A Superhero On and Off the Screen

Jackie Robinson.

Thurgood Marshall.

James Brown.

Those are just a few of the trailblazers that Chadwick Boseman portrayed during his career. Boseman, who passed away at the age of 43 last night after battling colon cancer since 2016, inspired many people with the roles that he played.

While his first acting credit goes back to the early 2000s, his first breakthrough role came in 42, the biopic about Jackie Robinson. Robinson, the Hall of Fame second baseman who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, could have been a tough role to take for a young, up-and-coming actor trying to pay his dues in Hollywood. But Boseman, as he did with just about every role he had, hit it out of the park.

I know, sorry for the baseball pun.

But he brought Robinson to life in a way that made you feel as if you were there in the movie with him, experiencing every horrific thing that he had to endure to break the barrier. He showed so much promise in that role and would continue to bring other characters to life like no one else could over the next half decade or so.

Robinson, who is one of, if not my number one, favorite baseball players of all time. I still remember seeing 42 in theaters back when I was a senior in high school in 2013. My mom and I went and saw it the Friday night it came out and I was in awe. I had read many books on him and of course have seen Ken Burns’ documentary (which was released a few years later in 2016) about number 42, but 42 was, and still is, my favorite attempt at explaining Robinson’s life. And that is thanks to Boseman.

He of course played other groundbreaking roles as well. His turns as James Brown in Get on Up and as Thurgood Marshall in Thurgood were nothing short of spectacular. As a huge fan of music and a self-proclaimed history buff, Boseman brought to life two giants in their respective fields that I didn’t know all that much about prior.

But the role that may have defined his career was that of T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther. Boseman first portrayed the Prince, then later King, of Wakanda in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and reprised the role three more times in 2018’s Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. 

Black Panther, the first superhero movie to receive a Best Picture nomination, was also the first Marvel film to win an Academy Award, as it won for Best Original Score, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design. It was a groundbreaking movie, not only in terms of superhero flicks, but just for the film industry in general.

He brought to life a character that many had wanted to bring to the big screen for years, but never did. Black Panther may have been a “lower-tier” superhero at the time, but that all changed with Boseman’s portrayal and his “Wakanda Forever!” salute is now known by people across the globe.

Black Panther grossed over 1.3 billion dollars worldwide and is one of the 15 highest-grossing movies of all time. It was a gamechanger in Hollywood and catapulted Boseman to superstar status.

While he generally played more serious roles, he was a versatile actor and had a funny side to him as well. His time on Saturday Night Live produced some memorable skits and are downright hilarious. I highly recommend watching his T’Challa “Black Jeopary” skit. I watched that last night after hearing of his passing and it brought a few smiles to my face.

One Boseman film that I haven’t had the chance to watch yet, but plan on doing so, is Da 5 Bloods, a Spike Lee movie about the Vietnam War.

So while he died at a far too young age, Boseman was a warrior, who made many films after his cancer diagnosis, and became an icon like the ones he portrayed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Boseman.

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