Fans all over the world are still reeling from the news of the passing of Chadwick Boseman, after he lost his battle with colon cancer. He was a wonderful actor and a fierce supporter of social justice issues. To honour his legacy, we have outlined five things you probably did not know about our beloved T’Challa actor and why you should admire him (if you do not already):
His big breakthrough came from portraying Black historical icons. Chadwick Boseman played in various small roles on television, such as ER, CSI: New York, and Persons Unknown, before his breakthrough in the film, 42. He portrayed the baseball player, Jackie Robinson, who was the first ever Black man to play in major league baseball. He also played as the soul legend, James Brown, in the 2014 film entitled Get on Up. By all accounts, Boseman was a brilliant actor. His performance in Black Panther inspired many Marvel fans and united many more as he portrayed Marvel's first Black superhero. Black children worldwide saw him as a hero they could both relate to and aspire to be. As a law student, I found my love for this actor through his work for the movie, Marshall. Boseman played Thurgood Marshall, who was an American law and civil rights activist that later became the first ever bBack justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Boseman brought a celebrated historical figure to life in a way that made me feel like I lived those eras. I remember making my way through a Jurisprudence law course confused with the idea of unjust laws. But Marshall made me understand racial injustice in ways I could not without Boseman’s awe-inspiring acting.
He never talked about his diagnosis in public. Boseman was diagnosed with an advanced form of colon cancer in 2016. But, still he kept filming to bring Wakanda to life even though he was undergoing treatment. The director of Black Panther described him as someone who “shielded his collaborators from his suffering."
He advocated strongly for the use of African languages in Black Panther. Boseman learned his isiXhosa lines and accent on set when he first started shooting for Black Panther. He strongly endorsed that the character of T’Challa have a isiXhosa accent to truly present him as an African king. His support also paved the way for isiXhosa to be recognised as the official language of Wakanda, the fictional African country in the Marvel universe. Boseman had regular research trips to South Africa to learn an accurate accent that the audience will accept, and even tracked down his own ancestry to assist him.
He was a trained director and drama instructor. Besides being an actor, Boseman obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts specialising in directing. He initially intended to write films and thought that the art of acting would help him relate to those he worked with. In his early career, he also taught acting in Harlem.
Chadwick Boseman filled our hearts as the King of Wakanda, as a ground-breaking baseball player, and as an unwavering lawyer seeking justice – and many more charactersthat he portrayed left a deep impact on his audiences. Let us celebrate this internationally acclaimed actor and remember the power of the fine arts in shaping our way of thought. Keep an eye out for his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, that will be released soon.
Rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman. Forever the King of Wakanda.