Chadwick Aaron Boseman (November 29, 1976– August 28, 2020) was an American actor. Boseman was known for his portrayals of heroic and real life individuals. During his two-decade career, Boseman received multiple accolades, including two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe Award, a Critics' Choice Movie Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and an Academy Award nomination.
After studying directing at Howard University, Boseman began his career in theatre, winning a Drama League Directing Fellowship and an acting AUDELCO, along with receiving a Jeff Award nomination for his 2005 play Deep Azure. Transitioning to the screen, his first major role was as a series regular on the NBC drama Persons Unknown (2010) and he landed his breakthrough role as baseball player Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013). He continued to portray historical figures, starring as singer James Brown in Get on Up (2014) and as Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017).
Boseman achieved international fame for playing the Marvel Comics superhero Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) from 2016 to 2019. He appeared in four MCU films, including an eponymous 2018 film that earned him an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. As the first black actor to headline an MCU film, he was also named in the 2018 Time 100. Boseman's final performance as the character in the Disney+ anthology series What If...? (2021) earned him a posthumous Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance.
In 2016, Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer. He kept his condition private, continuing to act until his death in 2020 from the illness. His final films include Spike Lee's war drama Da 5 Bloods, and the adaptation of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the latter was released posthumously the same year to critical acclaim earning him the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama as well as a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Chadwick Aaron Boseman was born and raised in Anderson, South Carolina,the son of Carolyn (née Mattress)and Leroy Boseman, both African-American.His mother was a nurse, and his father worked at a textile factory and managed an upholstery business. In his youth, Boseman practiced martial arts, and continued this training as an adult.As a child, he wanted to become an architect. According to Boseman, DNA testing indicated that some of his ancestors were Jola people from Guinea-Bissau, Krio people and Limba people from Sierra Leone, and Yoruba people from Nigeria.
Boseman graduated from T. L. Hanna High School in 1995, where he played on the basketball team. In his junior year, he wrote his first play, Crossroads, and staged it at the school after a classmate was shot and killed. He competed in Speech and Debate in the National Speech and Debate Association at T. L. Hanna. He placed eighth in Original Oratory at the 1995 National Tournament.He was recruited to play basketball at college but chose the arts instead,attending college at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and graduating in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing.While at Howard, he worked in an African American–oriented bookstore near the university, which friend Vanessa German said was important and inspirational to him;he drew on his experience there for his play Hieroglyphic Graffiti.
His teachers at Howard included Al Freeman Jr. and Phylicia Rashad, who became a mentor.Rashad helped raise funds, notably from her friend and prominent actor Denzel Washington, so that Boseman and other classmates could attend the Oxford Summer Program of the British American Drama Academy at Balliol College, Oxford, in England, to which they had been accepted.Boseman wanted to write and direct, and initially began studying acting to learn how to relate to actors.He attended the program in 1998, and he developed an appreciation for the playwriting of William Shakespeare;additionally, he studied the works of various dramatists, including Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter.He also traveled to Africa for the first time while at college, working in Ghana with his professor Mike Malone "to preserve and celebrate rituals with performances on a proscenium stage"; he said it was "one of the most significant learning experiences of [his] life".After he returned to the U.S., he took additional course work in film studies, graduating from New York City's Digital Film Academy.
According to film critic Owen Gleiberman of Variety, "Boseman was a virtuoso actor who had the rare ability to create a character from the outside in and the inside out [and he] knew how to fuse with a role, etching it in three dimensions [...] That's what made him an artist, and a movie star, too. Yet in Black Panther, he also became that rare thing, a culture hero".Similarly, reviewer Richard Brody in The New Yorker finds the originality of Boseman's formidable acting technique in his ability to empathize with the interior lives of his characters and render them on screen as fully and completely belonging to the character.He was uniquely able to capture and portray the dignity of his characters, according to The New York Times critic Wesley Morris.Well known for taking biopic roles, Hanna Flint for the BBC said he became the frequent choice because of his dedication to embodying character. Peter Bradshaw wrote of the actor's "beauty, his grace, his style, his presence [...] These made up Chadwick Boseman's persona [and he became] the lost prince of American cinema[,] glorious and inspirational".
Culture writer Steve Rose, in The Guardian, said that Boseman's career was revolutionary and he "leaves behind a gamechanging legacy", attributing this to the actor's careful planning and selection of roles. Eulogizing him, Rose wrote:
Chadwick Boseman began his career playing African American icons and pioneers; he ends it as one himself. His [...] achievements, as an actor and as a cultural force, will surely prove to be as heroic as those of the characters he portrayed. At the very least, he leaves the film-making landscape looking very different to how it was when he entered it.
A cosplay of the Black Panther at FanimeCon 2018
As the Black Panther, Boseman led a predominantly black cast in a major blockbuster for the first time; Variety said that "the significance of Chadwick Boseman [...] to the African American and Black community is immeasurable." Further expressing the weight of Boseman's legacy, Robert Daniels wrote for Vulture that "his performance [as T'Challa] wouldn't just be a demonstration of craft [...] It'd become a piece of history. He'd face a slew of pressures, because a Black epic, even a period piece, is forever expected to be important, representative of the past, present, and future."He told BBC Culture that "through his acting, [Boseman] wrote, rewrote, and reclaimed black history".Boseman's Ma Rainey co-star Viola Davis told Rose that "he is going to be remembered as a hero", both as the Black Panther and for the authentic man he was, and that "his legacy, his body of work, his integrity, is going to influence on generations upon generations to come."BBC Culture called him "a film icon who changed Hollywood"; "a symbol of black excellence and of cinematic excellence"; and "a virtuoso and heroic figure, not just because of his iconic turn as Marvel's Black Panther but for how he raised the bar for racial equality and representation on screen."
Rhea Combs, film curator of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, said that with his screen presence, Boseman "was not only a conduit to the past and the way African-Americans persevered and pushed through so many challenges, he also represented brightness and the promise of tomorrow".The BBC also noted his impact of infusing African authenticity into his work, including his motivations for taking a role in Gods of Egypt as well as how T'Challa is presented, saying that he "connect[s] African-American audiences with their African heritage".
His alma mater, Howard University, renamed its College of Fine Arts in honor of Boseman on May 26, 2021.