When “Black Panther” won best cast in a motion picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, no one seemed more surprised than Chadwick Boseman, who stars in the superhero film’s title role. Not only is the category seen as the show’s top prize, but “Black Panther” faced tough competition from fellow Oscar best picture nominees “A Star Is Born,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” as well as box-office smash “Crazy Rich Asians.”
“Well, I’ll be," Boseman said as he arrived onstage with his castmates, including Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett. The audience cheered wildly. “I didn’t think I was gonna have to speak.”
As it turned out, Boseman delivered the most powerful speech of the night. (It was also the longest, and when the producers tried to play him off with music, it didn’t work.) He started by thanking the SAG-AFTRA union, as well as the film’s “genius” director Ryan Coogler and a slew of studio executives.
Then he turned to thank the cast, invoking the title of “A Raisin in the Sun” playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s autobiography, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” He also talked about the larger cultural impact of the movie, which earned $1.3 billion worldwide and helped further shatter the myth that films with predominantly black casts don’t make money overseas.
Here’s a transcript of Boseman’s remarks:
This cast, this ensemble. When I think of going to work every day and the passion and the intelligence, the resolve, the discipline that everybody showed, I also think of two questions that we all have received during the course of multiple publicity runs.
And one is, “Did we know that this movie was going to receive this kind of response?” Meaning, was it going to make a billion dollars, was it going to still be around during award season? And the second question is, “Has it changed the industry?” Has it actually changed the way this industry works, how it sees us?
And my answer is to be young, gifted and black — (loud applause) Because all of us up here, and Andy [Serkis], we include you, too. (laughter) To be young, gifted and black, we all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured, yet you are young, gifted and black.
We know what it’s like to be told there’s not a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. We know what it’s like to be the tail and not the head. We know what it’s like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day because we knew — not that we would be around during award season or that it would make a billion dollars, but we knew we had something special that we wanted to give the world. That we could be full human beings in the roles that we were playing, that we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see.
We knew that we had something that we wanted to give. And to come to work with every day and to solve problems with this group of people every day, with this director, that is something that I wish all actors would get the opportunity to experience. If you get to experience that, you will be a fulfilled artist.
Now, the question of, you know, will we be around? . . . The question of will we be around during award season, I just have to say, it’s a pleasure to be celebrated by you, to be loved by you. And one thing I do know: Did it change the industry? I know that you can’t have a “Black Panther" now without a “2″ on it. So, we love you. And we celebrate it.