Chadwick Aaron Boseman (29 November 1976 – 28 August 2020) was an American actor and producer most famous for his portrayals of real-life historical figures such as Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), James Brown in Get on Up (2014), and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017), and for his portrayal of the superhero Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, most notably in Black Panther (2018), for which he won a NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Boseman died at age 43, after privately dealing with colon cancer for four years.
GQ interview (2014)
- If you’re working as a writer, that doesn’t necessarily take you down the role of being a movie star. I said yes too much. I said yes to certain projects that weren’t for me. It was somebody else’s vision and somebody else’s dream and somebody else’s artistic endeavor, but it didn’t necessarily fit in my grand scheme. I was just trying to be around the people who do what I want to do, and you know, I think it takes a little bit more investigation to figure out, does this road actually lead to what I want?
I remember my first agent telling me — because they found me as an actor, but I was probably more interested in writing and maybe directing — they were like, "Well, you can’t do both things." And I was like, "I’m gonna show you." And the truth of the matter is that we were both right. But you know, you have to choose a very clear path for your entry point, and then, once you define yourself as that clearly, you can venture off into other arenas, but especially at the beginning.
- Once you start getting big roles as an actor, everything pays. So what are you making decisions on? It’s about the director or the script or whatever. But before you reach that point, you’re taking jobs with, say, a theater company, in spite of the fact that it’s not paying your bills. I think the most stressful time of my life was when I was in New York and I didn’t have money to pay my rent. I was going to the mailbox every day waiting for the check to come. When you don’t have money, when you’ve got, like, a jar full of change and each day it’s "Okay, I’ve got enough to get on the train" and "Maybe that check’s gonna come today..." There’s nothing more stressful than your stomach growling. But interestingly enough, some of my best writing came when I was poor and hungry — living off water and oatmeal, mind clear.
- I was waiting to hear about 42. Nobody had called me. Nobody had told me anything. I had gone in for it 100 percent, but there was no reason for me to think I’d done well. Nobody had called me and said, "Hey, they really liked your audition." Nobody was like, "Hey, they’re really thinking about you." Nothing. But on that night, the play I was directing ended, and I went next door to a bar and was watching the end of the World Series, and I was like, "Yo, I’m about to get this role," and I knew it. And that was the night they called me. Just like — boom! — "It’s yours." … That year before 42, every pilot I went in for, it was like, "You’re gonna test for it and then somebody else will get it." It was a frustrating year, because I was so close to getting things that would have taken me to another place. But it was never actually happening. For some reason I couldn’t get anything. I only later realized that it was some divine intervention, because if I did some of those things, I wouldn’t have been available. You don’t get stuff, and it opens up other opportunities. But no, it’s not like I’d been waiting around for only the biggest roles.
- I don’t think I’ve done my best work yet, you know what I’m saying? It ain’t no time to rest right now. It’s the time to get your head clear and figure out what you’re gonna do next, but it’s not necessarily the time to go to the islands.
GQ Roundtable (2014)
- Every black actor has looked at Denzel and said they wanted to be Denzel.
- When I got out of school, I didn't really understand the differences in the different aspects of the business. For example, doing a play—where does that take you versus, you know, concentrating on independent films? You might have one thing in your head, but the things you're doing don't really lead down the right road, necessarily. When you're young, you don't want to hear that. You think you can do everything, be all things.
- I think you realize how much you need to have people that you love. It's not as much about them loving you — it's about you needing to love people, you needing to have people that you can ert[sic — (perhaps "exert")] that energy toward. You have to have those people.
- Response to question: "How does love change as you get older?"
- The best advice about getting older? Just be thankful you're not dead!
c|net interview (2017)
- Statements from two interviews of 2017, published in "Black Panther rules Marvel's world. Literally", by Connie Guglielmo, c|net Magazine (Winter 2017, revised 8 February 2018, and further revised 29 August 2020); the initial version was cited as the source of quotes in "Chadwick Boseman On Why He Sees Black Panther As An Antihero" by JK Schmidt, Comicbook.com (7 November 2017)
- He has the attributes of a hero, but has difficult decisions, difficult choices. Sometimes there's no right answer. Everybody has heard the line, 'It's hard for a good man to be king.' I think there's a sense of all the complications of being a good leader. At times it feels like The Godfather. It's complicated to do what's right. It's complicated to follow the traditions. It's complicated to do something new. It's complicated when you have to deal with who should live and who should die.
