Forest Whitaker plays the man who inspired George Foreman to greatness in Big George Foreman, the upcoming biopic about the former heavyweight legend.
As Doc Broadus, Foreman’s boxing trainer and career mentor, Whitaker’s character introduces the champion to the sport that would transform his life at Job Corps.
“He was the first person to set up their boxing program for the Job Corps,” Whitaker told ESSENCE about Broadus. “That, I think, was really important.”
Founded in 1964, the residential education and job training program catering to young adults’ personal development continues to impact thousands of Americans annually. The addition of the sport gave them the option of another positive avenue to pursue while in the program.
“I think this is a special story, people arising from nothing, and because of their belief in pushing forward and working, they’re able to achieve great things,” he continued.
The Academy-Award winner saw Job Corps as offering Foreman “opportunity at a new life, opportunity to take himself out of poverty,” and a “constructive way and give himself a destiny.”
Broadus does more than develop Foreman’s physical resilience and discipline in the film. He helps him harness his rage and check his ego.
“This is an exciting one to be involved with. It’s an interesting character,” Whitaker said. “Doc was not just a trainer for George, but he was also his mentor.”
The role reminded Whitaker of two of his mentors, who each helped him make his way to the big screen in small ways throughout his life. His third-grade teacher Mrs. Hubbard nurtured his artistic sensibilities by allowing him to “paint murals all over the school.”
Like many other gifted people, Whitaker did not thrive on the traditional learning models of sitting still and shutting up.
“It wasn’t working for me in class,” he said. His talents spilled over the boundaries set for him. He shared that his sixth-grade teacher Mr. Keto made him a teaching assistant to keep him engaged in the classroom.
“Academically, I was actually not behind. I was ahead, and it was too much for me to sit there in the quiet,” he added.
Whitaker thrived after the educators saw his potential the way Broadous did with Foreman.
“They were instrumental in keeping me on track.”
Big George Foreman arrives in theaters on April 28.