[C]hadwick Boseman has played a number of the most influential characters in American history – from the electrifying Godfather of Soul, James Brown, to the steadfast, supremely-talented Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball in the modern era, and the venerated Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Judge. In 2016’s mega-budget blockbuster Captain America: Civil War, he introduced the Black Panther to the Marvel Universe. The character was the first black superhero to appear in mainstream American comics (in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966, FYI ).
Hollywood has turned its attention to the black experience at a critical time in US history, where those who continue to fight the historic inequalities in American society are counterbalanced by an ugly, vicious white supremacist movement campaigning for a return to the vulgar past. Armchair liberals have had their complacency exposed. The US government, under its shambolic leader, has predictably, been found wanting. Film – from Chadwick’s forthcoming project Marshall, to Barry Jenkins’ wonderful Moonlight, Jordan Peele’s subversive and brilliant Get Out and Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial Detroit – has not evaded its responsibility to reflect the times we live in or to examine the history that brought us here.
Chadwick has added his brilliance, commitment and presence to this era of American cinema. His James Brown exuded determination, no-fucks-given swagger and show-stopping physicality, his Thurgood Marshall is erudite and composed, his Jackie Robinson skilled and stoic. It feels as though with each of his major roles, including that of Black Panther, he adds another essential chapter to America’s cinematic history, telling vital stories that were initially overlooked as Hollywood spent decades whitewashing world history.
As the actor himself points out, these films are necessary, they are vindicated by critical and box office success and, with time, they may even have the capacity to heal.