Chadwick Boseman: Son, husband and inspiration to millions
Whether you’re a film fanatic, or just an avid fan of the Marvel Universe, the passing of Chadwick Boseman to colon cancer will have come like a bolt out of the blue. Probably even more so if cancer has impacted your life at some point. For many Black people his death with have a deeper resonance, his T’Challa character celebrated for what it represented in terms of modern day filmmaking and for the way it inspired millions of Black children finally able to see themselves as a superhero on-screen.
While Boseman was perfectly cast as the prince of Wakanda, off-screen he carried the same level of charm, charisma and intelligence. Throughout his career he made a point of taking on roles of iconic Black figures, from James Brown in Get On Up, whose music remains the foundation of much of what we hear today, to Jackie Robinson in 42, one of the first Black players to appear in major league baseball, and as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice in the US. More recently, he starred in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, recalling the conflict experienced by Black soldiers asked to fight for their nation at a time when their own country saw them as second class citizens.
Chadwick also has one final film due for release, very much in keeping with the path forged throughout his career. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - based on August Wilson’s play of the same name - tells the story of the ‘Mother of the Blues’, starring Viola Davis in the lead role and Chadwick as Levee, the temperamental trumpeter in her band. It’s a film that now holds even greater meaning, as it was produced by Denzel Washington, a man who played a pivotal role in helping Chadwick early in his career.
None of us knew he was suffering with cancer, and while remarkable that he somehow managed to shoot so many films while receiving such strong levels of treatment, especially given the physicality of the Avenger roles, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is not the norm for many people dealing with the condition. It’s a devastating disease affecting millions of people and their families around the world, with many struggling to manage its debilitating side effects.
Sadly, as expected, discussion has already started about who will take over the role of Black Panther - less than 24 hours after the human being that played him has passed away. For his family, friends and colleagues, nothing could be less important right now, and hopefully most fans feel the same way. A son and husband has died at only 43-years-old, and what it means to Disney and Marvel’s film strategy is meaningless at this point. All these things will be decided at a later date. For now, it’s time to take stock and pay respects to an actor who will be dearly missed by us all. May he rest in power and his family find the peace they deserve in time.