During a 2017 interview, Chadwick Boseman opened up about the physical toll acting can take. In his career, Boseman brought life to James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and Black Panther, four very different characters that came with their own challenges. The actor's discussion of his craft, a year after he was diagnosed with colon cancer, took on a new significance in light of his death Friday night at age 43.
Boseman sat down with HuffPost in October 2017 to promote Marshall, a film about the early career of the first Black Supreme Court Justice. Boseman had just come off playing Brown in Get On Up and was preparing for Marvel's Black Panther after T'Challa's appearance in Captain America: Civil War. When HuffPost suggested that playing Marshall might be physically easier than playing Brown, Robinson or T'Challa, Boseman noted that acting is "always" physical, no matter who you play.
"I don’t have to dance or play baseball, but there is a physicality to Marshall. There's a difference between the older man in the robes and the young, wiry version of Thurgood Marshall. I was coming off of Captain America: Civil War, so it was important that I didn't look like T'Challa in those suits," Boseman explained. "He couldn't look, like, super, cut up in those suits. There's still the physicality of it, and there's still — to me — a sense of the physicality of the time period." Boseman noted that he wanted to find the "swagger or the rhythm" of the Harlem Renaissance when playing Marshall.
Marshall was filmed between Captain America: Civil War and the solo Black Panther movie. Boseman was asked if it was hard to bulk up for Civil War, slim down for Marshall, and then bulk up again. "Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah," Boseman, looking exhausted agreed. HuffPost noted that Boseman has been through the wringer. "Oh, you don't even know," Boseman replied with a laugh. "You have no idea. One day I'll live to tell the story."
Unbeknownst to the HuffPost interviewer and the general public, Boseman was already diagnosed with cancer when he did that interview. Boseman's family said he was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and it recently progressed to stage IV. Marshall, Da 5 Bloods, and the upcoming Ma Rainey's Black Bottom were all filmed "during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy," his family said. Boseman died with his family and wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, by his side.