The most tragic deaths happen to those who are young, deeply talented and have a potential which could not be fulfilled. Chadwick Boseman’s passing was so devastating precisely because of the characteristic youthfulness and striking talent which he carried through his short acting career.
He was forty-three when he died of colon cancer in August of this year, though to many he seemed much younger. This is because of the youthful beauty he brought to each of his roles and the freshness he breathed into his films.
He became a household name playing the role of T’Challa, AKA Black Panther, in the Marvel film of the same name. T’Challa is king of the fictional African country of Wakanda. Even among superheroes, Black Panther is deeply iconic; he brought representation and black pride to an underrepresented genre.
Boseman’s final year is marked by a sequence of impressive films. He returned to the iconic role of T’Challa in Avengers: Endgame before starring in the noir action film 21 Bridges. He then produced his two finest performances in Spike Lee’s Vietnam War film, Da 5 Bloods before playing Levee in George C. Wolfe’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which was released posthumously.
His final year is not only defined by a sense of courage, as he quietly and defiantly produced an array of physically demanding roles while undergoing treatment, but by the achievement of artistry which these performances collectively form.
His performance as the ever-youthful squad leader Stormin’ Norman in Da 5 Bloods is particularly sad. The charismatic, empowered and impossibly handsome Norman only exists in flashbacks because he is killed during the war. The rest of his squad survive, and must live on, carrying his memory as well as the traumas of war.
He closed a fantastic but tragically short career playing Levee, the trumpeter in Ma Rainey’s band. Here, Boseman delivers his best performance. He brings with it everything that made him a treasure of the screen: beauty, boyishness, charm, empowerment and fragility.
Picture source: Facebook