Inside ‘Black Panther’ Star Chadwick Boseman’s Life and Career: Early Years, Movies, Success

Late talented actor Chadwick Boseman had quite an astonishing career before his role in “Black Panther.” Keep reading to find out more about him.

With his riveting portrayal of T’Challa, the first black Marvel superhero in the blockbuster, “Black Panther,” Chadwick Boseman became the man of the moment and sealed his status as a bankable actor. However, what many don’t know is that the highly-successful superhero movie didn’t put Boseman on the map, he has always been there.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 08: Chadwick Boseman attends the European Premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on February 8, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney)

CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION

Chadwick Boseman was born on November 29, 1977, in Anderson, South Carolina to Leroy and Carolyn Bozeman.

He graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing and later went to the British American Drama Academy at Oxford University. While he was at Howard, he reportedly had the iconic Phylicia Rashad as a teacher who mentored him in his career.

Although Chadwick’s eyes were set on Hollywood, his focus wasn’t on acting but instead on writing and directing. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: Chadwick Boseman speaks onstage during the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/AMA2019/Getty Images for dcp)

EARLY CAREER AND RISE TO STARDOM

Boseman tried his hands on several stage productions, both acting and directing before getting his first acting gig. For his performance in the 2002 play, “Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms,” he won an AUDELCO Award. He also snagged a Joseph Jefferson nomination for his script, “Deep Azure” in 2006.

With so much preparation, Boseman launched into television in the mid-2000s with a few guest appearances on “All My Children,” and “CSI: NY.”

But his first recurring role didn’t come until 2008 when he starred as Nathaniel Ray, on “Lincoln Heights” for two seasons.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: Actor Chadwick Boseman poses in the press room at the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/FilmMagic)

In that same year, he snagged his first movie feature in a sports biopic titled “The Express,” which focused on the life of Ernie David, a famous running-back for Syracuse University. This was the start of Boseman’s journey to portraying real-life icons and superheroes.

In subsequent years, he starred in several movies and television shows such as “The Kill Hole,” “Detroit 1-8-7,” “Fringe,” and others before his first significant role.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 30: Chadwick Boseman, winner of Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, attends the 50th NAACP Image Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 30, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/FilmMagic)

PLAYING JACKIE ROBINSON AND JAMES BROWN

Boseman’s breakout role eventually came in 2012 when he got to play the lead role in the Jackie Robinson biopic, “42,” which told the story of Robinson, the first African-American baseball player to ever play in Major League Baseball. On stepping into the shoes of the baseball legend, Chadwick once said in an interview:

“It’s just a huge responsibility. I wake up every morning, been working and prepping on it, and I’m having the time of my life, playing baseball … studying footage. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to just do what I love.”

Pouring his all into the role, Boseman performed flawlessly and earned critical acclaim, and was named the Male Star of Tomorrow by the National Association of Theater Owners. The film grossed a massive $95 million on a $40 million budget.

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 09: Actor Chadwick Boseman arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ “42” at the Chinese Theatre on April 9, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

With “42” putting Boseman on the map, the actor soon snagged another high-profile role, portraying music legend James Brown in the biopic, “Get On Up.”

The actor reportedly had to stay in character even when off the set to fully embody the Godfather of Soul. The biopic was released in August 2014 and grossed over $13 million during its opening week. 

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 02: Chadwick Boseman speaks onstage at CinemaCon 2019 The State of the Industry and STXfilms Presentation at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, on April 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for CinemaCon)

MORE MOVIES AND “BLACK PANTHER”

Just when the rest of the world thought Boseman had arrived, the actor scored another biopic to his name in the 2017 legal movie, “Marshall” that told the story of Justice Thurgood Marshall. 

A year before “Marshall,” the actor joined the Marvel Cinematic as T’Challa with a feature in “Captain America: Civil War,” but his career-defining moment came when the standalone movie of his character, “Black Panther” came out in February 2018.

He headlined the superhero film and established himself as one of the finest African American actors. Discussing his best-known role, Boseman once revealed that he prayed to get the part. 

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 08: Chadwick Boseman attends the European Premiere of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on February 8, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney)

ON PLAYING “BLACK PANTHER” AND RACISM

The Marvel superhero movie went on to gross over $1.3 billion worldwide. It broke several records including, becoming the ninth-highest grossing film of all time, one of the top 10 films of 2018, and the highest-grossing film by a black director.

It also earned seven Academy Award nominations and won three, making it the first superhero film to receive a Best Picture nomination and the first MCU film to win an Academy Award.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 24: Chadwick Boseman attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Dan MacMedan/Getty Images)

However, it was no easy feat, coming into that role as Boseman admitted in an interview with Entertainment Tonight how his experiences with racism as a child still remains the same. Recounting a recent encounter, the actor said:

“When I was shooting Black Panther in Atlanta, I used to drive back on off days to go see my family in Anderson [South Carolina]. It’s about two hours. And I would see the Klan holding rallies in a Walmart car park.”

Nevertheless, Boseman remained determined to not only be part of a movement but to cause a change in the world.

SANTA MONICA, CA – JUNE 16: Actor Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards at Barker Hangar on June 16, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV)

A DEVASTATING LOSS

Although Boseman was at the top of his career in Hollywood, he was always a very private person and made sure to keep his personal life away from the tabloids. This is why, when it was announced on August 28, 2020, that he had passed away after a four-year battle with cancer, fans and friends alike were caught off guard.

Boseman had been diagnosed with stage II colon cancer in 2016, but just a handful of people-aside from his family. knew about his illness. The actor died at his home in California and surrounded by his wife and family.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JULY 18: Actor Chadwick Boseman attends The 2018 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 18, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Boseman’s legacy lives on in his roles and all the charity work he did alive, and although gone too soon, he made sure to leave an imprint on the lives of those he touched, whether in person or through a movie screen.

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