Actor Chadwick Boseman has died of colon cancer at the age of 43. Those close to him made the announcement via Twitter on Friday evening. The fond farewell has since become the most liked post in the platform’s history.
Now, people are remembering the man who brought to life such iconic roles as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Black Panther‘s King T’Challa.
Continuing to Achieve While Fighting Cancer
Boseman was diagnosed with stage-3 colon cancer in 2016. By the time of his death, the cancer had developed to stage-4. But despite his withering health, Boseman continued acting, starring in several film projects in his final year.
The post announcing his passing read:
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you 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.”
A trained martial artist, the famously athletic actor alarmed some fans earlier this summer when he appeared in an Instagram video looking very thin. In the video, Boseman discussed Operation 42, an organization that helps hospitals serving predominantly Black communities. But Boseman’s physicality was shocking, a dramatic departure from his muscular frame in movies like Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame. The video was the first public sign that his illness was taking its toll.
Still, in his final months, Boseman lived life to the fullest. He made huge strides in his career, his activism, and his personal life, marrying long-time girlfriend Taylor Simone Ledward just months before his death.
Director Ryan Coogler’s Tribute
Ryan Coogler, who directed Black Panther, penned an emotional tribute to Boseman following his passing. Coogler describes the amazing energy Boseman brought to every moment of production. Even in auditions for supporting roles, Boseman would skillfully, yet playfully act alongside his future costars, bringing out unexpected characterizations.
The filmmaker also spoke of Boseman’s ability to make his interactions with ancestors in Black Panther seem so authentic. Even though such scenes were filmed in front of blue screens and were heightened by computer graphics, Coogler says that “Chad’s performance made it feel real.”
“I think it was because from the time that I met him, the ancestors spoke through him,” Coogler writes. “It’s no secret to me now how he was able to skillfully portray some of our most notable ones. I had no doubt that he would live on and continue to bless us with more.”
“With a heavy heart and a sense of deep gratitude to have ever been in his presence,” Coogler concludes, “I have to reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now.”
ABC Memorial Special
ABC aired “Chadwick Boseman: A Tribute For A King” on Sunday evening. The event followed a commercial-free airing of Black Panther. During the virtual event, countless collaborators and fans spoke in commemoration of the fallen actor.
Actress Phylicia Rashad reminisced about first mentoring Boseman at Howard University. Following his acceptance into the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer program, fellow icon Denzel Washington paid Boseman’s tuition to allow him to attend.
Other stars from the Marvel Cinematic Universe also made remarks. Robert Downey, Jr. said that Boseman had given life to the most influential character from the entire MCU. After all, Boseman was the first Black actor to star in one of the franchise’s films.
“Black Panther is hands down the crowning achievement of the Marvel Universe,” Downing said. “It was the one that people got to vote with their ticket sales and say, ‘we require this overdue diversity!’”
Captain America star Chris Evans said of Boseman, “He had that power in his art to define a generation…He is that generation-defining actor.”
And finally, Whoopi Goldberg spoke about the global impact of Boseman’s work. “This loss is felt around the world, people in every country,” she said. “He was pretty amazing. He is Wakanda forever.”