#MustWatch: ‘Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist’ Is a Push to Finally Take Your Craft Seriously

I LOVE Chadwick Boseman. I have since 2008-ish, when he had a recurring role on Lincoln Heights on ABC Family (now Freeform). As he grew in his career, I continued to watch in amazement like, ‘This guy is really something.’ Not only was he an incredible actor, but, from his interviews I watched, he also seemed like a real cool, down to earth dude to kick it with. After Black Panther came out, I felt like more of the world REALLY got that too.

I was and continue to be one of his biggest fans even after his untimely passing of colon cancer in 2020. So when Netflix announced that they were releasing a special in his honor, appropriately titled Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist, I knew I had to watch. Even as bittersweet as it was. However, just in this short special, I left feeling inspired to do more.

With appearances from those who worked with him like Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Denzel Washington, and directors Tate Taylor, Spike Lee, and George C. Wolfe, among others, the special focused on Chadwick’s impeccable attention to detail and dedication to his own craft. He recognized that he wasn’t just pretending to be a character with every role. He was taking on the essence of that character and telling that person’s story. So much so, that I personally never saw Chadwick Boseman the man on screen. Not too many actors can do that, in my opinion. To me, he was never just playing a role. For however long he was on camera, he WAS that person.

The roughly 20-minute special dives briefly into his thought process as he brought roles like James Brown, T’Challa, Jackie Robinson, and, most recently, his final role of Levee in August Wilson‘s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to life in film.

Watch the trailer for the special below.

This special was the smack to the head that I needed to get back on track with my ideas and goals. Here are my key takeaways:

Tomorrow’s not promised to work towards your goals so get started NOW.

The obvious takeaway. Most recently I heard it said that “procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another chance to do tomorrow what He gave you the chance to do today.” I’m not advocating pushing through sickness for your work nor do I believe the ideas floating that he pushed aside his colon cancer diagnosis just to make projects FOR US FANS. I also truly believe that Chadwick loved what he did and wanted to continue to create for as long as he was able to.

Sadly, his story came to an end far too soon, but his legacy lives on. However, his passing was a reminder to “take your time, but don’t waste your time,” as his Black Panther co-star Lupita Nyong’o shared in a tribute to him. Life is truly short. Time shouldn’t be wasted on things that don’t bring you joy or don’t help to propel you towards what you were meant to do on this earth.

Find work that truly serves a purpose greater than just yourself.

Sometimes, we get caught up in “the grind” to make money that we lose sight of our life’s purpose. No, every day isn’t easy. No, every day you don’t “feel” like doing even the things you’re most passionate about. However, when you have a greater mission in mind beyond just yourself, realizing that your work is impactful to others, you have a different mentality about it.

Speaking for myself, I’m motivated to push through my own feelings because I realize that my work is helping other people. Chadwick himself realized that his acting and directing was telling important stories and inspiring many across the world. That work gave him purpose and commitment to deliver powerful works of art that will be watched for years to come.

You should never get complacent about what you do.

Hearing a little more about Chadwick’s process as an actor He was laser-focused about the essence of a character or role. He spent hours on end learning and practicing the dance moves and mannerisms of James Brown and playing the trumpet for Levee. He took detailed notes on his scripts about how his characters would react in certain situations or their thought processes at the time of certain scenes. Chadwick was committed to going above the bare minimum of just memorizing lines and pretending on a set. He studied this craft and continued to grow with every project.

Sometimes, especially when you know you’re gifted or good at what you do, you slack off. Or at least I have (I KNOW someone can relate to that). However, this special reminded me that you have to continue to push yourself to hone your craft. You should be constantly learning, piece by piece, to get even better at what you do. Hard work truly does beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard. However, you should just enough pride in the things you are creating or are a part of that you WANT to do better.

Even though I’m devastated as a fan still that Chadwick’s gone, I know he gave his work and life itself everything he had while he was down here. I’m proud of him and choose to honor his legacy by making a stronger commitment to my own work. Every day won’t be easy or good even, but I’m striving to be the best that I can be. So, when God calls me up above, I can say I left it all down here. No stones unturned.

Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist is now available to watch exclusively on Netflix.

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