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Why Chadwick Boseman Kept His Cancer Battle a Secret

Chadwick Boseman attends the world premiere of Marvel Studios “Black Panther,” in Hollywood, on Jan. 29, 2018.Valerie Macon / AFP – Getty Images


Why Chadwick Boseman Kept His Cancer Battle a Secret


Last year, Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick held dinner with renowned graduates Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad to discuss the school’s ambitions for its Fine Arts department. Frederick recalls noting Boseman appeared “smaller than he had been” after losing weight, assuming it was for a film, and asking him how difficult it was to alter weight so quickly for parts. “In his usual style, he gave a long, detailed answer, explaining that he was a vegetarian and was exercising and trying to take care of himself and do what he had to do,” he says. “It was a very thoughtful response, never letting on that anything else was happening.”

The renowned actor, who died Friday, was profoundly affected by the way his mother Carolyn, a trained nurse, raised him, according to his longtime agent Michael Greene.

Carolyn Boseman, the actor’s mother, “always taught him not to have people fuss over him,” according to his agent, Michael Greene. “He also felt in this business that people trip out about things, and he was a very, very private person.”

In the midst of the sickness, Boseman’s trainer, Addison Henderson, assisted him in preparing for his Marvel roles. He recalls telling Chad, “Man, you remind me of my dad,” alluding 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 [producing partner] Logan [Coles] and his family, his wife [Taylor Simone Ledward], we were always just here to support him.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, just a limited handful of individuals were aware of Boseman’s health issues, including Greene, his producing partner Logan Coles, his trainer Addison Henderson, and his wife Taylor Simone Ledward.

That meant Boseman was sometimes quietly struggling on set, such as on the upcoming Netflix film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, where Greene says “he was really in hard-core pain” but “felt that being able to be with [producer] Denzel [Washington] and to launch this cycle of [playwright] August Wilson at Netflix was so exciting to him.”


On Friday, August 28, the Marshall star’s publicist revealed to Us Weekly that he died at home with his wife and family at his side. He was 43 years old at the time.

“Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016 and battled with it these last four years as it progressed to stage IV,” a statement read. “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

Henderson, who is also a filmmaker and performer, recalls similar incidents. Henderson recalls Boseman sitting and giving him screenplay suggestions for hours while “battling and dealing with his own things” on his first feature picture, 2020’s G.O.D. “He was tired, but he came to Buffalo, where I shot my movie, and stayed for days with me, just to talk through stuff with me, just to be a good brother,” Henderson says, after Boseman pushed through a full schedule of shooting Da 5 Bloods in Thailand followed by reshoots of his 2019 film 21 Bridges. “He didn’t have to do that, he could have gone home and just rested. For me, that was just something that I’ll never forget.”

“He was just living his artistic life to the fullest and using his time and his moment to really affect people,” Henderson added.

“Some people wait a lifetime to get the opportunity that he had,” Henderson continues, “and Chad had so much wisdom, so much knowledge, so much inside of him that he wasn’t going to let this disease stop him from telling these amazing stories and showing his art in the prime of his life.

THR stated that Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige and “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler were unaware of Boseman’s cancer diagnosis before his death.

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