This weekend we lost a young but powerful figure of cinema… Chadwick Boseman, who died at the age of 43 after a four-year battle of colon cancer. I was in the midst of watching a movie on Friday night, specifically a miniseries, on Amazon Prime that I had been wanting to watch for ages. I usually left my phone away while watching a movie, but I somehow checked on it in between episodes, and was absolutely flabbergasted.
If you’re like me, most likely you had been totally blindsided by the fact that Boseman had been sick all these years. The statement on his Twitter account read that he was was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and thus he filmed many movies during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.
— Chadwick Boseman (@chadwickboseman) August 29, 2020
Looking at his IMDb profile, there were no less than eight films that he must have filmed while he was undergoing treatment:
- Da 5 Bloods
- 21 Bridges
- Avengers: Endgame
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Black Panther
- Message from the King
- Captain America: Civil War
All the while he kept his condition and suffering privately, instead, Boseman chose to bless others with his talents… not just in his astounding performances, but also to his many, many fans. Such as this moment where he surprised many of his fans on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:
I remember being moved to tears by his genuine gentleness and grace, and you could tell he really appreciated his fans and they knew that. Perhaps Boseman was excellent in portraying real-life heroes, Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, not only because he was a gifted actor, but also because he too, was a real-life hero.
Many film fans knew him as King T’Challa aka Black Panther, in the smash hit Marvel superhero movie. It was definitely one of my top 10 favorite MCU movies, as Black Panther was more than just a superhero movie… it became a phenomenon and statement of success for representation and diversity. It’s as if the #WakandaForever became a defiant force for the under-represented in Hollywood that people of color ought to have a voice and when they’re allowed to shine, the world will respond in kind. Yes, the film was a state of the art, competently made by Ryan Coogler & his team, and filled with terrific supporting actors… but it’s the power, grace and dignity of Boseman who lead the film that made us believe in T’Challa’s heroism, and what he stood for.
As Boseman was a private person, there were few known facts about him when he lived… and I really respect that. I read a bunch of articles in the past couple of days, simply trying to get a glimpse at who Boseman was, not just as an actor but as a human being… and many of the facts confirmed just what a hero he was in real life.
Here are seven lesser-known facts to me that I thought you might find interesting:
He fought to give An African Accent To T’Challa
Per this article, before filming began, Chadwick was presented with two options: keep his American accent or take on a British one.
Chadwick felt that either option implied that Wakanda had been colonized. He worked with a dialect coach to produce his accent in the film, which is based in the Xhosa language.
He received his Bachelors in directing
Per The Things website, initially, Boseman wasn’t going to become an actor. He wanted to become a writer and director instead. Even when he was at school, he wrote and staged a play. Then Boseman went on to study to Howard University and majored in directing there. After graduating, he moved to Brooklyn and began pursuing his career — writing and directing small off-Broadway plays. Boseman decided to take acting courses only to better understand the actors better. “I really only started acting because I wanted to know what the actors were doing, how to communicate with the actors.”
He was a playwright
Per TheaterMania, Boseman wrote his first play in high school. Crossroads, which was performed by students, was written in response to the death of a classmate, a young man on his basketball team who was shot and killed.
More about his theatre roots from that article:
After graduating, Boseman taught acting to students in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. He immersed himself in the hip-hop theater scene, working with Howard classmate Kamilah Forbes to create the play with music Rhyme Deferred, which toured the United States and appears in the Hip Hop Theatre Anthology The Fire This Time. He wrote and directed the play Hieroglyphic Graffiti, which was produced at Negro Playwright’s Theatre, Kuntu Repertory, the National Black Theatre Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival.
Boseman’s most well-known play is titled Deep Azure, which was commissioned and produced by the Congo Square Theatre Company. It earned him a 2006 Jeff Award nomination for Best New Play.
He did not have to audition for Black Panther
Due to his history of biopics and tremendous roles, Boseman didn’t even have to audition for Black Panther. After seeing the actor in Get On Up, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige knew that it was the man he wanted to see as King T’Challa. “I think it was 24 hours between saying his name in a creative story meeting and talking to his agent and getting on a phone with him and offering him the role of Black Panther, which he accepted,” Feige said,
It’s incredible given the fact that Boseman had just been acting in films for about five years prior to his Black Panther role. His big movie break came in 2012 (when he was already in his 30s) when he got the career-breaking role in 42 as Jackie Robinson. He was up against 25 actors for the role of the baseball great. According to this article, it was rumored that Robinson’s widow was initially unhappy with the casting and had hoped that Denzel Washington would play the role. However, she was happy with the final result of the film and has since become friends with Boseman.
He was a Christian
I read in several articles that Boseman was raised a Christian and he still kept his faith. Per Christianity Today, Boseman grew up in the church, and it has been reported that his former pastor praised him for always being involved in serving at the church and helping others. Baptised and raised as a Christian, Boseman maintained his Christian faith through his development into Hollywood stardom.
In the video below in his tribute to Denzel Washington, he referenced a Bible verse of Ephesians 3:20, saying, “May God bless you exceedingly and abundantly more for what’s in store than He ever has before. God bless you.”
He owed a lot to Phylicia Rashad + Denzel Washington
Following graduation from Howard University, Boseman studied at the British American Dramatic Academy in Oxford, England. Thanks to his acting mentor, Phylicia Rashad (from the Cosby Show) that Denzel Washington ended up paying for his tuition, plus nine of his fellow Howard theater students, at Oxford University.
He was trained in Martial Arts
Per that TvOverMind article, Boseman was also trained in martial arts. This came in handy for his role as Black Panther and he was well prepared for the action scenes. However, he and other cast members had to attend a boot camp to fully prepare them for the physical aspects of their roles. The stunts in Black Panther’ were predominantly performed by Boseman and the cast members rather than by stunt professionals.
The Yasuke Movie
The hard-working actor had a lot on his plate and one of the films he had signed on to do was to play Yasuke, the first and only black Japanese Samurai.
Per Deadline, Yasuke was a native of Portuguese Mozambique who was brought to Japan as a slave to Jesuit missionaries. The first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke’s arrival aroused the interest of Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord seeking to unite the fractured country under his banner. A complex relationship developed between the two men as Yasuke earned Nobunaga’s friendship, respect — and ultimately, the honor, swords and title of samurai.
This is what Boseman said about the role in that article written in May 2019:
“The legend of Yasuke is one of history’s best kept secrets, the only person of non-Asian origin to become a Samurai,” Boseman said. “That’s not just an action movie, that’s a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it.”
Oh how awesome would it be to see Boseman in this film… he’s so perfect for the role, and his martial arts training would’ve been put to great use. Alas…
It remains to be seen what would happen to this project. I sure hope it would still get made after Boseman is gone. One thing for sure though, I do NOT want to see Black Panther 2 get made without Boseman… I simply cannot imagine another actor for the part. I think Disney/Marvel should scrap the sequel idea, as it would be disrespectful to recast him and I don’t think it would’ve been successful anyway as fans would refuse to watch it.
I’m still trying to come to terms with Boseman’s untimely death… he’s gone far, far too soon. My heart goes out to his family and friends… and to his wife Taylor Simone Ledward whom he apparently married before he died. I pray the Lord would comfort them during this painful times.
In his relative short career, Boseman made such a huge impact – as a human being AND as an artist. I know he will be missed by many, me included… but for sure, his legacy shall live on.
THANK YOU, Chadwick Boseman… for everything you had done. May God rest his soul.