Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman is the most talked about actor in Hollywood at the moment. Both the Marvel movie itself and his performance have got rave reviews – Black Panther is everyone’s favorite superhero these days! The film has been hailed for its almost entirely non-white cast and is breaking box office records around the world. Boseman, for his part, is being lauded for his acting skills and his willingness to discuss the issue of black representation in Hollywood. You can’t go anywhere without seeing his face on a billboard or a magazine cover.
But who exactly IS Chadwick Boseman? What did he get up to in his pre-Black Panther days? What do we know about his likes, dislikes, interests, and exploits? Read on to find out some little-known facts about Marvel’s newest leading man.
20. While he was born in South Carolina, he has roots from further afield
Although Boseman puts on a pretty authentic Xhosa accent as Black Panther, he’s actually a Southern gentleman through-and-through. He was born in Anderson, South Carolina, growing up in the “Upstate” area of the city. It’s where he remained until he went off to Howard University in Washington, DC back in 2000. Despite this All-American upbringing, Boseman can trace his roots to further afield. A DNA test taken by his father revealed that he’s descended from a number of West African peoples including the Limba and Mende people of Sierra Leone, the Yoruba of Nigeria, and the Jola people of Guinea-Bissau.
19. He was older than he looked
Prepare to be shocked: Boseman is a lot older than he looks! While it’s easy to assume that he’s in his early or mid-30s, the actor is actually turning 41 this year. That’s right: he’s over forty! He definitely needs to share his anti-aging secrets with us all. Boseman was born on November 29, 1977. He wasn’t one of those stars that made it big in the acting industry straight out of high school: he was a bit older when the major roles began to come his way. Boseman was 36 when his breakout movie, sports biopic 42, hit cinemas. Then he was 39 when he nabbed his now-famous role as Black Panther. See, it’s never too late to make your dreams come true!
18. He was super close to his parents
Well, this is nothing short of totally adorable. Turns out Boseman is super close to his parents, Carolyn and Leroy. Neither of these two had any roots in the acting industry: in fact, they were refreshingly ‘normal.’ Carolyn worked as a nurse during Boseman’s childhood while Leroy was a textile manufacturer and upholsterer. Still, Boseman’s parents have totally supported his more illustrious career of choice. They even spend considerable time on his movie sets! While Boseman was filming 42, he actually had to take a break from filming a physically demanding scene due to his father’s intervention. Leroy apparently told director Brian Helgeland that his son would hurt himself if he carried on for much longer, so Helgeland insisted the actor take a break. Even huge movie stars can have protective parents.
17. He had an insanely big family
While Boseman’s nuclear family is of a fairly standard size – he’s the youngest of three brothers – he’s revealed that he has a massive extended family. Like, it’s huge. During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel‘s show, the actor stated that on just one side of his family he has 41 first cousins. On the other side, he has a slightly more modest (but still insane) 23 – and remember, that’s just FIRST cousins. Incredibly, Boseman knows all of these cousins personally – they often all spend Thanksgiving together. That must be one huge meal! The massive Boseman clan are all super supportive of their famous cousin, with the actor himself often hiring out movie screens and getting the whole family together to watch his latest movie. He did just that for Black Panther a few weeks ago – 460 family members and friends filled two movie theater screens!
16. He wrote his first play after a classmate was shot and killed
Boseman’s first foray into the world of stage and screen came when the actor was still in high school. When he was a junior, one of his classmates – a fellow basketball team member that Boseman was pretty close to – was shot and killed. To cope with the tragedy, Boseman turned to his creative side. He wrote his first play, Crossroads, as a direct response to what happened. The play was staged at his school, marking the young Boseman’s first experience in the world of the theater. Playwriting was one of Boseman’s first choices as a career: he later wrote the successful shows Deep Azure, Hieroglyphic Graffiti, and Rhyme Deferred.
15. He was a talented basketball player
While Boseman is best known for his artistic talents, he’s also a pretty accomplished sportsman. In high school, he was selected to play for his city’s under-16s basketball team before being recruited to play at a college level. While Boseman loved playing the sport, he didn’t decide to make a career out of it. In fact, he states that the shooting of his teammate and the play he subsequently wrote made him realize that he was destined to do more than just play ball. The game is still a hobby of his alongside his acting jobs, though: Boseman can regularly be seen attending NBA games. He’s also a loyal fan of the University of North Carolina’s college team.
