Chadwick Boseman Has Spoken Out About Getting Fired For Refusing To Be Stereotyped

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Chadwick Boseman became an A-list star when he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Black Panther. What you may not know, though, is that he began his acting career in the even more fantastical world of daytime soap opera. But after taking offense at his seemingly stereotypical character, Boseman reportedly received his marching orders after just a week.

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It’s safe to say that Boseman is a man of principle. After all, the actor may have been a complete unknown at the time that he was cast in All My Children, but that didn’t stop him pointing out to the producers that the role seemingly played to certain stereotypes. And unfortunately for Boseman, his opinions cost him his job.

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Of course, Boseman’s career didn’t end up suffering too badly, since he was later chosen to front his very own superhero blockbuster. But coincidentally, the actor’s portrayal of Black Panther also saw him share the screen with the very man who’d ended up replacing him on All My Children. Yes, following Boseman’s dismissal, the soap opera’s producers recast the part and gave it to none other than a young Michael B. Jordan.

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Thankfully, there were apparently no hard feelings between Boseman and Jordan. The pair were in fact more than happy to discuss their soap opera beginnings in a 2019 interview conducted as part of Black Panther’s Oscar campaign. Here’s a look at how the Hollywood stars’ careers have collided in the unlikeliest of ways.

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After entering the world in the South Carolina city of Anderson in 1976, Chadwick Boseman showed an early passion for the entertainment industry. But initially, his interests lay behind the scenes. He penned and staged his very first play, Crossroads, as a junior, in fact. Then, he went on to study directing at Washington’s Howard University where he was mentored by The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad.

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Boseman honed his craft further at London’s British American Drama Academy and the Digital Film Academy in New York. Afterwards, he took on a drama instructor position in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program. And impressively, Boseman picked up a Joseph Jefferson Award nod in the New Work category for his 2006 production Deep Azure.

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But in 2008 Boseman decided that he belonged in front of the camera and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his acting ambitions. Mind you, by this point he had already made several appearances on screen. In 2003, for instance, Boseman had guested on an episode of firefighting drama Third Watch. And he later showed up in procedurals such as CSI: NY and Law & Order.

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Audiences really began to take note of Boseman when he landed recurring parts in TV shows such as Lincoln Heights and Persons Unknown. But his career truly blossomed on the big screen. After making his film debut in 2008’s The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, Boseman won rave reviews for his portrayal of baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 2013 biopic 42.

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Unsurprisingly, the critical acclaim led to several other high-profile roles. In 2014 Boseman went on to star alongside Kevin Costner in NFL drama Draft Day, for example, and he depicted another real life hero, James Brown, in Get On Up. And in 2016’s Gods of Egypt, he stole the show as Egyptian deity Thoth.

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That same year, Boseman became the latest Hollywood star to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe when he was cast as Black Panther – a.k.a. T’Challa. He first played the character in Captain America: Civil War and later joined the likes of Black Widow, Spider-Man and The Hulk in the third and fourth Avengers movies. And of course, in 2018 Boseman got the chance to headline his own superhero movie, too.

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Said film, Black Panther, turned out to be a colossal success. Raking in approximately $1.35 billion at the box office, it became the ninth highest-earning movie in history. What’s more, it was the first ever Marvel outing to pick up a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Boseman and director Ryan Coogler signed up for a Black Panther sequel. But the former also reminded everyone that his talents extended beyond the superhero world with a role in thriller 21 Bridges. And soon afterwards, he worked with Spike Lee on the gritty war drama Da 5 Bloods.

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What some fans may not know, though, is that 15 years before fronting his own superhero film, Boseman landed a recurring role on a daytime soap opera. Yes, the actor started out his career on All My Children. But what should have been a lengthy stint ended up lasting no more than seven days.

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And while hitting the promotional trail for Black Panther’s Academy Awards campaign in January 2019, Boseman was asked about his short-lived soap experience. “I knew it was gonna happen today!” joked the star after the subject first came up in an interview with The Wrap. “I was like, ‘There’s no way in the world it’s not happening today.’”

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Let’s take a look back at Boseman’s All My Children role. The actor landed the gig back in 2003 at the age of 26, and it was his first ever TV slot. Boseman joined the cast as Reggie Montgomery – a troubled teen who’s first appearance on screen sees him being treated for injuries at a clinic in the aftermath of a gang fight. And it’s fair to say that Reggie’s storyline escalated from there.

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Believing that he’s about to be handed over to the police, Reggie decides to take drastic measures: he holds expectant mother Anna Devane hostage. But while it was certainly a dramatic introduction for the character, it wasn’t one that sat right with the man who played him.

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You see, Boseman apparently took umbrage at the fact that one of the show’s few African-American characters was portrayed as little more than an everyday thug. And the actor didn’t keep his thoughts to himself, either. Yes, despite the fact that this was Boseman’s very first TV job, he decided to tell All My Children’s producers exactly where they were going wrong.

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It perhaps comes as little surprise that the show-runners didn’t take too kindly to receiving criticism from a fledgling actor just one week into his debut gig. But they didn’t just give Boseman a dressing down. In fact, they apparently decided to fire him and give his part to another budding actor – presumably one who they thought might be more easygoing.

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Boseman told The Wrap why he took on the role in the first place. He said, “It’s one of those things where you get a role, and you don’t really know. When I got it, I was like, ‘This is not part of my manifesto. This is not part of what I want to do. How can I make it work?’”

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The Black Panther star continued, “Because with a soap opera, you don’t know the full scope of what’s gonna happen. You don’t know where they’re gonna take the character, because they don’t always know where the character is going. And because of that, there’s possibly room for me to adjust this and change it and make it so it’s stereotypical on the page but not on the screen.”

