Top 5 Chadwick Boseman Performances: An Appreciation Post
In pop culture there are moments that you know will forever be etched into history, one of those moments was the incredible release of Black Panther, an empowering and progressive superhero film with a predominant black cast. Another of those moments was the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, the phenomenal actor who brought King T’Challa to the big screen, and straight into the hearts of an eager audience. Boseman passed at age 43 after a very private four year battle with colon cancer.
Chadwick Boseman was a charismatic and talented man whose journey to becoming a global superstar is one of hard work and integrity at every turn. He was goal driven with a ‘manifesto’ in mind of the type of roles he wanted to play and the impact he wanted to have. He broke barriers and become a role model, an inspiration and a hero. His life was cut tragically short, but his legacy shall long be remembered and live on in those who remember him.
In honour of the man who inspired a generation and was a hero in every element of his life, here are five of my favourite Chadwick Boseman performances.
Boseman really kicked off his career with his role in 42. Portraying the American sporting legend, Jackie Robinson, Boseman brings an anchored power to this biopic film. Jackie Robinson was the first significant black player in major league baseball, his story is one of empowerment and celebration a star who had to overcome racial animosity and fight for his place in the sport. In the role, Boseman manages to combine the stoic dignity and seething undercurrent of frustration experienced by Robinson to life. He turns this film into more than just a sports film but also an exploration of the experience of a young black star who face adversity but manages to rise to become an icon.
Get on Up (2016)
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, is a cultural icon whose performance style and idiosyncrasies are widely known by many. He is an incredibly recognisable performer and therefore one hell of a task to imitate. Yet, Boseman portrays him with such flare, dedication and energy it seems easy. James Brown’s story may not be as clean and heroic as Boseman’s previous role as Jackie Robinson, yet the conflicting image of the singer is treated respectfully, honestly and with great charisma from Boseman. This biopic does not shy away from Brown’s full story of poverty and abuse as a child and his conflicted adulthood. Boseman embodies the physicality and passion of Brown whilst also showing the vulnerability of the ‘The Hardest Working Man In Show Business’.
Boseman steps once again into the role of a real historic figure, this time he’s not a glamourous entertainer or a pioneering sports star, he is Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Based on an early trial in Marshall’s career it follows his struggle to even be heard in the beginnings of his career. It may be set before Marshall’s landmark segregation cases, but it manages to establish his history as an intellectual and strong civil rights lawyer willing to fight and defend the rights of black defendants. Once again, Boseman brings nuance to a historic role, not just playing a cookie cutter hero in a pandering story, instead presenting a real person with flaws but also dedication to a worthy cause. He proves in this role that not all heroes wear capes with his humble and thought provoking take on a legend.
The character of Black Panther was introduced to the MCU in Captain America: Civil War but it is within the stand-alone Black Panther film that T’Challa was truly explored. Black Panther is noble, charming and powerful, all qualities that Boseman himself possessed. The impact of this film is immeasurable. A big budget, superhero movie centred on a strong black cast that celebrated African culture and heritage was unprecedented. Boseman was tasked with holding this film together and pioneering this character, and he excelled tremendously. With each reprisal of this role, Boseman maintained the characters grace and power with incredibly choreographed action sequences and meaningful interaction with other characters. He was a true King and a true Hero.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
Boseman’s most recent role is as Stormin’ Norman in Spike Lee’s impactful and intense Vietnam War film Da 5 Bloods. Stormin’ Norman is a natural leader and a freedom fighter during the Vietnam War who plays a pivotal role within the film in a unique way. His character is a mentor, a calming influence and a true brother to his fellow soldiers. The story of Norman, in particular his connection to Paul, is a heart breaking and yet beautiful one, and Boseman’s portrayal of a heroic, forgiving and sympathetic soldier in an unjust war is stunning to watch. Once again, Boseman is put in a heroic role, this one may not have been a real character, but is instead an amalgamation of the real experiences of Black soldiers and the harrows and hardships they faced. His ethereal performance is imbued with his usual charisma and strength, stealing the scene every time he is on the screen.
Chadwick Boseman is so much more than just the roles he played on screen, he came to be beloved, a symbol for an audience who had not seen someone like themselves in roles like his. He approached his roles as a representative and hero figure with constant grace and dignity, showing his heart and vulnerability whilst being humble and entirely empowering.
Beyond the screen, he was private with his own personal life, but open and loving with his humanitarian and charitable works. While suffering himself, he made time to raise the spirits of others, dedicated his time and love to fans, and gave his voice to issues he believed in.
Long live King T’Challa and thank you Chadwick Boseman.