Fans around the globe are mourning the loss of iconic “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman, who died Friday from colon cancer at the age of 43.
News of his death was released on the global icon’s Twitter account.
“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and he battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV,” the post read. “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you so many of the films you have come to love so much. 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.”
The statement went on to say Boseman died at his home with his wife – singer Taylor Simone Ledward – and family by his side.
Chadwick Aaron Boseman was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina to Carolyn and Leroy Boseman, both African-American. According to Boseman, DNA testing indicated that his ancestors were Krio people from Sierra Leone, Yoruba people from Nigeria and Limba people from Sierra Leone. His mother was a nurse and his father worked at a textile factory, managing an upholstery business as well. Boseman graduated from T. L. Hanna High School in 1995. In his junior year, he wrote his first play, Crossroads, and staged it at the school after a classmate was shot and killed.
Boseman attended college at Howard University in Washington, D.C., graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing. One of his teachers was Houston native Phylicia Rashad, who became a mentor. She helped raise funds, notably from her friend and prominent actor Denzel Washington so that Boseman and some classmates could attend the Oxford Mid-Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy in London, to which they had been accepted.
Boseman wanted to write and direct, and initially began studying acting to learn how to relate to actors. After he returned to the U.S., he graduated from New York City’s Digital Film Academy.
He lived in Brooklyn at the start of his career, and worked as the drama instructor in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program, housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.
Boseman got his first television role in 2003, in an episode of Third Watch. That same year, he portrayed Reggie Montgomery in the daytime soap opera All My Children, but stated that he was fired after voicing concerns to producers about racist stereotypes in the script; the role was subsequently re-cast, with Boseman’s future Black Panther co-star Michael B. Jordan assuming the role. His early work included episodes of the series Law & Order, CSI:NY, and ER.
Boseman had his first starring role in the 2013 film 42, in which he portrayed baseball pioneer and star Jackie Robinson.
In 2014, Boseman appeared opposite Kevin Costner in Draft Day, in which he played an NFL draft prospect. Later that year, he starred as James Brown in Get on Up. In 2016, he starred as Thoth, a deity from Egyptian mythology, in Gods of Egypt.
In 2016, he started portraying the Marvel Comics character King T’Challa / Black Panther, with Captain America: Civil War being his first film in a five-picture deal with Marvel. He headlined Black Panther in 2018,which focused on his character and his home country of Wakanda in Africa. The film became one of the highest-grossing films of the year in the United States. He reprised the role in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, which were released in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Both films were the highest grossing of the year they were released, with Endgame going on to become the highest-grossing film of all time. Also in 2019, he starred in 21 Bridges, an American action thriller film directed by Brian Kirk.
In 2019, it was announced that Boseman was cast in the Netflix war drama film Da 5 Bloods, directed by Spike Lee. The film was released on June 12, 2020.
According to film critic, Owen Gleiberman in Variety, “Boseman was a virtuoso actor who had the rare ability to create a character from the outside in and the inside out. . . Boseman knew how to fuse with a role, etching it in three dimensions. . . That’s what made him an artist, and a movie star, too. Yet in “Black Panther,” he also became that rare thing, a culture hero. . .”
Boseman’s death was a shock to all his fans. He did not speak publicly about his cancer diagnosis, and continued to work while receiving treatment.