Actor Chadwick Bozeman, who essayed the character of Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before rising to fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, passed away on Friday of cancer, his representative said. He was 43.
Bozeman passed away at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press.
Bozeman was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago, his family said in a statement.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
Bozeman had never spoken publicly about his diagnosis.
Born in South Carolina, Bozeman graduated from Howard University and appeared in small roles in television before he rose to stardom in 2013. His charming portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013s 42 attracted attention in Hollywood and made him a star.
Bozeman died on a day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day.
“This is a crushing blow” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter, expressing shock as the news broke out on social media.
“This broke me,” said actor and writer Issa Rae.
His T’Challa character was first brought to limelight to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016s Captain America: Civil War, and his Wakanda Forever resonated around the world after the release of Black Panther two years ago.
The character was last seen striking a pose silently dressed in a black suit at Tony Stark’s funeral in last year’s Avengers: Endgame.
Even at the onset of his Hollywood career, Bozeman was clear-eyed about and even skeptical of the industry in which he would become an international star.
“You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,” he told AP while promoting 42.“The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a black hero who has a love story — with a black woman, or any woman for that matter … he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”
In addition to Robinson and Brown, Bozeman portrayed US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017s Marshall.