When actor Chadwick Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020, he left behind an important legacy of artistry and portraying inspiring Black characters.
The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star, who has been posthumously sweeping awards season for his final performance in the film, will be celebrated on Netflix with a new documentary titled Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist — commencing on April 17.
The film features interviews with Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, George C. Wolfe, Branford Marsalis and Phylicia Rashad who all remark on Boseman’s commitment to his craft, and will be available on the streamer only for 30 days.
Netflix describes Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist as “an intimate look at the Oscar-nominated actor’s incomparable artistry, and the acting process which informed his transformative performances.”
In the trailer for the documentary, Boseman is heard saying, “People call me an actor. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an actor. I would call myself an artist,” — a statement that anyone who has seen his films would surely agree with.
The actor privately battled colon cancer for four years, keeping his diagnosis secret from colleagues and co-stars all of whom were shocked when he succumbed to the illness.
In a statement released after Boseman’s death, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler honoured his friend saying: “I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before. I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see,” Coogler wrote.
“It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.
“I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.”
Boseman was due to reprise his role as T’Challa in the next Black Panther instalment which is scheduled to be released in July 2022 and has already started to be written by Coogler. Conversations have been abundant about the future of the sequel since Boseman’s passing with Marvel president Kevin Feige stating that the role of T’Challa would not be recast.
The idea of having the actor appear in a CGI cameo in the follow-up, similar to what Disney did in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker after Carrie Fisher passed away, was also shut down by Marvel Studios executive producer Victoria Alonso.
“No. There’s only one Chadwick, and he’s not with us,” Alonso said.
“Our king, unfortunately, has died in real life, not just in fiction, and we are taking a little time to see how we return to history and what we do to honour this chapter of what has happened to us that was so unexpected, so painful, so terrible, really.”
This apparently hasn’t deterred fans of the Marvel franchise, however, who have recently rallied around a petition to have T’Challa re-cast.
The call to action, which is posted on Change.org asks Feige, Coogler and Marvel Studios Co-President Louis D’Esposito, to reconsider their decision not to hire a new actor for the role, and recast the role of ‘T’Challa’ in the Black Panther franchise” out of “respect for the late actor’s work on the character and to honour the hero’s legacy.”
“If Marvel Studios removes T’Challa, it would be at the expense of the audiences (especially Black boys and men) who saw themselves in him,” the petition argues.
“That also includes the millions of fans who were inspired by the character as well.
“By not recasting, it could stifle the opportunity for one of the most popular, leading Black superheroes to add on to their legacy. The #1 way to kill a legend, is to stop telling their story.”
It goes without saying that there will never be another Chadwick Boseman, but at least we can take comfort in the opportunity to celebrate his impactful legacy — not just for the 30 days that Portrait of an Artist is on Netflix, but for as long as we choose to keep telling his story.
To read more about the artistry of Chadwick Boseman, read our article: 5 Films to Watch to Honour Both Chadwick Boseman and Black History Month