The life and times of Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther star
An early morning tweet by 3:29AM (WAT) on Saturday August 29, announced to the world that Chadwick Boseman was no more.
A statement from his family said he died at his home in Los Angeles on Friday, from complications of Stage IV colon cancer, a disease which was diagnosed in 2016 at Stage III.
According to Associated Press, Boseman had kept his cancer diagnosis away from the public so his death was more shocking. Even more surprising was the fact that he starred in some of America’s highest-grossing movies in recent years.
The movie “Black Panther” was one of the highest-grossing films of the year in the United States, and according to Hollywood reporter Boseman earned $2 million for his role in the movie, and his earnings was expected to climb even higher in the sequel which is scheduled for 2022.
Avengers: Infinity War in 2018; Avengers: Endgame in 2019 were also among highest-grossing movies of the year they were released, with each of them crossing the $1 billion worldwide mark.
On 29th of November 1976, Chadwick Aaron Boseman was born to Carolyn and Leroy Boseman in Anderson, South Carolina, and this is where he spent his early years. Chadwick said in an interview that DNA testing indicated that he had ancestors from Krio and Limba in Sierra Leone, and Yoruba in Nigeria.
He attended T. L. Hanna High School and graduated in 1995, and proceeded to the Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he bagged a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing in 2000. He was admitted to the Oxford Mid-Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy in London, and with the help of one of his teachers, Phylicia Rashad, raised the money to attend the program.
He later returned to the United States, where he attended the New York City’s Digital Film Academy, learning how to write, direct and act.
A career in the movies
Chadwick first showed talent in movies when he wrote his first play, Crossroads as a junior student, and staged it in the school shortly after a classmate was shot and killed.
Later on, he worked briefly as the drama instructor in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program, housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York, before moving down to Los Angeles to actively take on his acting career. His interest was to become a director, and acting was part of his strategy to become a good director.
In an interview, he explained that he had turned down several roles in his years of waiting even though they would have offered him an opportunity to feature with actors whom he admired.
“I would say I want a role with that actor, but I don’t want that role. I want to meet him when I am playing something better than that,” he explained.
Boseman first appeared on screen in 2003, taking up a role in an episode of Third Watch. He also featured in episodes of the series Law & Order, “CSI: NY,” “ER”, Lincoln Heights, and Persons Unknown among others. In 2003, he got a role in the daytime soap opera All My Children but lost the role after voicing concerns to producers about racist stereotypes in the script.
While seeking acting roles, he continued writing plays and in 2006, one of his scripts for Deep Azure, performed at the Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago, was nominated for a 2006 Joseph Jefferson Award for New Work.
The turning point
Chadwick appeared in his first feature film, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story in 2008, and things slowed down for a while. In 2013, at a time when he had almost given up an acting career to pursue fulltime directing, he landed his first starring role in the 2013 film 42.
The movie 42 marked a turning point in Chadwick’s career. No less than 25 other actions were considered, but the director Brian Helgeland decided that Chadwick’s bravery made him right for the role.
“Because I said no at certain times, it made me available for the things that got me to where I am,” he stated.
Also in 2013, Boseman landed a major role in the indie film “The Kill Hole”, while in 2014, he featured in Draft Day, playing the part of an NFL draft prospect. He also starred as James Brown in 2014 movie Get on Up.
He starred as Thoth, a deity from Egyptian mythology, in Gods of Egypt in 2016, as well as the Marvel Comics character T’Challa/Black Panther, with Captain America: Civil War being his first film in a five-picture deal with Marvel.
It was in the same year he was diagnosed with colon cancer. For some reason, Boseman chose to keep this information away from the public, keeping up with his acting career and filming various roles in-between surgeries and chemotherapies.
Some other movies which he acted in the last four years include Avengers: Infinity War; Avengers: Endgame; 21 Bridges, Marshall, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and the Netflix war drama film Da 5 Bloods, directed by Spike Lee and released on June 12, 2020.
Due to Chadwick’s ongoing treatment, he lost weight and became emaciated in recent years, but did not slowdown in his career. As the disease progressed, the weight loss became more evident.
The statement from his family on his Instagram handle says “Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”
Commenting on his death, Oprah Winfrey said in her tweet, “What a gentle gifted SOUL. Showing us all that Greatness in between surgeries and chemo. The courage, the strength, the Power it takes to do that. This is what Dignity looks like.”
Some reactions on Twitter after his death says that many had thought he was on a weight loss program in order to fit into a movie role. There were several body-shaming comments on social media over his weight loss especially after he shared a video in April where he announced a partnership that would see the donation of medical equipment to selected hospitals to support the fight against COVID-19.
Boseman looked really shrunken in the video, and stories also made the rounds at the time that he was seen using a walking stick.
In an interview, he was asked to respond to the body-shaming and he had said “one day, I’ll live to tell the story”. Unfortunately, he did not.
Coincidentally, he died on August 28, the day the MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson, same baseball legend whose role he played in the 2013 film 42. Social media is still abuzz with reactions to his death.
He is most fondly remembered for his role as King T’Challa in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” and as Marvel’s first Black superhero in a blockbuster.
His family said, “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther”.
Less than a year before his death, he got married to singer Taylor Simone Ledward in a lowkey ceremony. Chadwick Boseman’s recent tweets and posts on Instagram has been promoting the Blacklivesmatter movement, and sharing snippets of his movie productions.
Recently, he announced his latest project – a drama which casts a light on a key moment in US Civil rights history. It examines Little Rock Nine, a high profile court case from 1957 that saw racial segregation at schools put to an end
It appears that we could be expecting some posthumous releases from the Boseman, as Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is yet to be released.