CS Video Interviews: Bringing James Brown Back to Life in Get on Up


There have been many great musical biopics in recent years, everything from Ray, for which Jamie Foxx won an Oscar playing Ray Charles, and Walk the Line, which got Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Johnny Cash. It was only a matter of time before the highly influential Godfather of Soul, James Brown, would get the big screen treatment, and as one might expect, there are a lot of great stories about the iconic singer and performer.

Get on Up, the new film from The Help‘s Tate Taylor, has a prestigious producer and adviser in Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who personally knew Brown and had seen him perform many times. The two of them worked with actor Chadwick Boseman (42, Draft Day) to create an incredible personification of the hard-to-imitate Brown, showing him as he was starting out in music, right through his later life when he started to get into trouble with the law.

There for Brown all the way is Bobby Byrd, played by Nelsan Ellis, best known as Lafayette on HBO’s soon-to-end “True Blood.” Bobby Byrd literally discovered James Brown and convinced him to become a performer and frontman in his band. Even as Brown’s career exploded and he become more of a solo artist with a renowned backing band and Bobby fell further into his shadows, he still remained with Brown all the way to the end.

Singer/songwriter Jill Scott continues her acting run by playing Brown’s second wife DeeDee, with the cast also including Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer–both from The Help–and the one and only Dan Aykroyd as Brown’s long-time manager.

ComingSoon.net went up to Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater on 125th street to conduct interviews with Taylor, Boseman, Ellis and Jill Scott, and no, those shots with the drum set in the background aren’t a backdrop. That is the actual stage of the Apollo behind us as we conducted these interviews inside the theater itself!

We spoke with Taylor about finding his James Brown and with Boseman about becoming Brown, especially in learning his trademark moves, as well as with Ellis and Scott about how they were able to find a reference point for their characters who were never as much in the spotlight as Brown was.

Get on Up opens nationwide on Friday, August 1.