14. He never actually intended to go into acting – just directing
It may be surprising considering his obvious talent for acting, but Boseman never actually intended to appear in front of the camera – only behind it. His initial plan was to become a director! He even studied directing at college, graduating from Howard with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Directing. What changed for him? Well, Boseman apparently started to study acting only so he could understand the cast members he’d be working with. What started out as a research project quickly became Boseman’s passion, and the rest, as they say, is history! To be honest, we’re glad he made the shift from directing to acting. He was quite clearly born to play Black Panther!
13. He studied in England before returning to his US roots
After attending college in Washington, DC, Boseman decided to complete further study across the pond! He moved to England, where he studied at the British American Drama Academy in London. While Boseman was offered a place at the academy’s summer program almost immediately, the financial costs involved nearly put a stop to the plan. Luckily, Boseman’s mentor, actress Phylicia Rashad, raised funds from her celebrity friends that allowed he and his classmates to attend the school. While Boseman generally enjoyed his time in England, he later stated that he was disappointed by the lack of black playwrights included on the syllabus. It’s an issue that campaigners in Britain are still struggling with to this day.
12. He was the drama coach at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
After Boseman had completed his studies in England, he came back to the U.S. to begin his career. Initially, acting still wasn’t on his horizon, though! Boseman’s first job out of college was a role at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, based in New York. He taught drama to young aspiring thespians, something that he found very fulfilling according to Phylicia Rashad. While teaching, Boseman also netted a few minor roles on New York-based shows like CSI: New York and Law and Order. He remained with the Schomburg Center until 2008, when he finally decided to move to Los Angeles and pursue a career in Hollywood.
11. His first acting role was on the soap opera All My Children
Before landing guest spots on acclaimed shows like CSI: NY and Law and Order, Boseman began his foray into acting on soap opera All My Children. It was his first major gig: he got a multi-episode job as Reggie Montgomery, a tough and troublemaking adopted teen who’s sent off to basketball camp by his parents. Boseman starred in the soap for twelve days in January 2003. However, the show’s producers quickly decided that they wanted to take Reggie’s character “in another direction,” and the role was recast. Ironically, Boseman was replaced by his future Black Panther co-star Michael B. Jordan! Both actors started their careers playing the same role on the same show. How weird is that?
10. He could do the splits
Not only is Boseman a hugely gifted actor, he’s also a man with a lot of surprising talents hidden up his sleeve. For one, he’s an incredibly athletic and flexible guy – to the extent that he can do the splits! I wonder if he whips that trick out at parties? He’s also not bad at boxing, according to Black Panther director Ryan Coogler. The two would often have sparring sessions on the set of the movie as a pre-filming warmup. Boseman attributes his healthy body and toned physique to both regular exercise and a predominantly vegan lifestyle. Whatever his secret, we want in on it.
9. He made a name for himself playing iconic real-life people
While Boseman only saw limited success for the first decade of his acting career, his breakthrough came after three starring roles in biopics. The first of these was as baseball player Jackie Robinson in 42, a movie chronicling Robinson’s role in racially integrating baseball. Everyone from critics to Robinson’s widow Rachel praised Boseman’s performance. A year later, the actor portrayed another iconic black figure: soul singer James Brown in Get On Up. After another critically acclaimed performance, Hollywood truly began to pay attention to Boseman. His final biopic role to date was as Thurgood Marshall – the first African-American Supreme Court Justice – in Marshall. Boseman also produced this Academy Award-nominated film.
8. He spent five months training in baseball for the movie 42
Speaking of 42, Boseman put a lot of effort into nailing the role of Jackie Robinson. Until making the movie, the actor was a total baseball newbie. He’d stuck to basketball in his high school years and hadn’t had a chance to pick up a baseball since! Obviously, portraying such an iconic baseball player demands some knowledge of how to play the sport. To gain this, Boseman spent five months training with both Major League and college baseball coaches. He’d spend every morning and often afternoons too practicing and practicing until he was at least a passable player. Boseman himself admits that he’ll never be on Robinson’s level. Hey, at least he tried!
