2013-04-11

42: The Jackie Robinson Story – More Than Just Baseball

by Yo Snyder

So what kind of movie will you see when you go to 42? Unless you’re a sports buff or
someone who’s up on American history, the title alone isn’t much to go on. What
is 42 about? Is it a sports movie? A
historical biopic? A social commentary? An inspirational film? Well 42, which tells the story of Jackie
Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball, is indeed all of those things, but
what it’s really about might surprise you. In fact, Chadwick Boseman, who plays
Robinson in the film, actually had some interesting insights into what kind of
story it really is.

We recently had a chance to talk with Chadwick about the
film, and some of his insights, especially when it comes to what 42 is really about were rather
surprising: “I remember when I was reading the script, I think it was like the
third or fourth script, I called Brian [the director] and I said, ‘You’re a
genius, man. You’re a genius.’ And I said it because I said, ‘It’s a love
story.’ I realized that I had not seen two black people in love in a major motion
picture. It’s crazy, I had never seen it before.

“I mean I’ve seen Claudine,
I’ve seen Love Jones, but I’m talking
like Warner Brothers, billboards going up, trailers on TV and online. I have
never in my lifetime seen this. And you think you have, but you’ve only seen
Denzel have a wife, but not the love story. Or you’ve seen Will Smith have a
wife, but she’s just kinda tacked-on to the story, but it’s not a love story.
And so to be apart of that, something that just seems like so simple, but it
makes you human, it makes you tangible. I think it’s revolutionary, in some
ways it’s sad to say that, but I think once you see it you have to embrace it
and hopefully, and this probably the only time I’ll ever say this as an artist,
hopefully people will copy it.”

Of course, the script wasn’t the only thing that helped
shape this opinion for Chadwick. After spending sometime with Jackie’s widow
Rachel, he saw first hand just how much love there was and still is between the
two, which helped shape his portrayal on-screen: “To her credit, she’s not a
filmmaker or an actor, but she sat me down and sat right beside me and had a
heart-to-heart. She wanted to know who I was. There’s something about that
intimacy that allowed me to get a sense of him as well. She told me, obviously,
about some physical things; hands, hand gestures, hand movements and his feet
and being pigeoned toed and how disciplined he was and how adamant he was about
not drinking and him being opinionated. And when you hear a wife talk about a husband,
you see certain moments where you know she really loved that about him, or she loved or she hated this about him, or
whatever it is.

“So I just got a sense of who he was from that conversation
and from the books she told me to read. And I asked her about their
relationship, because that is a big part of him being able to achieve this. He
had a teammate in her. So what were the rules of that relationship? How did
they differ when they were communicating verses when he was communicating with
other people? He’s two different people in those moments. So I wanted to know
what that was.”

People are probably expecting 42 to be many things, but a love story probably isn’t high on that
list. However, after seeing the film, I think you’ll agree that Chadwick has
some good insights to what it’s really about. In more ways than one, it truly
is a love story. And in fact, without that love, without that solid
relationship with his wife, and even a love a different sort between him and
owner Branch Rickey, Robinson might not have found the strength to endure what
he needed to endure in order to change a sport, and change a nation. See his
story for yourself when 42 releases
on April 12.