Chadwick Boseman: The King Lives On


Tatiana Mackel, Staff Writer

“I’m not really interested in being a superhero. That’s not a box I’ve been trying to check off.” Chadwick Boseman told Kyle Buchanan from the internet magazine Vulture two weeks before Marvel announced him as the lead role for the movie. He was definitely good with secrets, which is why many fans were shocked and heartbroken when we heard of his passing on Aug. 28.

In 2017, “Black Panther” became a smash hit with people the world over celebrating its release. Black Americans felt especially proud, and Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with people coordinating Dashikis, celebratory outfits, and dances to go to the theater. “Black Panther” became the icon that Black America had been waiting on, and Boseman became King of the world in real life as well as on-screen. This young man was definitely on the right track.

Boseman originally studied directing and only began studying acting as a way to relate to the actors better. He originally thought he would be a playwright and had settled his attention on writing and stage theatre. All of that changed, though, when he decided to audition for the role of Jackie Robinson in the 2015 biopic “42.”

“I could see that Chadwick is the kind of person who had a lot of dignity and pride in himself. He was also kind of humble. Jack had a lot of humility. which people seeing him play on the field never believed he had,” Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow told the New York Daily News. “But he did have it, in his one-to-one (conversations) and in his relationships. Chad is like that, too.”

It was that humility and poise that started him on his career and garnered attention from Phylicia Rashad while he was still in college at Howard University. Rashad, known primarily for her role as Claire Huxtable in “The Cosby Show,” began to mentor Boseman and when he and a group of students couldn’t afford to take a summer intensive at Oxford in London she tapped her friend, Denzel Washington, who secretly paid for Boseman and classmates to go and continue their studies.

Boseman’s pride and humility were a double-edged sword, as early on in his career he was fired from “All My Children” for speaking up about how his character was being portrayed as a black stereotype. It also compelled him to take the role of Thoth, the African God of Math and Wisdom, in the movie “Gods of Egypt.”

“That’s why I wanted to do it, so you would see someone of African descent playing Thoth, the father of mathematics, astronomy, the god of wisdom. And in the movie, I actually outnumber the other gods in the movie, literally and figuratively. It’s hard for people to know that without seeing it. But yeah, people don’t make $140 million movies starring black and brown people,” said Boseman when asked about “whitewashing” in the movie.

Boseman would go on to play more iconic roles like James Brown in “Get on Up” and Thurgood Marshall “Marshall,” before Marvel approached him. In 2019, he was cast as a divine figure in Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods.”

“This character is heroic; he’s a superhero. Who do we cast?” said Lee, discussing his thought process. “We cast Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and we cast T’Challa.”

In 2016, Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer. Boseman would go on to produce, direct, and star in several films in the four short years that he had left. My favorite moment outside of film will always be when he recognized real-life hero, James Shaw Jr., during his acceptance of the MTV best hero award. Boseman flew Shaw out just to honor him.

“This is going home to live with you,” he told Shaw after inviting him onstage with him. Rest in power to a king on-screen and off.

Watch here Chadwick Boseman as he gives the 2018 commencement speech at Howard University.