If you told me this past Friday morning when I woke up that my night would end with me on the floor of a friend’s house bawling my eyes out following the death of superstar actor Chadwick Boseman, I would probably say that you are crazy, since that moment was not supposed to happen for another handful of years.
But then, the murmurs and notifications began buzzing.
Once I received word, I did not want to believe it was true, at least not this soon. Boseman passed away at the age of 43, after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Neither did I meet the man nor did I ever see him in person, but for whatever reason, his death hit me harder than any other that has happened over the past eight months of 2020.
Once I took the time to collect my thoughts after being consoled by friends and family, I finally got to think for a few days, “Why did Boseman mean so much to so many people?”
The answer was easy.
The general consensus for sure will be the fact that he played one of the most beloved superheroes in Black Hollywood history, with his portrayal of the namesake in Marvel’s “Black Panther.” While I enjoy watching films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe just as much as the next comic book and/or superhero junkie, Boseman was more than just T’Challa, King of Wakanda.
I was first introduced to Boseman in a main role on the big screen in his representation of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film, “42.” Going in, I had little to no idea what I was getting from Boseman representing one of the pillars of Black American history, but he proved to me and the rest of the world that he was more than ready for the bright lights.
Fast forward about a year later to August of 2014 when I went to see Boseman play the late James Brown in “Get on Up,” alongside my 87-year-old great grandmother. Whether or not Boseman had the pipes that mimicked one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century is another conversation for another day, but his performance put a smile on my great-grandmother’s face, as if she had just seen Brown himself put on a show at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
While Boseman started his career with a bang by playing influential Black figures, the biggest break of his career came with his introduction to Marvel. His first portrayal of Black Panther was in “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016. Over the next three years, Boseman made appearances as T’Challa in the hero’s solo film, “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” With this four-film run, Boseman was officially stamped as an icon in the industry.
Boseman’s acting resume included playing the first Black man to ever play in the Major Leagues, a multi-platinum recording artist and the first Black superhero with supernatural abilities in the Marvel comic universe. Boseman also played Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice in the 2017 film, “Marshall.” In such a short period of time, Boseman took over Hollywood like few others could.
Throughout Black culture, there have been great debates about the greatest actors in film history. Names like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman and Laurence Fishburne are the ones that come to mind throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Boseman was supposed to be the one that led the charge going forward. Whether it be telling the next chapter of the story of Black Panther or stepping into different roles that were offered to him, Boseman was more than capable of taking on the mantle of the “next Denzel.”
What makes Boseman’s run even more remarkable is the fact that following his diagnosis with cancer, he was still a public figure. Being a part of films that would bring in billions of dollars in the box office, executive producing projects, making appearances at MLB, NFL and NBA games and events, Boseman lived every day as if nothing was wrong. That was the most powerful part. He showed his fans that he would not let his own personal battle get in the way of telling some of the most iconic stories in American history.
With his versatility, talent and charisma, his acting quite literally transcended generations to give the world the closest thing we have seen to a hero in a time where the world needed one. Rest In Power, Chadwick Boseman. Your story and legacy will live on forever.