It feels rare in Hollywood these days, finding a star that embodies everything we look for in a role model. Someone who lives their life working hard both professionally and personally, determined to leave the world better than they found it. Even before we learned of his tragic 4-year-long fight with colon cancer, Chadwick Boseman was just about as close as a person could get to a real-world superhero. To say that Boseman worked hard to accomplish his dreams would be a drastic understatement – the talented young actor appeared in over 15 movies, but it was the characters he played that rightfully made him a hero, especially to Black youth.
Throughout his entirely too-short career, Chadwick Boseman portrayed Black American trailblazers such as James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. Boseman breathed new life into Black leaders throughout history, but he was best known for his starring role in Black Panther. The on-screen bravery of his character T’Challa gave Black children a superhero they could identify with, while his off-screen kindness and humility were perhaps just as inspiring.
It brings an entirely new dimension to the final years of Boseman’s life, knowing he was fighting a private battle that took every ounce of strength he had. Not only did he continue working, but Boseman was generous with his limited free time – especially when it came to kids who saw him as a hero.
In a recently-resurfaced video from the 2018 press tour of Black Panther, an emotional Boseman discussed both the cultural significance of the film and the letters he exchanged with two young boys fighting terminal cancer – a fact that now makes our minds race and our hearts break.
In the SiriusXM Town Hall, Boseman revealed that the two boys he’d been communicating with throughout the filming of Black Panther had passed away. Shakily, Boseman explains that according to the boys’ parents, the two had been “trying to hold on till this movie comes.”
Boseman goes on to explain how everything he does throughout the day – going to the gym, practicing his lines – it all gained a new sort of significance after learning how much the movie meant to these kids. “They anticipated something great,” Boseman recalled. Thinking back to his own childhood, the actor remembered how he too had lived his life waiting for one great moment after the next.
At the end of the video, Boseman begins to say “when I found out that they had…” but stops, becoming too emotional to finish the sentence – the pain of the boys’ deaths too much to revisit. After taking several seconds to compose himself, a tearful Boseman concludes with, “it means a lot.”
Watching the video in 2018 meant watching an actor you admire show enormous empathy and compassion towards two boys he’d never met. Watching the video now means seeing a man fighting for his own life show a staggering amount of love and support to two little boys doing the same. This heartbreaking interview showed Chadwick Boseman stepping up as the hero these two sick boys desperately needed – and at times, it felt as if Boseman was embodying the very hero we all need during life’s most trying times. The hero who understands, and the hero who – with every fiber of his being – genuinely cares.