I did not expect to be writing this one anytime soon. Chadwick Boseman passed away this weekend at the age of 43, after battling colon cancer for four years. It is startling news not just because of his age but because none of us even knew about his illness. He literally spent the last four years of his life on a career whirlwind while being stricken with this terrible disease.
To be totally honest with I have not seen much of his work outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe; in fact the only other movie of his that I’ve seen to date is 21 Bridges. I have a lot of catching up to because he literally ran through a gauntlet of historical biopics from Jackie Robinson (42) to James Brown (Get on Up) to Thurgood Marshall (Marshall). Like a lot of you I was looking forward to seeing him reprise his role as T’Challa in future Black Panther films and alongside the other Avengers. But instead we will have to cherish what we did get from him in the role. But that itself was a lot as it is.
Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42.
While like you I didn’t know him personally the times we saw him at award shows, in interviews, on talk shows were enough to feel some of the grace and true power he brought to his career and his life. He embodied the role of T’Challa the way the Christopher Reeve did Superman and Robert Downey Jr has Tony Stark both on and offscreen. My Twitter feed has been inundated not just with videos and tributes from colleagues but even heartwarming stories like this thread:
While it’s crazy to think playing a fictional character would mean more than real people who affected our lives, the entire experience of Black Panther as a film resonated with us Black people in a way that few things in entertainment will. I said on Twitter and I’ll reiterate it here that Black Panther was a full realization of what we are capable of in film if given the opportunity and the support from the industry, from the quality of the work itself to its financial success. And the attention to detail from paying homage to old and still existing African traditions to Boseman himself insisting that T’Challa not speak with a European accent but an African one that a country that was never colonized would have was a huge deal that is more important than a lot of people will ever realize.
That he was on the run of his career is bittersweet. His success is cause for celebration but not without the sadness that he was doing all these shoots, press tours, and other appearances while battling stage four colon cancer and knowing his time was likely short. He was, along with others like his Black Panther castmates and others, was taking the torch being handed to him by elders who are still running like Denzel and Samuel L Jackson and starting up the next leg. And now they will continue with him here in spirit.
Man, this sucks. While he managed to do a lot in a short time it’s still gone too soon for me. But thank you for running the race and enduring to the end. A life all too short but one well lived nonetheless. RIP.