ABC to Air “Black Panther” Ad-Free with Chadwick Boseman Tribute
By now you’ve heard the heartbreaking news that Chadwick Boseman has passed away at 43. The colossally talented star of Black Panther—to name but one of his many roles—died this past Friday night from colon cancer.
Boseman was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2016 and, incredibly, performed in a string of films throughout his treatment, including his game-changing turn as T’Challa in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther in 2018. Boseman made his first appearance in the role in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and went on to star in Marshall, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, 21 Bridges, and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods all while undergoing treatment. It’s hard to fathom Boseman’s strength, to imagine the pressures he faced while simultaneously starring in films and dealing with his treatment. The amount of effort he poured into every role now seems, fittingly, superheroic in light of this information.
In honor of this extraordinarily gifted performer, ABC is airing Black Panther at 8 pm, commercial-free, followed by a tribute. Black Panther was a transformative, game-changing film. It’s hard to imagine what it will feel like to watch it tonight, but watch it we will.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 30, 2020
As we grapple with the shock of Boseman’s passing, it helps to read the outpouring of love for the man on social media, and to watch (and weep) at not only a gifted performer but what a phenomenally decent human being Chadwick Boseman was. This incredibly moving video of him surprising Black Panther fans on The Tonight Show goes some way in showing both his decency and his impact. As overjoyed as these fans are, look how happy Boseman is to embrace them:
— The Tonight Show (@FallonTonight) March 1, 2018
If you’re reading this, then you’ve likely inhaled all of these Boseman tributes and reflections on social media. We’d also suggest you read about his specific gifts from writers who have been following his career. You will hardly do better than Wesley Morris’s must-read essay about Boseman’s ability to transcend the limits of biographical films in the New York Times. Morris reflects on how he was tasked with playing some of American history’s most beloved, iconic African American figures. Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get on Up, and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall. “I’ll confess to finding it odd that Boseman played these three roles so quickly,” Morris writes in his essay. “It seemed at first like a joke on the movies’ ongoing obsession with stories about exceptional Black Americans or like Hollywood was too lazy to imagine anyone else inhabiting the exceptions. The truth is that Boseman actually cornered a market with his inner elasticity and, at least for me, exploded the parameters of what biographical moviemaking ought to be. With him, ‘seems like’ mattered more than ‘looks like.’ It was daring, and he didn’t even seem aware of the risks.”
In between Get on Up in 2014 and Marshall in 2017, Boseman made his first appearance in the role that would make him a global superstar, as the Wakandan prince T’Challa, in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, which led to Ryan Coogler’s 2018 game-changer in Black Panther. It’s hard to overstate the impact Boseman and Black Panther has had on the lives of millions of people—the above Tonight Show video is a decent snapshot—and it’s equally hard to comprehend losing him so young. He was beloved by everyone who worked with him or knew him. I spoke with fellow entertainment journalists via text this weekend who had met him and spent some time with him. Each and every one of them said almost the same exact thing—”what a lovely, lovely man.”
To get a sense of just how transformational Boseman was as T’Challa, you cannot do better than hearing from Coogler. The co-writer and director wrote a moving tribute to Boseman, in which he describes signing on to direct Black Panther after watching dailies of Boseman in Captain America: Civil War. Here is a snippet:
“I finally met Chad in person in early 2016, once I signed onto the film. He snuck past journalists that were congregated for a press junket I was doing for Creed, and met with me in the green room. We talked about our lives, my time playing football in college, and his time at Howard studying to be a director, about our collective vision for T’Challa and Wakanda. We spoke about the irony of how his former Howard classmate Ta-Nehisi Coates was writing T’Challa’s current arc with Marvel Comics. And how Chad knew Howard student Prince Jones, whose murder by a police officer inspired Coates’ memoir Between The World and Me.’
I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying. But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and eyes that see much beyond his years, but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time.
That was the first of many conversations. He was a special person. We would often speak about heritage and what it means to be African. When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. “They not ready for this, what we are doing…” “This is Star Wars, this is Lord of the Rings, but for us… and bigger!” He would say this to me while we were struggling to finish a dramatic scene, stretching into double overtime. Or while he was covered in body paint, doing his own stunts. Or crashing into frigid water, and foam landing pads. I would nod and smile, but I didn’t believe him. I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game. All while putting in the work. And work he did.”
We recommend you read Coogler’s moving remembrance in full here. And tonight at 8 pm, we can all watch the magic that Boseman and Coogler made in Black Panther. Who knows where the franchise goes from here, how Coogler and his team will figure out a fitting way to write about T’Challa’s fate in Black Panther 2, to say nothing of how they’ll find a new Black Panther to carry on Boseman’s legacy. One can only feel comforted by the fact that they will find a way, and that nobody would have demanded it more emphatically than Boseman himself.
Featured image: He’s the king in more ways than one. Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER. Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman). Ph: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018