When actor Chadwick Boseman passed away on Aug. 28 from stage four colon cancer, it was a shock to many. He was young, and the world hadn’t even known the superhero was battling a life-threatening disease.
But that’s exactly what he wanted. He kept his condition a secret, preferring to divulge his diagnosis to a select few and keep it out of the public eye.
He told some friends and family, as well as his producing partner Logan Coles, agent Michael Greene and trainer Addison Henderson.
On the set of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Greene noticed Boseman was suffering, but the actor powered on and “felt that being able to be with [co-star] Denzel [Washington] and to launch this cycle of [playwright] August Wilson at Netflix was so exciting to him,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Greene also recalled how Boseman always conscientiously selected the projects he would involve himself in and even got fired over his refusal to play a role that involved a negative scenario.
“Chad always made sure of the integrity, the ethics, the morals,” Greene said, according to Essence. “I’ve represented a lot of clients, and started a lot of clients. His commitment and loyalty was amazing.”
Boseman’s trainer was impressed with his client’s resolve, and likened him to his own father, who’d beaten cancer multiple times.
“I used to tell Chad, ‘Man, you remind me of my dad,'” Henderson recalled. “‘You guys are fighters, and you never stop moving forward.’ For us, it was just like, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s keep doing what you want to do, let’s keep training.’ And then, me and Logan and his family, his wife [Taylor Simone Ledward], we were always just here to support him.”
“He was just living his artistic life to the fullest and using his time and his moment to really affect people.”
Some of those not part of the inner circle of confidence noticed something was up, like Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, Howard University president, who saw that Boseman had slimmed down a bit and assumed it was for a role.
“In his usual style, he gave a long, detailed answer, explaining that he was a vegetarian and was exercising and trying to take care of himself and do what he had to do,” Frederick told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was a very thoughtful response, never letting on that anything else was happening.”
As others noted, Boseman didn’t let his troubles get in the way of throwing himself wholeheartedly into his work and tending to those around him.
“One of his greatest attributes was never burdening anyone else, but being there to shoulder everyone else’s burdens,” Frederick said.
Boseman’s agent, Greene, also said that at least some of Boseman’s decision to keep silent about the cancer was due to his mother.
“[She] always taught him not to have people fuss over him,” Greene said. “He also felt in this business that people trip out about things, and he was a very, very private person.”
Though he was taken far too soon, the actor will be remembered for his positive work, both on the screen and in his friends’ lives.
“Some people wait a lifetime to get the opportunity that he had,” Henderson said, “and Chad had so much wisdom, so much knowledge, so much inside of him that he wasn’t going to let this disease stop him from telling these amazing stories and showing his art in the prime of his life.”
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