(New York Daily News) – Chadwick Boseman, the intense, dynamic actor who starred in the smash hit “Black Panther” and portrayed legendary Black figures on screen including Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, died Friday after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43.
Boseman’s wife and family were at his side when he died, said a statement published to his social media accounts.
“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” said the statement. “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much.”
Boseman never spoke publicly about his cancer diagnosis, even as it progressed to stage 4. His death shocked his legions of fans.
“This is a crushing blow,” actor and director Jordan Peele tweeted. Actor and writer Issa Rae wrote, “This broke me.”
A native of Anderson, S.C., Boseman studied at Howard University, graduating with a degree in directing from the Washington, D.C., school. He continued on to the British American Drama Academy, a school of acting in London.
Before breaking out on the silver screen, he toiled on television in the 2000s. He nabbed credits on shows including “Third Watch,” “Law & Order” and “CSI: NY.”
But in 2008, his career started to chug when he landed a role as football player Floyd Little in the movie “The Express.” Sports films were kind to Boseman. A few years later, he starred as Jackie Robinson in the well-received “42.” The role launched him into the prime of his career.
In 2014, he took on legendary soul singer James Brown in “Get on Up.” But Boseman was best known for his role as T’Challa, the Black Panther, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He played the character four times, including in the 2018 film of the same name, a box office bonanza that grossed more than $700 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther.
Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther.
Many of his major roles — including “Marshall,” which saw him play the trailblazing Supreme Court justice, and “21 Bridges,” an action flick set in New York City — were released after he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer.
In 2018, Boseman delivered the commencement speech at Howard. He spoke about his career path after his time at the historically Black university, reflecting on stereotypical roles and on a time he lost a job after balking at a show’s insensitive writing.
He urged the graduates to search for purpose as they embarked on their careers.
“Purpose is the essential element of you,” Boseman told the graduates. “It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”
He most recently starred in Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed “Da 5 Bloods” earlier this year.
“A warrior of light til the very end,” fellow actor Kerry Washington wrote in a tweet. “A true king. I am without words. May he rise in power.”
Boseman died on the day Major League Baseball players wore the number 42 in honor of Robinson.
Jackie Robinson Day is normally celebrated April 15, the day Robinson broke MLB’s color line, but the pandemic delayed it this season. Boseman marked the day in the spring by announcing “Operation 42,” an initiative that donated $4.2 million in personal protective equipment to hospitals serving primarily African American communities. Boseman at that time shared a video of himself wearing a “42” hat, looking dramatically thinner than he had been in his films.
“Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family,” Marvel Studios tweeted late Friday night. “Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace.”
Actor Mark Ruffalo added, on Twitter, “All I have to say is the tragedies amassing this year have only been made more profound by the loss of #ChadwickBoseman. What a man, and what an immense talent. Brother, you were one of the all time greats and your greatness was only beginning. Lord love ya. Rest in power, King.”