When Phylicia Rashad announced the nominees for Actor in a Leading Role on Tuesday, February 8, she acknowledged the late Black Panther actor, who was posthumously given a nod in the same category last year. Rashad, 73, was joined by students from Boseman’s alma mater, Howard University, during the presentation.
“All of our students here are so inspired by Chadwick Boseman, a Howard grad who was so committed to this university,” she said on Tuesday. “And, as you know, Chadwick was nominated last year for best actor, and we are so honored to announce the nominees in this category.”
The Creed actress is the current dean of Howard’s Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. John Woods III, a student enrolled in the program, read the names of the nominated actors.
Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick … Boom!), Will Smith (King Richard) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) are up for the prestigious award this year. In 2021, Boseman was recognized for his work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, one of his final films before his death. The trophy ultimately went to The Father’s Anthony Hopkins.
The 21 Bridges star died of colon cancer in August 2020 at the age of 43. Though he was diagnosed in 2016, he kept his health battle out of the public eye. Earlier this year, Washington, 67, opened up about noticing Boseman’s struggle on the set of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
“I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes,” the Training Day star told Variety in January, praising the late actor’s work ethic. “We had no idea [he was sick], and it was nobody’s business. Good for him, keeping it to himself. … He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew. I didn’t know. He never said a peep about it. He just did his job.”
Washington and Boseman had a special bond that dated back to the latter’s time at Howard, with the Remember the Titans star quietly funding several students’ spots in an acting program at England’s Oxford University.
While the 42 actor didn’t win at last year’s Oscars, he had a successful run at the 2021 Golden Globes. His wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, accepted the award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama on his behalf with an emotional speech.
“He would thank God. He would thank his parents. He would thank his ancestors,” she said through tears. “He would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that amplifies that little voice inside of all of us. … I don’t have his words, but we have to take all the moments to celebrate those we love, so thank you HFPA, for this opportunity to do exactly that. And, honey, you keep ’em coming. Thank you.”
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