When Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died on Aug. 28 following a 4 year-long battle with cancer, fans and co-workers alike were shocked. Boseman was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2016, and never disclosed his diagnosis publicly. Even some of his closest collaborators weren't aware of his battle, including Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and Da 5 Bloods director Spike Lee. Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, those who were closest to Boseman have opened up about his private battle.
His longtime trainer Addison Henderson was among those who knew Boseman had been diagnosed with cancer. "I used to tell Chad, 'Man, you remind me of my dad,'" Henderson explained, referring to his father who beat cancer four times. "'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."
Despite his diagnosis, Henderson said that Boseman made sure to live "his artistic life to the fullest," focusing on "using his time and his moment to really affect people." As his agent Michael Greene added, it was Boseman's mother Carolyn who inspired the decision to keep the diagnosis under wraps. Greene elaborated that Carolyn "taught him not to have people fuss over him," and, "He also felt in this business that people trip out about things, and he was a very, very private person."
Boseman had also been in bouts of "hard-core pain" on the set of Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which will be a posthumous for the actor, Greene said. "[He] felt that being able to be with Denzel [Washington] and to launch this cycle of August Wilson at Netflix was so exciting to him," Greene continued. As for the projects he chose, Greene indicated that he "never did really dark movies," because "he was fighting the darkness" himself. "I remember him and Tessa [Thompson] were offered a movie, it was about two slaves, and he was like, 'I do not want to perpetuate slavery,'" Greene explained. "It was like, 'We’re not going to keep perpetuating the stereotypes,' and that’s why he wanted to show men of strength and of character."
Speaking with People magazine, producer Nate Moore said that the "final text" he received from Boseman "broke" him. The two were talking about some work they had done for the Make-A-Wish Foundation over lockdown, which included Boseman getting a voice note and a package of toys to a young boy. "'We need to do that for them,'" Boseman told Moore in the text. "They’ve been through hell battling disease. If we were able to ease their suffering and bring joy for a moment, and hopefully moments has he goes through the bags, then we made a difference in his life,'" he wrote in the text.
Following his death, there has been an outpouring of condolences from fans and those who worked with him alike. As TMZ reports, the principal at T.L. Hanna High School in South Carolina, which is where he attended, will be forming a scholarship fund in honor of Boseman.