he says. "He lived the life of a thousand people in one lifetime."

Still, he talked to Taylor. "I had a very candid conversation with Tate and saw how passionate he was about the story, and that he wanted to do something different with it," says the actor. "He was basically telling me to stop being scared and come in and read. So, I finally went in and did the scenes. I thought nothing would come of it."

But Brown remained on Boseman's mind. "I wanted to see what it would look like to have the wigs on because I knew there would be a lot of that in the role," the performer shares. "And dancing. I had to know I could work with the choreographer, and what methodology would inform his teaching."

For this pivotal crew member, the production hired choreographer Aakomon Jones to work with Boseman in advance of his screen test. After Jones taught him "Cold Sweat" and "I Can't Stand Myself (When You Touch Me)" and wig consultant ROBERT STEVENSON endowed him with a pompadour, the camera rolled. "I still had to do a lot of soul-searching because I knew it would be such a big deal," the actor says. "But I like a challenge. And with the people involved, including Aakomon and Robert, I thought we had a good chance of doing something special."

Meetings with Grazer, Jagger, Pearman and Huggins confirmed it. "The conversations we had about why they wanted to do the movie were pretty amazing," Boseman admits. "Brian Grazer has made movie after movie, hit after hit, so you know he's going to be involved with quality. Mick Jagger, as a connoisseur of music and an expert in performance and exchange with an audience, brings something important to the table as well."

Once signed on, Boseman and Taylor took it to the next level with a road trip to Georgia to meet the Brown family. "Being with them gave us a sense of his everyday life, when he was off the road, relaxed and not 'James Brown,'" says Taylor. "Chad says these people reminded him of his uncles and granddad, and it started to feel real." With less than two months to prepare for his first day on set, Boseman flung himself into a grueling regimen, ready to give whatever it took to make his performance worthy of the character. The bulk that he'd added for his portrayals of athletes in 42 and Draft Day disappeared during rehearsals, and then, suddenly, filming was underway.

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