The Black Panther star reveals to RSNG how he went from the Marvel Universe to the mean streets of New York as the cop on a mission in new movie ‘21 Bridges’, from hitting the gun range, to rolling with the N.Y.P.D, and witnessing firsthand the tensions of being a street policeman...
RSNG How would you sum up the new movie?
CHADWICK BOSEMAN, ACTOR ‘21 Bridges is a crime drama-thriller and suspense. Essentially, the story revolves around eight cops who are killed in the city and I am the cop who is called upon to find out who did it.’
‘There is a high level of action and we have to shut down the city in order to solve the case. It’s one where when I was reading the script, I knew that we would be able to put a great cast together and we did that: J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch, Keith David and myself included, haha! There is a lot of running, for both Stephan James and I. He played Jesse Owens, I played Jackie Robinson and you get to see us go at it.’
‘We were training with N.Y.P.D. doing SWAT training and running drills, and ride along with them’
RSNG How did it feel from being a superhero in Black Panther to a cop in this new film?
CB ‘Well, he's still a hero or at least an anti-hero, so it's just great to be able to take on the role of different characters. Every movie that I do, I try to find something different and if I can make a character totally different to the last one that I played or it's unrecognisable, then that's great.’
‘In this case, I just tried to use a lot of what do learnt from the cops that I was around in preparation for the role. Pulling from their experiences, pulling from what I know what with living in New York.’
‘There was a lot of training which went into it, a lot of gun use which I was shown and I did put a lot of hours in there to make it feel authentic. It was a lot of training with firearms and I went to the gun range a lot in L.A. and In New York, as well – we were training with N.Y.P.D. doing SWAT training and running drills with them, ride along with them.’
RSNG Tell us about your character in the film, Andre?
CB ‘Well, Andre's father was a cop who was killed when he was a kid and he has grown up and taken on the reins himself and become a cop. He has worked his way up to detective and he’s the person who has been called upon on this particular night.’
‘The whole film has a clock on it and it all takes place during that one night, and Andre has taken on a crusade as part of his career. I loved playing Andre as he is placed in this predicament and he has to produce the goods.’
RSNG It must be good to have a different character to play after Black Panther?
CB ‘Yeah, just to have a new challenge, to have something different and particularly this character because he is conflicted. He has a past that he has to live up to, coming into this case where these cops have been killed.’
‘I loved the idea of being put under that pressure. Being put in a situation where these guys have to be found in a certain amount of time and, as I said, we have to close down the city and it’s all on me. So, it's a very compelling role to play.’
RSNG You’ve risen to icon status very quickly. How does that make you feel?
CB ‘There are many people doing things of much more value than me, but I think when you are in a position to influence through film, you have to take it very seriously, and of course I do. The pressure is there but it is definitely something you get used to as time goes on. I am okay with that and I definitely don’t notice it in the way that I used to.’
‘I’ve always felt as if I need to be battling and fighting against something, as many are in today’s society
RSNG Some people thrive off the pressure…
CB ‘That’s true. You definitely need that short of adrenalin – everyone does. I don’t think anyone can produce their best work when there isn’t pressure or urgency. I’ve always felt as if I need to be battling and fighting against something, as many are in today’s society. I am lucky that I have an outlet for it.’
RSNG You’ve spoken a lot in the past about film-making be about more than just making cultural statements?
CB ‘Oh of course, it has to be. As much as the effect from something like the Black Panther is really galvanising and important, we can’t let film be dictated by the inadvertent cultural and societal messages that it brings. That’s the byproduct of the art of film-making; it’s not the point in itself.’
‘I think that’s where problems come about – when people go out trying to make movies just to justify something, or encourage or promote a feeling or a movement or a response. When that happens we’re going about it the wrong way – we’re answering the question before it has been asked. And the question has to be – is this a good story, is this movie being made in a way that puts quality first in every aspect?’
‘A movie that doesn’t have a foundation in a story is just a political statement, and one that will soon get lost in the noise of all those other political statements.’
RSNG But you still think those statements are vitally important?
CB ‘They are, but people will switch off unless it is done the right way. The best messages that come out of movies are those that emerge accidentally… that are not forced or contrived.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Chadwick Boseman in the trailer for 21 Bridges*.
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