The new movie “42,” in theaters Friday, tells the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson, who changed the sport forever when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947.
While Robinson’s entry into the league was unprecedented, it was far from easy, and arguably no team was harder on the new first baseman than the Philadelphia Phillies. Manager Ben Chapman, played by Alan Tudyk in the movie, was notorious for ordering his pitches to “bean” the player at bat and yelling racist remarks at him on the field.
“There’s a lot of racism in the movie and I’m the biggest racist of them all,” Tudyk told ABCNews.com. “He was the one who would stand in front of everybody and put his money where his mouth was.”
Tudyk, known for his comedic role on ABC’s “Suburgatory,” took on the villainous part without hesitation, he said, but filming scenes in which he hurls insults at Robinson was difficult.
“It ended up being hours and hours of screaming that stuff. It was awful,” Tudyk said. “It would put me in the worst mood. You would have to be in this palace of anger and hate, and just living there.”
Tudyk worked opposite Chadwick Boseman, who stars as Robinson in the biopic, and said the actor chose not to interact with him on set in order to stay in character.
“In the beginning when I first met [Boseman], he said, ‘I’m not going to talk to you,’” Tudyk recalled. “I respected his process and thought, OK, that’s fine. I think that will probably work to my advantage as well if I don’t like you, and we didn’t have a chance to become friends.”
After shooting a critical scene together in which Chapman’s racist remarks put Robinson’s willpower to the test, Tudyk said the two had a bonding moment.
“He came up afterwards and he apologized for distancing himself at me. He said he respected what I did, and then we went out to dinner and hung out more after that,” Tudyk recalled.
Tudyk said he was “blown away” seeing Boseman’s final performance on screen.
“Jackie Robinson is a hero and the story of his life … taught me,” Tudyk said. “People have been amazed at how recent this history is. It’s amazing at just how unfair it was and how unfair things were. It’s not that they are perfect now, but we’ve come so far.”