Chadwick Boseman, the actor who burst onto the global stage as T’Challa, king of Wakanda, in Black Panther, has died at 43. The cause of death was a four-year battle with colon cancer, confirmed by a statement released on his Twitter and Instagram accounts. Boseman’s warm smile could switch to serious reserve in the blink of an eye, bringing both levity and gravitas to roles from a groundbreaking Marvel superhero to his most recent film, Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods, released on Netflix in June.
Per the statement, Boseman died surrounded by his wife and family. Boseman had been with his longterm girlfriend Taylor Simone Ledward for years, and it presumed the statement is referring to Ledward. Boseman was diagnosed with stage III cancer in 2016, and it progressed to stage IV over the last four years. His illness wasn’t known to the public, and he worked steadily, filming between surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy. The shock at the announcement of his death was immediate, with Twitter lighting up to remember Marvel’s first Black superhero to spearhead his own movie. The character of Black Panther made his debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and his eponymous film, released in 2018, earned more than $1.3 billion at the global box office. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the movie marked a milestone in the superhero canon, showcasing Black joy, sorrow, power, and familial bonds.
Boseman may have been best-known on the global stage for playing T’Challa, but he made a mark in two earlier biopics, demonstrating his range as a performer. In 2013’s 42, he played Jackie Robinson, another Black man who broke the mould, integrating baseball in 1947. (It's a cruel twist of fate that his passing coincides with Jackie Robinson Day.) His performance as James Brown in Get On Up had the verve and vigour of the late singer himself. At the time of Boseman's death, he had completed filming on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and was set to start production on the animated series What If…?, in which he would voice T’Challa. Black Panther II, which was quickly greenlit after the resounding success of Coogler’s film, was set to premiere in 2022.
In Boseman's final Instagram post, he posed with Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, a fellow Howard University alum, and encouraged his millions of followers to vote in 2020.