Chadwick Boseman, who played James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and Marvel's Black Panther on the big screen, died Friday night after a battle with cancer. The actor was 43. Boseman never publicly disclosed his fight with cancer. He died with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press.
"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much," his family said in the statement to the Associated Press. "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. It was the honor of his career to bring King T'Challa to life in Black Panther." Boseman's family said he was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago.
View this post on Instagram
Boseman's final performance came in Spike Lee's acclaimed 2020 Netflix war drama, Da 5 Bloods. In the film, he delivered a moving performance as "Stormin' Norm" Holloway. The film stars Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. as a group of Vietnam War veterans who return to Vietnam to find Norm's remains. Boseman only appeared in a few scenes through flashbacks, but critics suggested Boseman should be in the running for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars.
Boseman was born in Anderson, South Carolina, and graduated from Howard University. He studied acting at the British American Drama Academy and also attended New York City's Digital Film Academy. He began his acting career on television while he was still in New York. Despite little experience on the big screen, Boseman landed his first starring role in 2013's 42, in which he played Jackie Robinson. It was the first of three biopics he would star in. In 2014, he played James Brown in Get On Up. Three years later, he played the first Black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, in Marshall.
Outside of biopics, Boseman was best known around the world as T'Challa, the Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The character was introduced in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. In 2018, the Black Panther solo film became the most critically acclaimed MCU movie and the first to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Boseman also appeared as T'Challa in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Additionally, he voiced the character for an episode of What If...?, an upcoming animated Disney+ series.
In an interview with Hunger, Boseman said he always wanted to be the actor to bring Black Panther to the screen. "I'd had people tell me that if there was gonna be a Black Panther movie then I should be the one to play him, so when they called me it was surreal," he said. "You pray for something and then it actually occurs, you almost can't believe it. There was no way in the world I was not going to play Black Panther, I had asked for that, I wanted it, and it felt like other people wanted it for me."
Boseman always understood the importance of Black Panther to people around the world and hoped his portrayal could be an inspiration to young people. "I'm still a kid, you know, there's a kid in each one of us and so I just know what it's going to mean to you when you see it that it can give you a certain type of confidence when you walk through the world," Boseman said on Good Morning America. "It also makes people that look like you see you in a different light and not judge you in a particular way."
Boseman's death came after he finished work on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, George C. Wolfe's upcoming film adaptation of August Wilson's play. The production features an all-star cast, including Viola Davis, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts. The film will be released on Netflix.