NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI. It's mid-December on the Mississippi set of "Get On Up" and it's possible that the hardest working man in show business is the young actor playing The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.
We're between shots in a scene recreating James Brown and The Famous Flames' iconic performance in the concert film "T.A.M.I. Show" and everything is resetting.
For Chadwick Boseman, though, there's no such thing as a reset. The cameras may not be rolling, but Boseman's feet keep shuffling across the shiny green linoleum of the Natchez Auditorium stage, which is standing in for the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. He only pauses to run over to the monitor to see how his footwork looks, but then he returns to the stage, dancing his way there and back.
Chadwick Boseman has become something of a perpetual motion machine, but if you watch old videos of James Brown, the rhythmic restlessness is one of the first things you'll notice about the Godfather of Soul as well.
When I mention this to the movie's choreographer Aakomon Jones, also playing one of the Flames, he's instantly gratified.
"That's literally where I start," Jones smiles. "Because we got into the cool slides and all that footwork and the spins and all that. It's just this thing that James Brown does when he's like driving the beat, he's clicking both heels, one into the other -- right-left, right-left, right-left. I worked with Chad on that for hours, maybe two days straight before we ever started trying to add flashes. I knew that if he got that, he had 60 percent of what James Brown is as a performer as far as quantity, because he does that throughout his entire performance. He'll flash here, he'll slip off to the fight and dance-break and he'll hit a spin or a split, but 75 percent of the time? He's right-left with the heels. That's what keeps the band locked in."
And Boseman is certainly locked in as well.
Director Tate Taylor, the man behind the Oscar-winning hit "The Help," is shooting James Brown's "T.A.M.I. Show" numbers as full, uninterrupted songs. [After editing, I highly doubt that's the approach Taylor will take, but I can assure you that at least in the moment, the performances are sustained.]
Boseman goes through the entirety of his "Out of Sight" performance, which includes spins, a split and ends with him on his knees as the crowd shrieks.
"Mr. Brown, would you like another?" Taylor asks. And every time, Boseman does, indeed, want another..