When Chadwick Boseman fought Marvel over using African accents in Black Panther, and won: ‘If we lose this, what else will we throw away’
Actor Chadwick Boseman paved the way for Black actors in blockbusters, but the road wasn’t easy. Even after landing the Black Panther role, the actor continued to fight the powers that be, in an effort to live up to his ideals. Chadwick died on Saturday after a four-year battle with cancer, in the presence of his family.
In a 2018 interview to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor had revealed how he had an early disagreement about the use of African accents in Black Panther. In the film, the actor plays the ruler of a fictional African country named Wakanda. He said that Marvel initially felt that having the characters speak in African accents might be a bit ‘too much’ for audiences.
“I felt the exact opposite – like, if I speak with a British accent, what’s gonna happen when I go home? It felt to me like a dealbreaker,” he said. “I was like, ‘No, this is such an important factor that if we lose this right now, what else are we gonna throw away for the sake of making people feel comfortable?’”
Black Panther went on to become the first Marvel movie to score a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. It also grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide. A sequel, with director Ryan Coogler returning, had been announced.
“Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace,” Marvel Studios wrote on Twitter. President Kevin Feige said in a statement, “Chadwick’s passing is absolutely devastating. He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.”
Several of Chadwick’s Marvel co-stars such as Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, Don Cheadle and others have also paid tribute. Shang-Chi star Simu Liu, another person of colour to lead a Marvel movie, wrote on Twitter that he wouldn’t have gotten the role had it not been for Chadwick. “I want to be crystal clear,” he wrote, “without Chadwick, and what he gave to his character, there is no Shang Chi. Period. My career rides on the coattails of a great man. I wish I would have had the opportunity to tell him in person - but I’ll fight for him always, my Eternal King.”
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