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Plus, Boseman went on to acknowledge the fact that even a show as acclaimed as The Wire could revert to stereotypes at times. But that said, the actor struggled to justify continuing to play what he considered to be a clichéd character on All My Children. And so, Boseman had to weigh up his options.

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In his interview with The Wrap, Boseman explained, “I remember going home and thinking, ‘Do I say something to them about this? Do I just do it?’ And I couldn’t just do it. I had to voice my opinions and put my stamp on it. And the good thing about it was it changed it a little bit for him.”

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Indeed, Boseman doesn’t appear to have any major regrets about the way in which he approached the matter with the producers. He seems rather proud of the outcome, in fact. The star told The Wrap, “[The producers] said, ‘You are too much trouble.’ But they took my suggestions – or some of them. And for me, honestly, that’s what this is about.”

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So, while Boseman’s outspokenness may have cost him his first acting job, he seemingly did improve the situation for the actor who went on to replace him as Reggie. And it just so happens that said man would turn out to be one of Boseman’s co-stars in Black Panther around 15 years later.

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Yes, in a highly coincidental turn of events, Michael B. Jordan was cast as Boseman’s replacement on All My Children. Unlike his predecessor, though, Jordan was already a familiar face to many viewers when he first graced the soap. That’s because he’d guested on The Sopranos and Cosby and had appeared alongside Keanu Reeves in the 2001 sports movie Hardball.

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What’s more, the year before Jordan appeared on All My Children, he had worked on The Wire, portraying the character of Wallace. But while he only featured in 13 episodes of the latter, his turn as Reggie in All My Children lasted three years

 

the star enjoyed far more screen time as Reggie in the former show, playing the character for three years before leaving in 2006.

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The Wrap was also interviewing Jordan alongside Black Panther co-star Boseman when conversation turned to their shared role. And luckily, the star found the question rather amusing, replying, “This is the first time anyone has ever asked about that! We’ve done this so much, and you’re the guy, you’re the one.”

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And after hearing about how Boseman inspired producers to modify Reggie’s character, Jordan expressed his gratitude. “That’s awesome to hear,” he told his one-time soap opera predecessor. “It’s so wild to hear you say that,” he added. He then explained why he hadn’t expressed the same concerns at the time.

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Jordan told The Wrap, “I’m younger than Chad, and I was coming into All My Children fresh off The Wire – wide open, still learning. I was playing this role not knowing that a lot of the things I was going through were because of what he’d already done for me.”

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In fact, Jordan went on to admit how glad he was that the pair had finally discussed their soap opera past together. He said, “It’s hard to speak in the moment about how things we do can affect other people. But this is a pure example, right here on the spot. We ain’t never talked about this before a day in our lives, to understand how what people do now can directly affect what other people do in the future.”

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Touchingly, Jordan then expressed hope that he too is now making a positive change when it comes to the future of Hollywood. He said, “And the work that we’re doing on Black Panther is hopefully doing the same thing for the next group of actors that are coming up. Just like our predecessors opened up doors and made things easier for us.”

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The Wrap’s interview may have been the first time that the pair had spoken about All My Children at the same time. But both Boseman and Jordan had previously discussed their soap opera experiences separately. Indeed, in 2018 the former seemed to reference his one-week stint while delivering his Howard University commencement address.

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The star told the crowd of students about the conflict that he had felt about taking on one particular part due to its unflattering “assumptions about us as black folks.” He added, “The writing failed to search for specificity, plus there was barely a glimpse of positivity or talent in the character, barely a glimpse of hope. I would have to make something out of nothing.”

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Jordan also spoke more explicitly about his soap opera days in a 2015 chat with GQ. “I knew that it was a chess move,” he admitted. “You work on a show like All My Children – we know what it is, but you’re still able to grow outside of it. It’s the perfect situation. I learned, I grew as an actor, I worked with professionals, I got paid.”

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Grateful as he was for the role, Jordan was keen to point out that he knew he wanted to distance himself from it as soon as he could. He said, “No dad, no mom, a f***ing stereotypical black role in a soap opera. And I saw the stereotype, so moving forward I was like, ‘Nah, those are the roles I don’t want to play.’ ”

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Indeed, Jordan has gone out of his way to avoid being lumbered with stereotypical roles. In fact, his part in 2012’s Chronicle was originally written for a white actor named Steve Kaczynski. But producers were so impressed with Jordan’s audition that they gave him the part and changed the character’s name to Steve Montgomery.

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Jordan has also done his best to increase diversity in the industry. In 2018 his company, Outlier Society Productions, adopted a more inclusive hiring process. And in a 2015 open letter to Essence, he wrote, “My goal is for my choices and opportunities, as well as those of my fellow actors and actresses of color, to be predicated on our talent, ability and passion and not on false notions of what color an artist must be to play certain roles.”

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Jordan continued, “I’ve had the honor to portray black characters written and directed by black filmmakers – a privilege that too few actors of color enjoy because of the challenges of black artistry and access behind the camera. But in addition to those wonderful roles, I also want to have the option to play all kinds of parts with no door closed to actors and actresses like myself.”

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Boseman has also spoke out about the challenges he’s faced as a black actor since his All My Children days. He told The Times, “You’re a strong black man in a world that conflicts with that strength, that really doesn’t want you to be great. So what makes you the one who’s going to stand tall?”

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Boseman and Jordan may be good friends off screen, but they played the fiercest of rivals in Black Panther. Indeed, the former’s character T’Challa is crowned king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda early on in the superhero film. Later on, he’s usurped from the throne by the latter’s villainous Erik Killmonger. Fortunately, though, the two actors have been able to swap roles in real life without a hint of animosity.

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