Chadwick Boseman was fighting cancer for years and we didn’t even notice

Published August 29, 2020, 12:37 PM

by Rom Mallick

He was, indeed, a real superhero

In this file photo taken on April 23, 2018 Actor Chadwick Boseman arrives for the World Premiere of the film ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ in Hollywood. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

#WakandaForever will probably be trending in the next couple of days as the fans of Chadwick Boseman, who brought the iconic Black Panther to life on the big screen, mourn the actor’s passing.

Boseman succumbed to colon cancer on Aug. 28 (or 29 here in the Philippines), after battling with the disease he was diagnosed with in 2016, according to the statement from his handler. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Nobody knew, except those who were close to him, that he was fighting cancer. It was in that same year when he first appeared as King T’Challa of Wakanda in Captain America: Civil War. When filming for Black Panther started in 2017, Boseman was already battling with cancer.  

Boseman was, indeed, a fighter, a superhero in real life. He was able to film not just Black Panther during what could only be unimaginably tough years. “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,” says the announcement on Twitter about his untimely demise (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is an upcoming film currently in post-production). 

You have to cherish things in a different way when you know the clock is ticking, you are under pressure.

—Chadwick Boseman

His relatively short lived career in film, where he started as a writer and director, was not able to give him as many awards as he could’ve had, although his achievements are remarkable for those who truly followed his progress. This included two acting awards in 2019. But for Boseman, there was no award that could compare to being a household icon. “When it comes down to it, I’d rather have an action figure than a Golden Globe,” he once said. Updating your Black Panther collection might be a great way to remember the actor in what is perhaps his most memorable role, and there are a ton of action figures out there, including masked and unmasked Funko Pop versions of the Wakandan superhero. Playing Black Panther, after all, was “the honor of his career,” as that Twitter post says. 

Or perhaps the best way to remember Chadwick Boseman is to simply re-watch his films, and not just the ones he made in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Notable among the notables are his roles as famous black people in history. You can start with his 2014 film Get on Up, where he played music legend James Brown. Go back one year before that and watch him as 1940s baseball star Jackie Robinson in 42. Boseman also appeared, and this came as a post-Black Panther realization for many, in the 2016 film Egyptian Gods, side-by-side Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Geoffrey Rush, and a young Brenton Thwaites.

And when you run out of Boseman films to rewatch, you can still catch him in two upcoming titles. One is the already mentioned Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is based on a play of the same title, and a guest voice appearance in a Disney+ web television series called What If…?, which is scheduled for a 2021 release.