WARNING: Everything we know about Chadwick Boseman’s death. Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, 43, died Aug. 28, 2020, following a four-year battle with colon cancer, reported The New York Times. “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 a 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 honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
Boseman’s acting career had transcended mere entertainment. Through his roles and through his reputation off the screen, Boseman had become a respected actor, activist, and an example of a celebrity helping to rewrite what it means to be a Black artist in Hollywood. “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 the Associated Press (via The Washington Post).
News of Boseman’s passing shocked fans around the globe. Many were unaware he was sick. According to the Times, he had not spoken publicly about his illness. Here’s everything we know about the circumstances surrounding this heartbreaking loss.
Chadwick Boseman shielded his loved ones from the spotlight
According to The Associated Press, Chadwick Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area surrounded by his wife and his family. Even as his fame soared, Boseman continued to keep his private life out of the spotlight, including his relationship with singer Taylor Simone Ledward (pictured). Newsweek reported that the couple was first spotted together in 2015, reportedly got engaged in 2019, and are believed to have quietly married in 2020.
Though they’d occasionally attended events together, details about their dynamic remained out of the headlines — as if Boseman were protecting this important piece of his superhero, super-Hollywood identity. He did break character in March 2019 at the 50th NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles, however. According to Newsweek, Boseman addressed his partner as he accepted the award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. “Simone, you’re with me every day. I have to acknowledge you right now. Love you.” about Boseman’s death
Though we now know Boseman and his loved ones were battling his cancer diagnosis in private, the actor had continued to work hard to inspire others in the weeks and months before his passing. One of his final messages on Instagram resonated with new meaning as fans grappled with his death.
Chadwick Boseman spent his final days trying to save lives
Even as he battled for his life, Chadwick Boseman was focused on helping others. On April 15, 2020 — Jackie Robinson Day — just months before his passing, Boseman posted a stirring video to social media to raise awareness for frontline workers battling COVID-19 through Thomas Tull’s #Operation42.
Boseman’s starring role as baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 2013’s 42 was a breakout moment for the actor, and his death on Aug. 28, 2020, coincidentally occurred on the same day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, per The New York Times. Boseman had a deep respect for the first Black man to play in the major league. “We still stand on his shoulders,” Boseman once said (via TMZ) “…he carried the torch. And he carried it alone for a period of time before other people could help him.” about Boseman’s death
Boseman had clearly picked up that torch. As he worked to distribute vital equipment to frontline workers during the pandemic, he acknowledged Robinson’s legacy during his video message. “Thank you, Jackie, for refusing to accept the world as it is, for showing us that we can make a difference.”
It’s now up to us — Boseman’s countless fans — to carry the torch in honor of this true superhero.
Fans expressed concern over Chadwick Boseman’s appearance
Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images, Chadwick Boseman/Instagram
After Chadwick Boseman posted the aforementioned video, fans were more concerned about what they saw than what they heard. While Boseman took to Instagram to share how baseball’s Jackie Robinson inspired him to help frontline workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, fans couldn’t help but notice that Boseman looked uncharacteristically thin. While some questioned whether or not the star was ill, others suggested he eat some food. Media outlets, however, rationalized Boseman’s weight loss by suggesting that he was preparing for an upcoming role.
While Showbiz CheatSheet predicted Boseman’s appearance might be preparation for his role as a slave named Abraham in the television show The Black Child alongside rapper Common, Looper noted that he was also training with a martial arts expert for his upcoming role as the African samurai in Yasuke. On the other hand, Screen Rant guessed that Boseman’s weight loss was the result of his work on Da 5 Bloods. But, as writer Adrienne Tyler noted, “Although the change looks shocking, fans can rest assured knowing he most likely lost weight in the safest way possible and with the help of experts, and will go back to normal soon.”
In hindsight, however, we know that Boseman’s drawn appearance was the result of his years-long fight against colon cancer. Boseman’s cancer progressed to Stage IV, per Instagram, and ultimately cost him his life. But through his iconic roles, Boseman will live on just like the legends he portrayed on-screen.