Sometimes you have to do bad things or you maybe need to do bad things so there's justice, so there's peace.
- The thing I love about Marvel in general is that they deal with people. They deal with the human being first: Who is inside the suit? Who is the person that obtained this power or this ability?
This movie is about how you use power. What do you do when you get power? In this case, you're talking about someone taking the throne. But all superhero movies are about a person who has extreme power. They can disappear. They do tricks or they can jump really high. Whatever it is, that ability gives them an advantage. The only difference between a hero and the villain is that the villain chooses to use that power in a way that is selfish and hurts other people.
- When they call you and say, "So you want to play Black Panther?" if you know what Black Panther is, there's no way in the world you're going to say no because there's a lot of opportunity for magic to happen.
- It's a utopia. It's not just an African utopia — it's a utopia. It's a place where spirituality and science do not war with each other.
- Describing Wakanda
- If anyone doesn't think there's a place for women in tech, it's completely demolished in this movie.
Her role is the most important. In the comic book, T'Challa is a scientist and a king, but my sister is the whiz kid. She is the one with that gift. She's the Tony Stark of Wakanda. She's witty, she's cool, she's funny. Now, T'Challa is good in science too, but she's the whiz. That's the way the story's been told forever. T'Challa is technologically sound. He's a scientist as well, but she's the minister of technology.
- On the character Shuri
- For me, technology is not about gadgets. Technology is essentially your ability to enhance your lifestyle beyond the norm. What I would love to see is for technology and nature to find a way to merge. If that happens in our society, we will have gone to a different place and we can advance the species. … If we're going to build a rocket to go to outer space and go to the moon, how do we do that in a way where it doesn't destroy the Earth? How do we build weapons that won't destroy the Earth? Or the better way, how do you live in a society that doesn't need weapons at all? How can we advance in this computer age without having landfills filled with the parts from those things? That to me, that's advanced.
Howard University Commencement Speech (2018)
- "Chadwick Boseman's Howard University 2018 Commencement Speech" (12 May 2018) video at YouTube · Text and audio online
- This is a magical place, a place where the dynamics of positive and negative seem to exist in extremes. I remember walking across this yard on what seemed to be a random day, my head down lost in my own world of issues like many of you do daily. I’m almost at the center of the yard. I raised my head and Muhammad Ali was walking towards me. Time seemed to slow down as his eyes locked on mine and opened wide. He raised his fist to a quintessential guard.
I was game to play along with him, to act as if I was a worthy opponent. What an honor to be challenged by the GOAT, the greatest of all time for a brief moment.
- Howard University, I was riding here and I heard on the radio, somebody called it Wakanda University. But it has many names, the Mecca, the Hilltop. It only takes one hour, one tour of the physical campus to understand why we call it the Hilltop. Every day is leg day here.
- Throughout ancient times, institutions of learning have been built on top of hills to convey that great struggle is required to achieve degrees of enlightenment. Each of you had your own unique difficulties with the hill. For some of you, the challenge was actually academics. When you hear the words Magna Cum Laude, Cum Laude, you know that’s not you. That’s not you. You worked hard. You did your best, but you didn’t make As or Bs, sometimes Cs. You never made the Dean’s list, but that’s okay. You are here on top of the hill.
- Most of you graduating here today struggled against one or more of the impediments or obstacles I’ve mentioned in order to reach this hill top. When completing a long climb, one first experiences dizziness, disorientation and shortness of breath due to the high altitude, but once you become accustomed to the climb, your mind opens up to the tranquility of the triumph. Oftentimes the mind is flooded with realizations that were, for some reason harder to come to when you were at a lower elevation. At this moment, most of you need some realizations because right now you have some big decisions to make. Right now I urge you in your breath, in your eyes, in your consciousness, invest in the importance of this moment and cherish it. I know some of you might’ve partied last night. You should, you should celebrate, but this moment is also a part of that celebration. So savor the taste of your triumphs today. Don’t just swallow the moment whole without digesting what has actually happened here. Look down over what you conquered and appreciate what God has brought you through.
