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Nitkowski: ‘42’ role brings home Robinson’s path
Question of the Day
My scenes take place at the same time as those depicting Philadelphia manager Ben Chapman. The scenes and the language are critical to the movie. Writer-director Brian Helgeland knew the importance of bringing this part of Jackie’s experience to his film, regardless of how uncomfortable.
Chapman demeans Jackie in some of the most vile and disgusting ways one man could tear down another. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard insults that awful before, at least not to that degree and with that intent, filled with hate and pure disgust for the man they were directed toward.
In the movie, you’ll hear it once and its effect will be powerful. As a member of the cast, I heard it for hours upon hours the day we were shooting the scene. Multiple takes from multiple angles, it seemed like it would never end. You couldn’t help but be disturbed by the powerfulness of the language. One of the makeup women turned to me during one of Chapman’s takes and whispered, “I can’t wait for this day to be over.”
I’ll never experience anything close to what Jackie Robinson did in 1947 and neither will you, regardless of which race you are.
What this movie did for me and what I hope it does for you is bring Jackie’s awful experiences to life. It forced me to absorb what his experience was really like. It shamed me into feeling embarrassed how I handle my own minute interpretation of injustice.
The 70-year anniversary of Jackie breaking the color barrier is not that far away. Few remain who witnessed his debut and soon they will be gone. But I now feel I know who Jackie Robinson really was and what 1947 was really like for him.
No longer do I have to feign my way through admiration for him. It is sincere, and I’ll be a better man for it.
By Matt Kibbe
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