A once-in-a-generation talent. A lasting impact. And now, a Disney Legend.
Chadwick Boseman was born and raised in South Carolina, where he took interest in both performance and basketball during his high school years. Recruited to play sports in college, the call of the stage was too strong, and he graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Directing.
After his sojourn at Howard, Chadwick attended the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford University, and upon his return to the U.S., performed with the National Shakespeare Company of New York. His original work Hieroglyphic Graffiti was produced as part of the National Black Theatre Festival in 2001. Chadwick also had early entry into the worlds of Disney: One of his first TV roles was a recurring character on the ABC Family (now Freeform) series Lincoln Heights.
His unquestionable talent led to increasingly notable film roles. Chadwick made his feature film debut in Gary Fleders’ 2008 drama The Express, playing football great Floyd Little, but his breakout performance came in 2013 when he garnered critical acclaim as the legendary Jackie Robinson in 42. The next year, Chadwick took on another icon—music superstar James Brown—in the biopic Get On Up; for his work, he received the 2014 CinemaCon Male Star of Tomorrow award, was named one of the year’s Top 10 best movie performances by TIME magazine, and was awarded a Virtuoso Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Two years later, he played the title role in Marshall, as future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. Chadwick also continued working behind the camera; he wrote, directed, and executive produced the 2008 short film Blood Over a Broken Pawn. Through their shingle X•ception Content, he and writing/producing partner Logan Coles sold several scripts to major studios.
In 2016, Chadwick’s life, and pop culture, changed forever: He made his first screen appearance as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, setting the stage for 2018’s Black Panther. Chadwick’s commitment to the role, based on a character created by Disney Legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, was evident. “He was so prepared as an actor that he read all the comic books, and… had his own ideas about Wakanda,” Marvel Studios executive producer Nate Moore said at the time. “You realize very quickly this guy is not taking anything for granted and is fully invested in the role.”
Chadwick knew there was something truly unparalleled about the opportunity: “T’Challa is smart. He’s a strategist, and that has always been something that stood out to me, even in the comic books,” the actor said. “If you’re going to do a Super Hero, you want to do one where you can really act and where you can do something that’s going to make you a better artist as well. And I think, culturally speaking, that there are not a lot of opportunities to play a Black Super Hero. It’s breaking new ground—and to be a part of that is a special thing.”
The film quickly became a worldwide cultural phenomenon, inspiring millions of fans and picking up seven Oscar® nominations, including Best Picture. Chadwick won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for the role, and went on to reprise it in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and in the Disney+ animated series What If…? (2021–), for which he received a posthumous Primetime Emmy® Award.
Only those close to him knew that Chadwick had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016—and spent the next few years publicly battling fictional foes while privately battling a very real adversary.
Throughout his career, he supported numerous charities, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem. Despite impediments brought about by his illness, he persevered in his purpose to uplift and inspire through his creative work. Chadwick appeared in 2019’s 21 Bridges, which he and Coles produced, Spike Lee’s 2020 film Da 5 Bloods, and—posthumously—was nominated for his first Academy Award® for his star turn that same year in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Chadwick Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020.
In May 2021, Howard University renamed its College of Fine Arts in his honor.