The cultural impact of Chadwick Boseman’s acting career, inspiring millions of people around the world through his performances as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and, especially, Black Panther, is as unique as it is profound.
His portrayal of superhero T’Challa, the king of African nation Wakanda, was a landmark moment for representation in Hollywood and ensures his legacy will stretch far beyond the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Panther grossed more than 1.3 billion dollars worldwide (about £974 million) and earned a best picture nomination at the Oscars.
But its impact is perhaps better measured in the millions of fans from diverse backgrounds it inspired, fans who had never seen themselves represented on screen by a superhero.
Born in South Carolina, Boseman originally wanted to become a writer and director, graduating from Howard University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing.
He appeared in a number of TV roles while continuing to write plays, with his script for the 2005 play Deep Azure being nominated for a Jeff Award – given to theatre arts produced in the Chicago area.
After moving to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career, Boseman’s breakthrough role came in the 2013 film 42, in which he starred as baseball pioneer Robinson.
Boseman again assumed the role of an iconic black figure when he starred as singer soul singer Brown in the 2014 film Get on Up.
But his most influential role came when he suited up as King T’Challa of Wakanda in the 2018 Marvel film Black Panther.
Both the film and Boseman’s portrayal of the titular superhero received universal acclaim, with Black Panther becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time as well as being the first superhero film to earn an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
It also sparked a worldwide celebration of African culture, with the character’s famous “Wakanda Forever” salute inspiring millions of people to feel an added sense of pride in their African heritage.
Boseman reprised the role for the critically acclaimed Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, while the sequel to Black Panther was scheduled to be released in 2022.
Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DyibBLoBxz
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) August 29, 2020
His most recent role was as Norman Earl Holloway in the Netflix war drama film Da 5 Bloods, directed by Spike Lee. The film was released in June.
Boseman played the US soldier “Stormin'” Holloway, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War, in a typically powerful performance that drew praise from critics.