7. He was once named the Most Popular U.S. Actor in China
While Boseman is yet to win any major American or British awards for his acting, film boards elsewhere in the world have recognized his talents. Back in November last year, the Chinese American Film Festival named him the Most Popular U.S. Actor in China. Boseman actually traveled to China to accept the award and expressed his surprise at receiving the honor. He made an impassioned speech about perceived racism in the international movie industry. Boseman explained that “as African-American actors, we are told that our popularity and our movies don’t travel overseas. So I cherish this award immensely.”
6. He didn’t even have to audition for the role of Black Panther
By the time that Marvel producers cast Boseman as Black Panther, he was a leading talent in the movie industry. In fact, Black Panther’s producers were so keen to have him on board that he didn’t even have to audition for his role as the superhero! Boseman’s performances in 42 and Get On Up hugely impressed Marvel executives. They loved his ability to transform into the characters he was portraying. Apparently, within 24 hours of his name coming up in a Marvel casting conversation, Boseman had accepted the role of Black Panther.
5. He was really into music
Outside of his love of acting and basketball, one of Boseman’s biggest interests is music. In an interview with Vanity Fair back in 2014, the actor admitted that he can’t live without his iPod – especially while filming. He always listens to music before scenes, often curating specific playlists for specific moments. Boseman also uses music as an inspiration for his writing work, and he’s not fussy about the genre! “I love all types of music,” he stated in one interview. “Jazz, classical, blues, rock, hip-hop. I often write scripts to instrumentals like a hip-hop artist. Music inspires me to write.” Having such a deep appreciation for music has actually helped Boseman in his career. It certainly made portraying industry legend James Brown a whole lot easier!
4. He refused to share much info about his personal life
While Boseman is becoming more and more famous thanks to his role as Black Panther, he’s keen to keep his private life private. He’s vocally opposed the idea of ‘celebrity culture’ – and who can blame him? Boseman would rather disclose nothing at all about his personal life than overshare information. The actor has never officially disclosed his relationship status, although he did reference his ‘lady’ in a Valentine’s Day Instagram post. He tends to shy away from the cult of celebrity, stating many times in interviews that he’d rather his work be the topic of conversation. Boseman isn’t in the acting industry to gain fame and fortune: he’s an artist first and foremost.
3. He was not afraid to speak out about difficult issues
Despite being reluctant to discuss the details of his own life, Boseman is very willing to speak up about important issues affecting people around the world. A topic about which he’s been especially vocal is race, in both the acting industry and the USA at large. While Boseman has been lucky enough to hit the big time, he’s not forgotten the fact that African-American representation is still far lower than it should be in the entertainment business. It’s not for lack of trying, as Boseman notes. There are many talented actors of color out there. Instead, Boseman’s focus has been on encouraging Hollywood to give these actors screentime. While Black Panther has been groundbreaking in showcasing African-American talent, the industry still has a long way to go.
2. He paid for 312 kids from South Carolina to see Black Panther
Not only is Boseman talented, good-looking, successful, and a generally nice guy, he’s also incredibly generous. Recently, he paid for 312 underprivileged children from his home state of South Carolina to see Black Panther on its opening weekend. He did so as part of the Black Panther Project, a venture set up by philanthropist Frederick Josephs. Boseman and Josephs hope to raise money to pay for disadvantaged youth to see the film. Considering Black Panther is the first mainstream superhero film with a predominately black cast, this is an important cultural experience for young people of color be a part of. The actor has also given away a ton of movie merchandise online. Boseman has distributed action figures, beads, autographs and posters to dedicated fans.
1. He was already signed on for three more Marvel movies
If you’re a fan of Boseman’s superhero character Black Panther, you’re in for a treat over the next few years. The star has signed up to a five-movie deal with Marvel Studios: Black Panther itself is the second of these. Boseman is definitely slated to appear in the upcoming Avengers sequel Infinity War that’s hitting screens in May. He’ll also probably turn up in next year’s as yet untitled Avengers flick. The actor is going to be in the spotlight for quite some time, and we’re totally happy with that state of affairs. Question is, when will we be getting the Black Panther sequel we all desperately need? We’ll have to wait and see!