Heartbreak, grief over the death of Chadwick Boseman at age 43

Chadwick Boseman
MGN Chadwick Boseman

The entertainment world and fans are reeling over the heartbreaking news that actor Chadwick Boseman of “Black Panther” and “42” fame passed away after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was just 43 years old.

Boseman had not spoken publically about his illness and the news came as a complete shock to many, including his co-workers.

A representative for the late star broke the news Friday night on his social media channels:

“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman.⁣

Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV. ⁣

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. ⁣

It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in “Black Panther.” ⁣

He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. ⁣

The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time. ⁣

Chadman starred in a number of films in his career, portraying a diverse range of iconic Black men from Jackie Robinson in “42” (2013) to James Brown in “Get On Up” (2014) and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” (2017).

His most impactful and career-defining role, without a doubt, was that of King T’Challa in Marvel’s blockbuster “Black Panther” (2018). The movie broke box office records and became a film and cultural phenomenon that was lauded for offering young Black boys and girls the opportunity to see Black excellence and agency portrayed triumphantly on the world stage.

Boseman was praised for the thoughtful and quiet strength he brought to his role as T’Challa, which stood in sharp contrast to the bravado and brashness of his antagonist, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan).

Other than his work, Boseman was known for using his influence to make a difference in people’s lives. A Howard University alum, in 2018, during the height of the “Black Panther” craze, he offered an inspirational commencement speech to Howard graduates.

Boseman would also often spend his time visiting young cancer patients. At the time, it was not publicly known that he, too, was such a patient.

In the clip below, Boseman choked up when talking about “Black Panther’s” impact on young kids, and in particular, children he met who were battling cancer and were excited to see the film but had passed away before the film’s release.

Boseman’s last tweet was in support of fellow Howard grad and Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. Kamala Harris. He also encouraged people to vote.

Sen. Harris paid tribute to Boseman on Friday night: “Heartbroken. My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman was brilliant, kind, learned, and humble. He left too early but his life made a difference. Sending my sincere condolences to his family,” tweeted Harris.

One of Boseman’s last performances is reported to be in Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The film was produced by Denzel Washington who had a unique history with the late star. Washington was asked by Phylicia Rashad to join in serving as an anonymous benefactor for several Howard University students to attend a prestigious acting program at England’s Oxford University. Boseman was one of those students.

During the press rounds for “Black Panther,” Boseman told the story of how, once he learned that Washington paid for his tuition, he thanked him at a “Black Panther” premiere. “You owe me money!” joked Washington when he learned the news, “I came to collect!”

After his passing, Washington offered this statement: “He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career. God bless Chadwick Boseman.”

More tributes and expressions of shock and grief came pouring in on social media from fans, co-stars and other actors, athletes, and politicians.

Michael B. Jordan posted on Instagram:

“I’ve been trying to find the words, but nothing comes close to how I feel. I’ve been reflecting on every moment, every conversation, every laugh, every disagreement, every hug…everything.

I wish we had more time.

One of the last times we spoke, you said we were forever linked , and now the truth of that means more to me than ever. Since nearly the beginning of my career, starting with All My Children when I was 16 years old you paved the way for me. You showed me how to be better, honor purpose, and create legacy. And whether you’ve known it or not…I’ve been watching, learning and constantly motivated by your greatness.

I wish we had more time.

Everything you’ve given the world … the legends and heroes that you’ve shown us we are … will live on forever. But the thing that hurts the most is that I now understand how much of a legend and hero YOU are. Through it all, you never lost sight of what you loved most. You cared about your family , your friends, your craft, your spirit. You cared about the kids, the community, our culture and humanity. You cared about me. You are my big brother, but I never fully got a chance to tell you, or to truly give you your flowers while you were here.

I wish we had more time.

I’m more aware now than ever that time is short with people we love and admire. I’m gonna miss your honesty, your generosity, your sense of humor, and incredible gifts. I’ll miss the gift of sharing space with you in scenes. I’m dedicating the rest of my days to live the way you did. With grace, courage, and no regrets. “Is this your king!?” Yes . he . is!  Rest In Power Brother.”

Viola Davis, who starred with Boseman on “Get On Up” and the upcoming “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” posted on on Instagram:”Chadwick…..no words to express my devastation of losing you. Your talent, your spirit, your heart, your authenticity……..It was an honor working beside you, getting to know you….Rest well prince…May flights of angels sing thee to thy heavenly rest. I love you!”

Angela Bassett, co-star in ”Black Panther” also offered remarks on Instagram: “During the premiere party for ‘Black Panther,’ Chadwick reminded me of something. He whispered that when I received my honorary degree from Howard University, his alma mater, he was the student assigned to escort me that day. And here we were, years later as friends and colleagues, enjoying the most glorious night ever!

“We’d spent weeks prepping, working, sitting next to each other every morning in makeup chairs, preparing for the day together as mother and son. I am honored that we enjoyed that full-circle experience. This young man’s dedication was awe-inspiring, his smile contagious, his talent unreal. So I pay tribute to a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother…’thou aren’t not dead but flown afar…’. All you possessed, Chadwick, you freely gave. Rest now, sweet prince.”

“This is a crushing blow,” tweeted director and actor Jordan Peele.

“We are devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in ’42′ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” wrote Major League Baseball on Twitter.

“The true power of @ChadwickBoseman was bigger than anything we saw on screen. From the Black Panther to Jackie Robinson, he inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want— even superheroes,” tweeted Democratic Presidential Nominiee Joe Biden.

“An immeasurable loss. From “Black Panther” to “Da 5 Bloods,” Chadwick Boseman brought strength and light to the screen, every time,” tweeted The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Perhaps one of the most moving tributes came from filmmaker Spike Lee, who directed Boseman in one of his last films, the Vietnam war drama “Da 5 Bloods.” Boseman played a fallen soldier named Stormin’ Norman who appears through a haunting flashback.

On Saturday, Lee honored him at his annual Michael Jackson block party in Brooklyn by playing “Gone Too Soon.” He also commented, “We filmed ‘Da 5 Bloods’ in Thailand, and it was hot, jungles, mountains, and Chadwick was there with us all the way.

“I never, ever suspected that anything was wrong….Chadwick, a trooper, never complained. He was there every single minute in the moment. And his performance is a testament to what he put into that role, and all his roles.”

Lee also shared on Instagram a deleted moving scene from “Da 5 Bloods” featuring Boseman singing Marvin Gaye’s classic “God Is Love.”

Boseman, a native of South Carolina, was the youngest of four children. He is survived by parents Leroy and Carolyn Boseman, siblings Kevin, Dionne and Derrick, and wife Taylor Simone Ledward. 

The Colonrectal Cancer Alliance paid tribute to Boseman and also released information to sound the alarm about the rise of young-onset colorectal cancer and how the cancer disproportionately affects Black and Brown communities. For more information about colorectal cancer, go to www.ccalliance.org/about/never-too-young.