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Try Me: Get on Up's Supporting Cast
Although they share just one scene, Viola Davis, who plays Susie Brown, recognized the showman's famed work ethic in Boseman's portrayal. "I believe Chadwick will surprise people, and I love it when that happens," says Davis. "He stayed in character the whole time. It was an absolute, courageous, beautiful, magical performance, and a perfect transformation."

Their scene takes place backstage at the Apollo during a night of triumph that takes on a different tone when their characters come together. "It was a difficult scene emotionally, but easier to do because Viola made it so real," Boseman explains. "She was so comfortable walking into that moment. So much nerve! I felt like I was there, and I was him, feeling what he felt."

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer felt a kinship to her character, the woman who took in young James when he had nowhere else to go. "She plays Aunt Honey, and she actually reminded me of one of my aunts. She was simply a joy," says Boseman. "I also love her scenes with the two kids [twins JORDAN SCOTT and JAMARION SCOTT] who play James Brown as a boy. Those scenes are a great base for the movie."

Get on Up visits Brown's tempestuous relationships with other women-including those played by actresses Tika Sumpter and Jill Scott-at various stages of his life. However, his most enduring life relationship was with musician Bobby Byrd, portrayed by Alabama-born actor Nelsan Ellis, a star of the HBO series True Blood. Commends Boseman: "I've admired Nelsan as an actor for a long time, so it was great to be able to bounce off him."

Brown and Byrd met as teenagers in Toccoa, Georgia, where Brown was incarcerated. Byrd persuaded his mother to let the young prisoner live with them when he was paroled, which launched a 20-year musical collaboration. "Bobby Byrd was his best friend and basically discovered him," says Ellis. "He was the person most in his life until he was ultimately pushed away."

In fact, Taylor originally considered the performer for the role of Brown. After Ellis' audition, both actor and director agreed he was meant to play Bobby Byrd. "Having watched Chad these two-and-a-half months, I can't see anyone else playing him," Ellis says. "He is so in the James Brown zone."

Taylor recalls the conversation: "Nelsan said, 'I'm sorry, I'm not James Brown. I'm Bobby.' I said, 'That's what I want, too,' and that was it. His performance speaks for itself. Much as with Viola, you feel what Nelsan is feeling. You see it and relate to it."

Ellis, who had a featured role in The Help, was glad to work with Taylor again and fill the shoes of a bigger character, even when those shoes hurt. "Tate's personality sets a tone," says Ellis. "We worked hard, but had fun every single day. I'd say it's the best set I've ever been on."

Boseman concurs: "Tate has a familiarity with his people on set that makes everyone want to do their best: grip, gaffer, PA. It's partially because he's done a lot of the jobs. He worked himself up through the ranks, and now he deserves to sit in that seat. And he's an actor, so he knows what it's like to go from point A to point Z, and can create the atmosphere for you to get there."

Fellow Southerner Spencer agrees. "Tate has a personality that fills the room, no matter the size," she says. "I made him give me a role in Get on Up, and feel great that I strong-armed my way in. He's my best friend, and he's an amazing actor. Amazing actors make tremendous directors because they understand our process. Tate's also a Southern man, like James Brown, and understands those sensibilities. He knows that a story like this must include the pathos, the humor, the grit, the glamour- all of it."

Actor Dan Aykroyd, who portrays manager and booking agent Ben Bart, also knew the performer well, and counted him as a friend. They shared the screen in 1980's The Blues Brothers-one of Taylor's favorite films-which featured Brown in a show-stopping sequence as Reverend Cleophus James. They teamed up again in Doctor Detroit and Blues Brothers 2000. "I'd seen him many times before all that, starting as a teenager, at the Esquire Show Bar in Montreal," says the Canadian-born performer. "He had his complications and difficulties as a human being, but he loved people. I think the filmmakers are reflecting that love, and he'd be happy with the way he's being portrayed. Especially with Chad's performance, which is on the verge of spiritually channeling him.

"He's got the voice right, and the look-that little edge of paranoia," Aykroyd continues. "Although James Brown got close to people, there was always a bit of distance. He was almost regal. Chad catches all of that in his performance."

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