Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I have some sad news to report.
Chadwick Boseman, an actor who portrayed such monumental African American figures as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, then became a superstar with the billion dollar 2018 superhero blockbuster “Black Panther,” died Aug. 28 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 43.
The cause was of death colon cancer, according to a statement on his official Twitter account. He had battled the disease for four years, as he rose to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
His illness was not widely known, and his unexpected death at the height of his career brought an outpouring of tributes on social media from countless figures in the entertainment and political worlds.
Mr. Boseman’s role in “Black Panther,” the first superhero film to be nominated for an Oscar for best picture, proved to be a cultural landmark. With a largely Black cast and a Black director (Ryan Coogler), the lavish production broadened and diversified the tradition of fantasy and superhero films.
As T’Challa, the king of the fictional African country of Wakanda, Mr. Boseman presided over an advanced civilization that had resisted colonial incursion and, through its technological capabilities, remained hidden from the outside world. He adopted an accent that seemed to be from no country on Earth pure Wakandan.
The film’s special effects enhanced fights were more than physical combat between Black Panther and his chief antagonist, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, played by Michael B. Jordan: They were an battle for the existence of Wakanda and the preservation of its civilization and independent traditions. Mr. Boseman’s “Wakanda forever” salute, with his arms crossed over his chest, became a cultural touchstone.
The film was a huge box office hit, with more than $1.3 billion in worldwide ticket sales. Mr. Boseman fully recognized that his role as T’Challa/Black Panther represented something more than just the escapades of a cinematic superhero who could deflect bullets and pull a wheel off a speeding car. “Black Panther” became a symbol of pride for many Black moviegoers who had never before seen a superhero on the screen who looked like them
“Most African Americans have had a moment where they’re like, ‘I know I’m of African descent but I don’t have that connection,’ ” Mr. Boseman told the Los Angeles Times in 2018. “That’s something that needs to be healed. That’s something that’s broken and has to be made whole.”
Chadwick Aaron Boseman was born Nov. 29, 1976, in Anderson, S.C. His father worked in a textile mill and his mother was a nurse.
In high school, Mr. Boseman played basketball. After one of his teammates was shot and killed, he turned to writing as a form of personal expression. He also became interested in the arts through an older brother, Kevin Boseman, who studied dance and later was a member of the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham companies.
At Howard University, Mr. Boseman studied playwriting and took acting courses with Phylicia Rashad, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.”
“The only reason I started acting was because I felt like I needed to understand what the actors were doing and their process so that I could better guide them,” Mr. Boseman told Vanity Fair in 2013. “During the course of that, I caught the acting bug.”
Once graduating from Howard in 2000, he moved to New York and wrote a number of short plays that incorporated dance and music. He found occasional acting jobs as well, including on the soap opera “All My Children” and in the television series “Law & Order” and “ER.” He had a small part in the 2008 film “The Express,” a biopic about football player Ernie Davis, then had a steady role in the TV drama “Lincoln Heights.”
He portrayed Jackie Robinson in 2013’s “42,” about the integration of baseball in the 1940s, Mr. Boseman went on to play other historical figures, including Brown, the Godfather of Soul, in “Get on Up” (2014) and Marshall in a 2017 film about the civil rights lawyer who became the first African American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mr. Boseman beat out more than 20 other actors to be cast in the role of baseball pioneer Robinson in “42.” (The film’s name derives from Robinson’s uniform number.) Mr. Boseman died on the same day that every major league player wore No. 42 in Robinson’s honor.
Mr. Boseman trained for months with baseball coaches and spent hours with Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, to learn about the private side of the stoic player who endured racial taunts as baseball’s first Black player in the 20th century.
“I was thrilled by Chad’s depiction of Jack,” she told Time magazine. “I was moved to tears by the performance. I felt the warmth and passion that Jack and I felt for each other.”
Amid lackluster reviews for the film, Mr. Boseman’s evocative performance was consistently praised.
In 2014, Mr. Boseman appeared in another biopic, “Get on Up,” portraying the equally driven Brown. He performed the singer’s intricate dance moves and learned his songs, although Brown’s voice was heard in the movie. After several other roles, Mr. Boseman starred in “Marshall,” about a 1940s court case that was a key moment in the legal titan’s career.
While battling his cancer, Mr. Boseman continued to act, appearing as a New York police detective in “21 Bridges” (2019), a soldier in Spike Lee’s recent Netflix production, “Da 5 Bloods,” about soldiers returning to Vietnam, and in a filmed version of playwright August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” directed by George C. Wolfe and scheduled for release later in the year.
Survivors include his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, whom he married shortly before his death; his parents, Leroy and Carolyn Boseman; and two brothers.
what Boseman was able to accomplish, facing down an industry’s historical prejudice while suffering through cancer treatments. But it’s equally hard to measure what lay in front of him. In less than a decade, Boseman changed the movies. His more recent films suggest the next decade was going to be at least as interesting. In last year’s “21 Bridges,” a film he also produced, Boseman plays an NYPD detective whose cop killer case uncovers the department’s own persistent corruption. Boseman’s very presence reorients the story.
During the filming of “Black Panther,” Boseman said he was communicating with two boys who had terminal cancer. They were hoping to make it long enough to see the film. “I realized they anticipated something great,” Boseman said in a SiriusXM interview. The kids, Boseman said through tears, didn’t make it. But in his unjustly short career, Boseman held in his hands a world, illuminated on screen like never before.
Boseman was able to accomplish, facing down an industry’s historical prejudice while suffering through cancer treatments. But it’s equally hard to measure what lay in front of him. In less than a decade, Boseman changed the movies. His more recent films suggest the next decade was going to be at least as interesting. In last year’s “21 Bridges,” a film he also produced, Boseman plays an NYPD detective whose cop killer case uncovers the department’s own persistent corruption. Boseman’s very presence reorients the story.