Chadwick Boseman’s widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award for best actor in a motion picture drama on behalf of the late actor, who died in August of colon cancer at age 43 — three months before Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was released.
“He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can,” Simone Ledward said, as she and the audience wiped back tears. “That tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history.”
Boseman is the first Black winner in the category in nearly 15 years. (Forest Whitaker won at the 2007 ceremony for his performance as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.) The honour also makes Boseman the first Black posthumous winner in an acting category.
Reviewing Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, set during a recording session in 1920s Chicago, the New York Times co-chief critic A O Scott praised Boseman’s potent performance as “definitive,” and other critics singled it out as the best of Boseman’s career. The film, which Scott named a critic’s pick, was directed by George C Wolfe and adapted from August Wilson’s play.
The drama tells the story of Rainey, a pioneering blues singer of the title played by Viola Davis (who was nominated for best actress in a movie drama), and her battle to protect her gift — her voice — from exploitation by the white-owned record label. When Boseman’s trumpeter, an ambitious upstart named Levee, wants to play a song his way, a clash of egos ensues.
At the Globes, Boseman beat out Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal), Anthony Hopkins (The Father), Gary Oldman (Mank) and Tahar Rahim (The Mauritanian).
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