- Once I saw the role I was playing, I found myself conflicted. The role wasn’t necessarily stereotypical. A young man in his formative years with a violent streak pulled into the allure of gang involvement. That’s somebody’s real story. Never judge the characters you play. That’s what we were always taught. That’s the first rule of acting. Any role play honestly, can be empowering, but I was conflicted because this role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folk. The writing failed to search for specificity. Plus, there was barely a glimpse of positivity or talent in the character, barely a glimpse of hope. I would have to make something out of nothing. I was conflicted. Howard had instilled in me a certain amount of pride and for my taste this role didn’t live up to those standards.
- As conflicted as I was before I lost the job, as adamant as I was about the need to speak truth to power, I found myself even more conflicted afterwards. I stand here today knowing that my Howard University education prepared me to play Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall and T'Challa.
But what do you do when the principle and the standards that were instilled in you here at Howard closed the doors in front of you. Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it.
- I thought of Ali in the middle of the yard in his elder years, drawing from his victories and his losses. At that moment I realized something new about the greatness of Ali and how he carried his crown. I realized that he was transferring something to me on that day. He was transferring the spirit of the fighter in me. He was transferring the spirit of the fighter to me. He was transferring the spirit of the fighter to me. Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you. God says in Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".
- This day, when you have reached the hill top and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. 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. Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.
- When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.
When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it. God will move someone that’s holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you if it’s meant for you. I don’t know what your future is, but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory then you will not regret it. Now, this is your time. The light of new realizations shines on you today. Howard’s legacy is not wrapped up in the money that you will make, but the challenges that you choose to confront.
As you commence to your paths, press on with pride and press on with purpose.
God bless you. I love you, Howard.
Quotes about Chadwick Boseman
- Man, 2020 has been so rough on the culture itself for minorities, man. We've lost so many people. And to think about when "Black Panther" came out, one of the first heroes that our young African American men had the ability to look up to. I've seen so many kids that inspire to be that. I seen so many Black Panther costumes that gave kids hope and made them feel like they had a special ability that they often don't find in society. It hurt and touched me so much just thinking about how it's going to affect students who felt like for a moment they had that power and they were invincible now to be brought back down with everything else that's going on.
- Rodney Cox quoted Remembering Actor Chadwick Boseman, All Things Considered, NPR, (29 August 2020)
- The final tweet from the account of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman has become the most-liked post in Twitter history. The social media company’s official feed announced the news. The original message – posted on Saturday... currently has more than 7m “likes”. (The previous most-liked tweet was by Barack Obama, with 4.3m.) The post said that his most famous roles were “filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy”. It added: “The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
- Final tweet from Chadwick Boseman's account is most liked ever on Twitter, Andrew Pulver, The Guardian, (31 August 2020)
- LA Lakers star LeBron James paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman before the Lakers playoff game against the Portland Trailblazers by taking a knee during the National Anthem and crossing his arms across his chest to give the Wakanda Forever salute.
- We are already limited in the sense that given that type of power, that type of stage that he had, and especially in that industry. You don’t see many black male and female actors being able to put on that stage. For him to be as transcendent as he was. But then you add on the fact that growing up as a black kid, you had superheroes that you looked up to, but they weren’t black. You had Batman, you had Superman, you had Spider Man, and so on and so on. And for Ryan Coogler and for that cast, and for him himself to be able to make Black Panther, even though we knew it was like a fictional story, it actually felt real. It actually felt like we finally had our Black superhero and nobody can touch us. (Speaking about Chadwick Boseman and Black Panther)
- Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying.
But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and
eyes that seen much beyond his years,
but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time.
It is with a heavy heart and a sense of deep gratitude to have ever been in his presence,
that I have to reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now.
And I know that he will watch over us, until we meet again.
- I woke up in the middle of the night to the news that Chadwick had passed. And at first I thought it was a nightmare. Like many people, I was shocked. And then of course I came to see that it was real. And then I saw that he died of colon cancer. And my first thought was, why him? Why not me? It was really—it was crushing. It was crushing because of how much he had given the world, how much I adored him. It was crushing because I know how beloved he was and still is. And it still is crushing.
- A statement shared on Chadwick Boseman’s Twitter said, “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. 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 honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.” Twitter announced the post was the, quote, “Most liked Tweet ever. A tribute fit for a King. #WakandaForever.” Black Panther is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, earning more than $1.3 billion around the world. It has been called a defining moment for black America, as the first superhero movie with a majority black cast and an African lead character.