Chadwick Boseman, known for embodying black icons like Jackie Robinson in “42,” James Brown in “Get on Up,” and King T’Challa in “Black Panther,” spoke out often about his faith.
The 43-year-old actor, who died of colon cancer on Aug. 28, grew up in a Christian home and was baptized at Welfare Baptist Church in Anderson, South Carolina. As a professing Christian — even at the height of his celebrity — Boseman often spoke out about his beliefs.
Boseman’s rise to stardom seemed fast, but it took time, effort, and trust in God’s faithfulness. He was helped, too, by beloved entertainer Denzel Washington, who paid for the late actor’s study abroad tuition at the British American Drama Academy more than 20 years ago.
In the days since his passing, Washington has described Boseman as “a gentle soul and a brilliant artist who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career.”
The “Black Panther” star referenced his Christian faith when he honored Washington in 2019. Speaking during the AFI Life Achievement Award ceremony, Boseman quoted Ephesians 3:20, telling Washington, “May God bless you exceedingly and abundantly more for what’s in store than He ever has before.”
And in 2018, when he delivered the commencement address at his alma mater, Howard University, Boseman referenced several Bible passages, including Jeremiah 29:11.
He told the graduating class:
Sometimes, you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose God has predestined inside of you. God says in Jeremiah, ‘I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’
Graduating class, hear me well on this day. … This day when you have reached the hilltop, and you are deciding on next jobs, next steps, careers, further education, you would rather find purpose than a job or career.
“When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it,” he said later. “God will move someone that is holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you, if it’s meant for you. I don’t know what your future is. But if you’re willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory, then you will not regret it.”
After learning of his death, Letitia Wright, one of Boseman’s “Black Panther” co-stars who has also been outspoken about her Christian faith, tweeted simply: “This hurts. Really hurts.”
Fellow actor Josh Gad, known for voicing Olaf in Disney’s “Frozen” franchise, shared the final text message conversation he had with Boseman. In it, the late celebrity encouraged Gad to “catch the rain,” appreciate every moment, and “enjoy the simplicity of God’s creation.”
Boseman told his friend to “inhale and exhale this moment” and remember to “thank God for the unique beauties and wonders of the day.”
“We should take advantage of every moment we can to enjoy the simplicity of God’s creation, whether it be clear skies and sun or clouded over with gloom,” Boseman wrote. “And hey, if the air is this clear right now, and it does rain tomorrow, I might even put jars and bins out and catch the rain. Throw that in the water filter and have a water more alkaline than any bottled brand out there.”
In a tribute to Boseman, Gad described the young entertainer, who secretly battled stage-three colon cancer for four years, as “next-level good.”
“This was a man who was beyond talented and was so unbelievably giving, not only as a performer but as a human being,” Gad said. “Beyond just being ‘Black Panther,’ Chadwick was T’Challa in real life. He was somebody who just gave and gave and gave and never stopped giving.”
Gad went on to say 2020 “has been so devastating for some many reasons,” adding Boseman’s death just compounds the grief “because it’s taking away somebody who was honestly one of the greats.”
“I don’t know how to process this,” he continued, “but I want to send my love to his entire family and to all the fans out there. He’s gonna be missed.”
Pastor Samuel Neely, Boseman’s childhood pastor, praised the actor in 2018 for his commitment to his Christian faith.
Despite his accomplishments in Hollywood, Neely, who is now retired, said he could “still see the person I knew as a child.”
“When I see him, it’s almost like seeing my own child, he’s still Chad,” the minister told WHNS-TV. “He did a lot of positive things within the church and within the community. With him singing in the choir, with him working the youth group, he always was doing something, always helping out, always serving. That was his personality.”