After a secret struggle with cancer, the actor Chadwick Boseman has passed away at his home in Los Angeles, surrounded by his family, at the age of 43.
To many, Boseman seemed superhuman. Strong, charismatic, inspiring.
He had captured the hearts of the world through his various onscreen roles and so when he posted a picture of himself to promote a new charity initiative in April, in which he looked much frailer than usual, fans responded with a mix of confusion and concern. Later, the actor was seen walking with a cane through the streets of Los Angeles, confirming that something was amiss.
While some had originally suspected this transformation was for a role, the unfortunate truth became apparent today, when the world witnessed the death of an icon.
Boseman was born in South Carolina to Carolyn, a nurse, and Leroy Boseman, an upholsterer. His career in film began early on, as he wrote his first play during his junior year of high school, before moving on to graduate from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Directing.
Initially, he studied acting so, as a director, he would be able to relate to his actors more, but in 2008, after a few minor roles on television, Boseman made the move to Hollywood to pursue acting as his main career.
In the past, Boseman has cited iconic and important figures such as Malcon X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, A Tribe Called Quest, Prince and Public Enemy as his heroes growing up. So it tracks that Boseman would make his big break playing similarly monumental real-life figures, as he first drew the attention of Hollywood in 2013 starring opposite Harrison Ford in 42, as the baseball star Jackie Robinson. Amidst his other roles, Boseman would then transform himself into James Brown, starring in the 2014 film Get On Up.
However, as is the way in this day and age, Boseman will probably be best remembered for his turn as the superhero and king, Black Panther, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While his Marvel films were very entertaining, unlike many of his peers, Boseman and his character took on a new level of significance. In a series dominated by white heroes and villains, Boseman, alongside director Ryan Coogler and his near-all black cast, delivered a cultural phenomenon that would go on to become the first superhero movie nominated for a Best Picture at the Oscars.
Now, around the world, black children (and even some of us adults) had a hero they could look up to that actually looked like them. Not a sidekick or an anti-hero, but someone who would command the screen and steal the show whenever he appeared in his debut outing.
His chanting of ‘Yibambe’, ‘Wakanda Forever!’, as well as his signature Wakandan greeting, have forced their way into the public consciousness.
Even now, #WakandaForever trends on Twitter to mark the great actor’s passing, as fans and celebrities share their sorrow and tributes.
However, it would have been around the same time that Black Panther hit our screens in Captain America: Civil War that Boseman got his diagnosis of colon cancer. Rather than telling the world, Boseman battled his illness in silence, whilst simultaneously continuing to fight the good fight as an on-screen superhero, speak out against the struggles facing black people and black actors, as well as trying his hand at film producing with the 2019 release 21 Bridges.
In his last few months, Boseman also married his long-time partner Taylor Simon Ledward earlier this year, who was with him when he passed.
In the end, Boseman was many things. Actor, producer, fighter, hero, king. Gone far too soon.