Actor Chadwick Boseman passed away on Aug. 28, 2020 after a four-year battle with colon cancer, as his family confirmed to the Associated Press. The Black Panther actor remained active in the film industry while quietly battling the disease in private. “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,” his family’s statement explained.
Many of Boseman’s acting colleagues have been publicly mourning his tragic death, including one star who has a surprising connection to Boseman: Denzel Washington. Washington released a statement about Boseman’s passing to Entertainment Weekly: “He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career. God bless Chadwick Boseman.”
What many not realize, though, is that Washington played an important role in jumpstarting Boseman’s impressive career in the first place. Here’s how it happened.
Denzel Washington helped Chadwick Boseman go to Oxford
Chadwick Boseman was just 43 years old when he died, but he managed to cement himself as a legendary star for an entire generation with his groundbreaking role in Black Panther. Boseman may have Denzel Washington to thank for some of his success in Hollywood.
In the late 1990s, Boseman was a college student at Howard University. He applied for a prestigious summer theater program at the University of Oxford, along with several of his peers. They got in, but they couldn’t afford to go. That’s when Boseman’s mentor, The Cosby Show’s Phylicia Rashad, who taught at Howard, stepped in. “She pushed for us,” Boseman told Rolling Stone in February 2018. “She essentially got some celebrity friends to pay for us to go.” At the time, Boseman demurred about which celebrity paid for him.
But in a later interview with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Boseman revealed that it was Denzel Washington who generously bankrolled his spot in the program.
They saw each other at the Black Panther premiere
Chadwick Boseman opened up about Denzel Washington’s role in his early acting career in a February 2018 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“I’ve basically been holding this secret my whole career,” Boseman told Fallon. He explained that when he returned from Oxford after the program, he found out who’d paid for his spot: “When I came back, I got a beneficiary letter and it said Denzel Washington paid for you.”
Boseman eventually got a chance to thank Washington in person at the premiere of Black Panther. In true Denzel Washington form, he attended the premiere to show support — and jokingly demanded his money back. “I’m not here to see — I liked the movie, ‘Black Panther,’ yeah, good, Wakanda Forever, but where’s my money?'” Washington joked to Boseman at the time.
Boseman’s acting talent was a gift to the world, and both mentors and fans will continue to honor his legacy for years to come.
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