An iconic role can change your life, but it doesn’t define a person. Particularly when that person is as interesting and multifaceted as Chadwick Boseman.
Aside from being the Black Panther, Mr. Boseman has had memorable roles in films such as 42 and Get on Up. Now, after the success of Black Panther, Boseman’s career just might be reaching a second-gear.
So whether you liked him back in the days where he played real-life African American icons like Jackie Robinson or James Brown, or you were introduced to him as King T’Challa, it’s time to learn a little bit more about the man. Here are 24 facts about this rising star.
P.S. Wakanda Forever!
24. Big Shoes to Fill
Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow, was heavily involved in the development of 42. She was blunt with Boseman to start, telling him that if she got the movie made when she wanted to she would have put Sidney Poitier in the role. As time passed her mind shifted to Denzel Washington. Then, when the role fell to Boseman, her question to him was: “Who are you?” Ouch.
We bet she knows the man now, though. Since that time, he’s dominated the box office and the hearts of audiences alike. Pretty hard to believe that just a short time ago, he was just another hopeful face on the scene.
Boseman was the sole black actor to portray an Egyptian God in Gods of Egypt. The film received its fair share of criticism for its lack of quality, but also for its blatant whitewashing. Boseman wholeheartedly agrees with the whitewashing complaints, and later confirmed that he still starred in the film so that there would be at least some representation for black people. Boseman also stated that, “People don’t make $140 million movies starring black and brown people.” Two years later, he is the star of a $200 million movie with mostly black people.
22. Baller to Writer
Aside from being an actor, Boseman is also a writer. He wrote his first screenplay, Crossroads, after a teammate on his college basketball team was murdered. “I just had a feeling that this was something that was calling to me… Suddenly, playing basketball wasn’t as important.”
It takes a truly incredible person to respond to that kind of trauma with creativity and passion, rather than the (understandable) anger and/or hatred that might come up. Chadwick Boseman is just that kind of person.
Boseman attended Howard University a.k.a. “The Mecca,” at the same time as author Ta-Nehisi Coates, who also became a writer for the Black Panther comics. Boseman credits the historically black college for introducing him to more black history, black writers such as James Baldwin, and the Black Panther comics.
What an incredible place for a young person to be.
Phylicia Rashad, best known for playing Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, served as one of Boseman’s teachers in the acting classes he took at Howard University. Rashad also provided support for Boseman outside of the classroom, “She would do a play in DC and you’d go see it, and she’d drive you home and talk to you. ‘How you eating? You look too skinny. You need a pork chop.'”
It’s easy to forget, but even the most impressive people can have humble origins.
Chadwick Boseman was born in South Carolina in 1977, growing up in the city of Anderson. It’s a small town like essentially any other. Not exactly where you’d expect a star of his stature to come from.
But the Boseman’s haven’t lost their roots… his parents still live there.
After getting the role of T’Challa, AKA the Black Panther, Boseman wanted to get in touch with his African roots. Africanancestry.com traced his lineage to the specific ethnic groups of his ancestral homes: Yoruba from Nigeria, Limba and Mende from Sierra Leone and Jola from Guinea-Bissau.
Most of us live our entire lives using the name we got at birth. And sure, there’s something nice and familiar about it… but don’t we all secretly want a name full of power and meaning?
While doing research for Black Panther in Cape Town, a street musician gave Boseman the Xhosa name of Mxolisi or “Peacemaker.”
16. Commander in Chief
When Boseman was asked for his opinion on President Trump, he responded, “I’d love to answer that but I don’t want to give him panther time.”
15. Childhood Dreams
Prior to his filmmaking or writing ambitions, Boseman loved to draw and was interested in becoming an architect.
What is it with all these incredibly talented people?!? They’re not satisfied with being world-class artists in one field (acting, in this case), they have to also be capable in some other interesting subject as well.
14. Behind the Chair and in Front.
Boseman initially got into acting only so that he could become a better director. He wanted to better understand what the actors were doing so that his advice would be more useful. He was actually directing an Off-Broadway play when he got a call about 42.
13. Don’t Kiss and Tell
Boseman is understandably quiet about his private life, but his girlfriend’s grandma recently broke the news on his relationship. Boseman has been dating Taylor Simone Ledward since 2015.
Classing Grandmothers: always blowing up your spot when you’ve been dating a world famous actor on the sly.
Come on grandma, give the man his privacy!
Leading up to Black Panther, Boseman’s biggest film roles were biopics, from Jackie Robinson in 42 to James Brown in Get on Up. Boseman has said it leads to people sometimes saying he’s done enough biopics, but Boseman respectfully disagrees.
I say keep going, Chadwick. The man has knocked it out of the park (pun intended) with every role he’s been given. Give him another one! Give him another one!
11. Award Winning
Boseman doesn’t have any Hollywood silverware yet, but his play Deep Azure earned him a nomination for the Jeff Award (an award for Chicago-area theatre) for Best New Play.
10. Southern Hospitality
Boseman’s school district was desegregated a few years before he was born. He can still vividly recall seeing Confederate flags on the way to school and suffering abuse while growing up in South Carolina. In 2015, while visiting family, he was told to avoid a certain route because it would lead to a klan rally.
9. No Master of Disguise
Marvel offered Boseman free back issues (comics that are not the latest issue) of Black Panther, but Boseman still wished to buy them himself. Equipped with a hat and sunglasses, Boseman was immediately recognized when he returned to the same comic book shop to re-up.
Surprise, surprise: the comic book fans were able to recognize the star of the comic book movie. Shocker!
8. Top of the List
According to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, Boseman was on the top of the studio’s list when casting Black Panther: “I think it was 24 hours between saying his name in a creative story meeting and talking to his agent and getting on the phone with him.” Boseman didn’t have to read for his part, unlike stars Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans.
7. Moving on Up
One of Boseman’s next film projects will see him team up with Moonlight director Barry Jenkins. Expatriate will revolve around a 1970s plane hijacking. Aside from starring in the film, Boseman also co-wrote the movie with Logan Coles.
6. 50 Strikes
42 contains scenes of Jackie Robinson stealing bases, and Boseman had to film such scenes multiple times. Mistakes and technical issues, such as the need to film with multiple frame rates, led to Boseman filming a base steal 50 times. Maybe after all that practice, baseball could be a backup in case the acting thing doesn’t work out?
5. Family Matters
Boseman’s grandmother was succeeded by “115 grandkids and great grandkids… just on one side,” according to Boseman. That figure includes extended family, but it’s still an impressive legacy to leave behind.
Although he doesn’t look like it, Boseman is 41. Director Ryan Coogler actually says his youthful appearance helped make him “perfect casting”: “His physicality, his reserved personality, the way he looks younger than he is, wise beyond his years.”
3. The Real Hamilton
The play Hamilton is well known for its rap twist on a more classic tale. Boseman wrote and directed his own plays that took on Greek classics and added the same flavor: “What Hamilton is doing now, we were doing 15 years ago.”
Now that must be a cool feeling. Knowing you were that far ahead of the curve.
Boseman literally struggled to breathe after being cast as the Black Panther, since the suit used in Captain America: Civil War was too tight. Boseman felt more comfortable with the suit used in Black Panther, but still says it took a while to get to a real level of comfort.
1. King Kong Aint…
During his time at Howard University, Boseman and some of his classmates attended an Oxford University summer theatre program. Due to the cost, Boseman’s teacher arranged anonymous donations from her friends in Hollywood, and Boseman found out afterwards that Denzel Washington was his donor. When Boseman met Washington at a premiere of his smash hit Black Panther, he got to thank the veteran actor in person.