2020 has dealt some rough blows, but none more so than the tragic and premature death of actor Chadwick Boseman. Having brought to life the character of King T’Challa in the Marvel epic Black Panther, the star had been privately fighting a battle with colon cancer, one which finally defeated him at the age of 43. He died at home on 28th August 2020, surrounded by his wife and family.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Chadwick became immersed in the film industry after studying directing at Howard University. He had enjoyed a career spanning several decades, but became best known for his role in Black Panther, the first superhero movie to be directed by an African-American producer and contain a primarily black cast. In taking on the role and bringing the infamous King T’Challa to life, Chadwick became an instant role model for the black community across the globe, with adults and children alike feeling like they could finally relate to a Marvel superhero for the first time.
It was reported that Chadwick was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015. He continued to film movies in the preceding years including Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilsons, Ma Raineys Black Bottom and several more. It has been revealed that Chadwick only shared details of his illness with a small circle of people, and that the vast majority of those involved in movies such as Black Panther were not aware of his illness at all. This is made even more pertinent after revelations that some of his recent movies were filmed during and in between gruelling chemotherapy treatment.
It would also appear that the star was preparing to return to the screen as King T’Challa for the sequel to Black Panther, with the film’s producer Ryan Coogler admitting that he had no knowledge of the star’s illness. He was reported in the NME as saying “I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”
Since his death, many stars have paid tribute to the actor and his accomplishments over the years. Former president Barack Obama released a statement on Twitter saying, ‘”Chadwick came to the White House to work with kids when he was playing Jackie Robinson. You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain — what a use of his years.”
Angela Bassett, who played his on-screen mother in Black Panther said, ‘It was meant to be for Chadwick and me to be connected, for us to be family. But what many don’t know is our story began long before his historic turn as Black Panther. During the premiere party for Black Panther, Chadwick reminded me of something. He whispered that when I received my honorary degree from Howard University, his alma mater, he was the student assigned to escort me that day. And here we were, years later as friends and colleagues, enjoying the most glorious night ever! We’d spent weeks prepping, working, sitting next to each other every morning in makeup chairs, preparing for the day together as mother and son. I am honored that we enjoyed that full circle experience. This young man’s dedication was awe-inspiring, his smile contagious, his talent unreal. So I pay tribute to a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother…’thou aren’t not dead but flown afar…’. All you possessed, Chadwick, you freely gave. Rest now, sweet prince’.
Despite his own battles and suffering, Chadwick remained utterly dedicated to supporting sick and terminally ill children. He often visited them in hospital to help raise their spirits and also worked tirelessly with organizations such as the Make a Wish Foundation, getting much needed toys, gifts and treats to children who were facing insurmountable challenges. In one interview, Chadwick was visibly moved as he spoke about two boys who were terminally ill and were awaiting the release of Black Panther. It is only now that we can truly appreciate just how much he was able to personally relate to the children he clearly wanted to help so much.
Alongside the fictional character of King T’Challa, Chadwick was responsible for breathing life into many other great characters from the real world including Jackie Robinson and James Brown. His work and his contributions have made a lasting impact on the film industry and he has inspired an entire generation of young black children. He will be forever remembered for his passion for film, his compassion for others and his ongoing willingness to challenge the narrative and help bring real diversity to the world of film. Rest in peace Chadwick.