Lupita Nyong'o calls death of 'Black Panther' co-star Chadwick Boseman 'a punch to my gut'

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·5-min read

Lupita Nyong'o is breaking her silence about the death of her Black Panther co-star Chadwick Boseman.

After attending his memorial in Malibu over the weekend, Nyong'o posted a social media tribute to the actor, who died 28 August at age 43, after his private, four-year battle with colon cancer.

"I write these words from a place of hopelessness, to honour a man who had great hope,” she wrote, along with a photo of Boseman grinning.

“I am struggling to think and speak about my friend, Chadwick Boseman, in the past tense. It doesn't make sense. The news of his passing is a punch to my gut every morning. I am aware that we are all mortal, but you come across some people in life that possess an immortal energy, that seem like they have existed before, that are exactly where they are supposed to always be - here! ... that seem ageless.... Chadwick was one of those people."

Nyong'o, who played King T'Challa's love interest Nakia in Black Panther, shared memories from working together, noting that while she didn’t know him for a long time, he still “had a profound effect” on her.

Read more: Letitia Wright pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman

"Chadwick was a man who made the most of his time, and somehow also managed to take his time,” she observed. ”I didn't know him for long, but he had a profound effect on me in the time that I did. When we came together to make Black Panther, I remember being struck by his quiet, powerful presence. He had no airs about him, but there was a higher frequency that he seemed to operate from. You got the sense that he was fully present and also somehow fully aware of things in the distant future. As a result, I noticed that Chadwick never seemed rushed! He commanded his time with ease."

Johnson says that Black Panther should first come into contact with the Fantastic Four (Image by Marvel Studios)
Boseman and Nyong'o in Black Panther. (Image by Marvel Studios)

She also wrote about his strong work ethic — and the way he assured her while they filmed.

"And he put in the work with all of us,” she continued. “He showed up to every rehearsal and training and shoot day with his game face on. He was absorbent. Agile. He set the bar high by working with a generosity of spirit, creating an ego-free environment by sheer example, and he always had a warm gaze and a strong embrace to share. His large hands would descend on my shoulders and give them a squeeze that relieved me of the tensions I did not realise I was holding. Chadwick's hands were strong enough to carry the weight of the film and free enough to clasp mine when I needed it."

Nyong'o wrote that Boseman was “impeccable with his word” and wasn’t a complainer despite there being “some things worth complaining about.”

“I think he understood the power of words,” she wrote, ”and chose to manifest power through his word. He used his mouth to build, to edify, never to break. And he used it to tell some regrettably lame dad jokes. He practiced not going against himself. He seemed to really love himself; he expressed who he really was, even when it meant he didn't smile when you thought he should. He accepted himself. And perhaps that's why he was capable of loving so many, so deeply."

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 13:  Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o take part in SiriusXM's Town Hall with the cast of Black Panther hosted by SiriusXM's Sway Calloway on February 13, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o take part in SiriusXM's Town Hall with the cast of Black Panther. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

She noted that, despite his secret illness, "He used his body in every way he could. He did his own stunts, drummed at his own parties, danced many a night away, mastered martial arts... the list goes on. He loved, honoured and respected that body, doing more with it than most. In so doing, he took the risk to be alive, fully alive. So it seems that it was life that gave up on Chadwick long before Chadwick gave up on life."

Nyong'o said that Boseman changed her in many ways. By just being near him, she learned she "wanted to be better, less petty, more purposeful." That’s because "he was fuelled by love, not fear. He moved quietly, deliberately, and without imposing himself or his ideals on others. And yet he also made damn sure that his life meant something. He cared so deeply about humanity, about Black people, about his people. He activated our pride by pushing through and working with such high purpose in the films he chose to commit to, Chadwick has made the infinite his home."

She closed her message offering her condolences to the late actor's family — he quietly married girlfriend Taylor Simone Ledward before he died — and friends, and promised to honor him in her future work. "He used his life force to tell meaningful stories. And now we tell his,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #TakeYourTimeButDontWasteYourTime to the post.

Over the weekend, Nyong'o was among the group of mourners at Boseman’s private memorial in Malibu. The actor’s wife and other Black Panther co-stars — including Michael B. Jordan and Winston Duke — celebrated his life at the service, which included music from a hang drum and was set in a gorgeous venue overlooking the ocean.