"He suffered quietly. He made the movie, and nobody knew."

Denzel Washington has gotten candid about his final collaboration with Chadwick Boseman.

The Tragedy of Macbeth star discussed working with the late actor on the Oscar-winning 2020 film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which he helped produce, in a new Variety cover story. Although Washington admitted he noticed that the actor's health was declining, he also made it clear that he, like many of us, had no idea what Boseman was going through.

Calling Boseman "a man among men," Washington said, "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. I wondered if something was wrong because he seemed weak or tired sometimes. We had no idea, and it was nobody's business. Good for him, keeping it to himself."

Denzel Washington and Chadwick Boseman
Denzel Washington; Chadwick Boseman
| Credit: Michael Kovac/Getty Images; Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Boseman died of colon cancer in August 2020 at the age of 43. Although he'd been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, his death came as a shock to the industry, as Boseman kept his struggles a secret, even while he was undergoing intense chemotherapy.

Washington's bond with the Black Panther star ran deep. In 2019, Boseman shared how Washington once paid for him and some Howard University classmates to attend an acting program at England's Oxford University.

"Many of you already know the story that Mr. Washington, when asked by Phylicia Rashad to join her in assisting nine theater students from Howard University who had been accepted to a summer acting program at the British Academy of Dramatic Acting in Oxford, gracefully and privately agreed to contribute," Boseman said in his speech before Washington received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Washington also recalled how he nudged Boseman into marrying his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, in a CBS Sunday Morning interview following his death. The two had been dating since 2015 and married sometime before Boseman died.

"I used to watch how she took care of him," Washington revealed. "And I actually said to him … 'Man, you know, you need to put a ring on that finger,' cause she kept her eye on him and she watched him. And I'm like, 'Man, she loves that guy.' … But I didn't know what we know now."

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