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Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman dies at 43 after 4-year fight with colon cancer

Actor Chadwick Boseman, who played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, died Friday of cancer, his representative said. He was 43.

Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press.

Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said in the statement.

“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 honour of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.

Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013’s 42 drew attention in Hollywood.

Boseman died on a day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day. “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,” the league wrote in a tweet.

Boseman, who plays baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42, poses at the Los Angeles premiere of the film at the TCL Chinese Theater in April 2013. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“This is a crushing blow” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter, one of many expressing shock as the news spread across social media.

“This broke me,” said actor and writer Issa Rae.

WATCH | Remembering Chadwick Boseman:

Actor Chadwick Boseman died at home in Los Angeles surrounded by his family. He leaves behind a legacy through his role as the first major Black superhero, the Black Panther. 3:24

His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and his “Wakanda forever” salute reverberated around the world after the release of Black Panther two years ago.

Boseman is seen during a scene in Black Panther. (Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios-Disney via AP)

The character was last seen standing silently dressed in a black suit at Tony Stark’s funeral in last year’s Avengers: Endgame.

WATCH | Boseman breaks down his approach to Black Panther:

In this clip, the late actor breaks down his approach to acting and his iconic Black Panther role. 0:33

Even at the outset of his Hollywood career, Boseman was clear-eyed about — and even skeptical of — the industry in which he would become an international star.

“You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,” he told AP while promoting 42

Boseman, left, greets comedian Dave Chappelle before the start of the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles in February 2018. (Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press)

“The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a Black hero who has a love story — with a Black woman, or any woman for that matter … he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”

In addition to Robinson and Brown, Boseman portrayed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s Marshall.

He took on his first producing job in last year’s action thriller 21 Bridges, in which he also starred, and was last seen on-screen in Spike Lee’s film Da 5 Bloods as the leader of a group of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Boseman is seen at a Black Panther panel during the 2017 Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, Calif., in July 2017. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

It took some time for Boseman’s moment to come. He first got into theater, acting and writing plays as an undergrad at Howard.

Boseman had roles on TV shows like ABC Family’s Lincoln Heights and NBC’s Persons Unknown, but before 42 he had only acted in one film, 2008’s football drama The Express.

Boseman attracted notice, but missed out on big parts.

Boseman addresses the 150th commencement ceremony at Howard University in Washington in May 2018. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

“2011 was a rough year,” he said. “I was up for everything that was happening that year, really good roles. I would get down to the end and then it would go to someone else.”

Boseman completed one last performance, in an adaptation of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The Netflix film, in which Boseman stars alongside Viola Davis, finished shooting last summer.

Asked about his own childhood heroes and icons, Boseman cited Black political leaders and musicians: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Prince.

Deeply private and often guarded in his public appearances and interviews, he made clear that he understood the significance of his work and its impact on the broader culture.

At the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Award, Black Panther won best ensemble, electrifying the room. Before an auditorium full of actors, Chadwick Boseman stepped to the microphone.

He quoted Nina Simone: “To be young, gifted and black,” then put the moment in context.

From left: Black Panther cast members Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Boseman, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan and Andy Serkis pose in the press room at the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 2019 in Los Angeles (Sarah Morris/Getty Images)

“We know what it’s like to be told there isn’t a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. … We know what’s like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day,” said Boseman.

“We knew that we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see. We knew that we had something to give.”




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