Chadwick Boseman, the electric young actor who projected so much vitality as the star of such films as Black Panther, Get on Up and 42, died Friday. He was 43.
Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, and family by his side, his publicist, Nicki Fioravante, told the Associated Press.
Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family revealed in a statement. He had never spoken publicly about his diagnosis.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said in the statement. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more — all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
His death comes amid a national reckoning with racial injustice and on Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day, in which every player in the big leagues wears the Brooklyn Dodger great’s uniform number one day a season. He portrayed Robinson in the Brian Helgeland-directed drama 42.
In such a short time, Boseman proved eerily adept at capturing the essence of great Americans, whether it be Robinson; soul icon James Brown in Get On Up (2014); or Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017), directed by Reginald Hudlin.
Most recently, Boseman took a turn in Spike Lee’s latest feature, the June release Da 5 Bloods, as “Stormin’” Norman Earl Holloway, a U.S. freedom fighter in the Vietnam War. The character is portrayed as a ghost and is seen in flashbacks.
The South Carolina native had his biggest cultural impact with his turn as Black Panther/T’Challa, the proud king and protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.
In 2016, Boseman appeared for the first time as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War, and he went on to headline his own movie two years later. The Disney film, directed by Ryan Coogler, Marvel Studios’ first Black director, became a cultural touchstone with its Black-led cast.
It went on to earn an astounding $1.34 billion globally, good for No. 14 on the list of top-grossing films at the worldwide box office. Nearly half of that came internationally, helping dispel tired Hollywood notions that Black-led films could not perform well overseas.
Boseman’s Panther became an icon for children of color, coming at a time when representation was only just beginning to become a priority in Hollywood.
The youngest of three sons, Chadwick Aaron Boseman was born on Nov. 29, 1976, in Anderson, South Carolina. His mom, Carolyn, was a nurse; his dad, Leroy, was a textile worker.
Boseman attended T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, where he played basketball; after a classmate was shot, he wrote a play about it and called it Crossroads.
He graduated in 1995, then headed to Howard University in Washington, D.C. While there, he worked in an African bookstore and embarked on a trip to Ghana before graduating in 2000 with a degree in directing.