… Of Kings and Heroes

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Fern E. Gillespie

Chadwick Boseman, now soaring high in entertainment history with the milestone blockbuster Black Panther, began his acting career in New York’s Black theatre being mentored by legendary theatre producer Woodie King, Jr.at the New Federal Theatre.

“Woodie is one of the people that gave me some of my first opportunities in theatre—especially New York theatre. He’s dedicated himself to Black theatre, so I have a huge appreciation to him as one of my mentors,” Chadwick Boseman told Reelblack TV in 2017 while promoting Marshall.

King has been connected to Boseman’s career since the actor was a theater student at Howard University in the 1990s. At the New Federal Theatre, Boseman did plays and readings. Then in 2002, the New Federal Theatre presented Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms by Ron Milner, about a Black family in crisis, directed by Woodie King. Boseman’s role as teen son E.J. was called an “insightful performance” by the Village Voice and earned him an AUDELCO Award. Boseman has continued with his connection with King.

“I knew and felt that he was just a brilliant artist,” King told Our Time Press last week. “He was astute. He came out of Howard University, so he picked up on things quickly. He was very knowledgeable and just easy to work with.”

Both Boseman and King have a fascination with Black historical heroes. Boseman made his mark in Hollywood creating memorable depictions of Black cultural heroes with biopics on Jackie Robinson (42), James Brown (Get On Up), Thurgood Marshall (Marshall) and now the comic book icon Black Panther.

“When I was growing up, we had to find these histories in books,” said King. “There were no images. “But now, theatre, film and television have some amazing Black superheroes, like Boseman, in starring roles in, and behind, the scenes.”