In 2020, we lost a truly legendary and extremely empathetic, charismatic, and incredibly singular icon – the great actor, movie star, producer, playwright and cultural force, Chadwick Boseman. We're humbled and honored to pay tribute to him on this day in Black History Month.
How You Know Him
He is currently a Golden Globe nominee and multiple SAG Awards nominee for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for his last two film projects, the August Wilson adaptation "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," and Spike Lee's "Da 5 Bloods." He is nominated for four SAG Awards for the films, the most for any actor ever.
He is the Black Panther, T'Challa, in Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther," the only superhero movie ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. He is baseball legend Jackie Robinson in "42." He is the first African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in "Marshall." He is the one and only soul supreme singer James Brown in "Get On Up." And as the beloved Vietnam War soldier and friend Stormin' Norman in "Da 5 Bloods" and the anguished trumpeter Levee Green in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," he has further solidified himself in the cinematic firmament.
He was also always conscientious about his role as a leader and African American and sought to expand the boundaries of Black people's representation in the arts. Early on in his career, he stood up against what he saw were stereotypes for his character on the soap opera "All My Children" and was fired for it (he was replaced by his future "Black Panther" co-star, a young Michael B. Jordan). It didn't stop him.
Throughout his life, and in college at Howard University, Boseman has been a creator behind the scenes. He initially wanted to be a theater director and wrote plays since he was a teenager. One of his instructors at Howard, actress Phylicia Rashad, helped him and his peers to attend a summer program at Oxford, with financial aid from an unknown benefactor (at the time), actor Denzel Washington. Among Boseman's celebrated stage plays: "Hieroglyphic Graffiti," which he wrote in college, based on his experience working at a Black bookstore and reading important works; and "Deep Azure," written in the mid '00s about a Black woman's eating disorder after her fiancée is killed. The latter prompted interest from actors Tessa Thompson and Omari Hardwick, and compelled him to move to Los Angeles.
After several roles on television and more stage work, Boseman broke out in "42," and his star just continued to ascend. In the midst of being cast for "Black Panther" and working on the MCU, and future projects, Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer, but chose not to speak publicly about his condition. Given his illness, it is amazing that he was still able to remain so productive in his final years.
At the same time, he was an active philanthropist and donated his time and money to St. Jude's Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem, and gave more than $4 million just last year for personal protective equipment for the frontline workers in hospitals fighting COVID.
He was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina, and it was only his family and his wife, singer Taylor Simone Ledward, as well as a few close to him, who knew of his illness and took care of him. Boseman was a Christian, and the actor said that he prayed that he would be able to play T'Challa. He was given a public memorial service in Anderson on September 4, 2020. He will always be King T'Challa to us, as well as so many other cherished icons.
The Movies to Watch
We recommend his entire filmography, but Chadwick Boseman in "Black Panther," "Da 5 Bloods" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" are an essential trio of films and unparalleled performances from the actor. Whether he's a superhero, a fallen soldier or a flawed and an all-too-human musician, Boseman is graceful, charismatic, real and living with a distinct sense of humanity and humility. We're forever appreciative and grateful for him, and we're rooting for him for an Academy Award nomination and win upcoming.
More Black History Month Highlights:
About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.