John Kani remembers late Black Panther co-star Chadwick Boseman as a "great human being, a great artist, and a great lover of the arts." Kani portrayed T'Chaka, father of Boseman's T'Challa and the former king of African country Wakanda, who ascended to the Astral Plane after his death in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. After entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe together in the Captain America sequel, Kani reunited with Boseman in the Ryan Coogler-directed Black Panther, the first Marvel Studios movie to feature a predominantly Black cast. Reflecting on his Marvel role opposite Boseman, who died Friday at the age of 43, Kani recalls Boseman saying an opportunity like Black Panther "might not come again."
"It was an incredible presence of a young man who is incredibly tense, urgent, and absolutely focused. He knew most, more than us, that this was a moment of time, and it was Africa's time," the South African actor said on South African Morning. "He felt quite seriously with Ryan Coogler, 'Guys, we've got one chance to do an all-Black movie, in Hollywood, funded by Marvel, and to make it the biggest success we can. Because this opportunity might not come again.' He was that kind of actor."
Diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, Boseman filmed three Marvel movies, as well as Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, between "countless surgeries and chemotherapy," his family said in a statement confirming the actor's death.
"It's been a joy and wonderful to have that memory of such talent, and presence, and dedication, from a young man," Kani said. "And as Connie [Chiume] would say, 'He saved us from his illness, lest we take pity on him.'"
"He was pretending to be as strong as possible, and that was Chadwick," Kani added. "A great human being, a great artist, and a great lover of the arts."
"If you look at the fact that since he was diagnosed with colon cancer three or four years ago, stage III and it developed to stage IV while we were shooting Black Panther, this is now in hindsight," Kani said. "Now you think, 'My Lord, this man stayed with the pain, stayed with the threat to his life, and yet he gave us such support. He gave us such a wonderful work ethic.' This example is very rare in the kind of industry that we are in."
Boseman's Black Panther co-stars paid tribute to the late actor over the weekend, which saw Disney-owned ABC honor the star with a presentation of the blockbuster followed by ABC News special Chadwick Boseman – A Tribute for a King.
Ramonda actress Angela Bassett, who portrays T'Chaka's widow and T'Challa's mother, remembered Boseman as "a beautiful spirit, a consummate artist, a soulful brother." Co-stars Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Andy Serkis, Sterling K. Brown, Martin Freeman, and Coogler are among the voices who paid tribute to Boseman on social media.
Black Panther is streaming on Disney+.