By Alexia Fernandez
Chadwick Boseman’s career was among the brightest in Hollywood — but the actor’s focus was always on how he could serve others.
“I definitely value the fact that I can change people’s lives on a given day,” he told PEOPLE in 2017.
From his inspiring roles to his visits to children coping with illnesses, he did exactly that, in ways big and small.
The Black Panther star, who died of colon cancer on Aug. 28 at age 43, is celebrated on the cover of this week’s issue of PEOPLE for his career, his legacy and the impact he made on millions of people.
The actor’s representatives shared the news in a heartfelt tribute on his Twitter account on August 28, revealing the Marshall star had been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016 and had battled it privately for four years as it progressed to stage IV.
- For more about Chadwick Boseman, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Boseman’s career has left an indelible legacy for Black audiences, with his years of playing legendary figures including Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall culminating in his groundbreaking performance as King T’Challa in Marvel’s 2018 film Black Panther.
Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, tells PEOPLE he was blown away by Boseman’s portrayal of the iconic comic book character.
“I’ll never forget the moment where we introduced Chadwick for the first time as Black Panther,” says Feige. “We were at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood in 2014 for a big reveal of the next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and when we brought Chadwick on stage, the response was just electric.”
Boseman’s first appearance as T’Challa came in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, and was followed by the character’s standalone film two years later.
“I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like it ever again,” says Feige of the fan reaction to Boseman’s performance. “That was the honor of my career.”
He adds, “Chadwick told the world stories at a time when we needed them most and made sacrifices to do so. If he had to leave us, which is unfair, unfathomable and crushing – he did so with a blaze of meaning fit for a King.”
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris recalls the actor “was so kind and thoughtful.”
“He was a listener and he was humble — but he walked with such magnificence,” she tells PEOPLE of her fellow Howard University alum. “Chadwick inspired people to see something in themselves, to see something in each other. [He] had the ability to see what can be unburdened by what has been. In that way, his legacy is strong and we will be talking about and thinking about Chadwick for generations to come.”
During lockdown amid the coronavirus, Boseman worked on a voice note as his character T’Challa for a young boy with cancer on behalf of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Nate Moore, an executive producer on Black Panther, tells PEOPLE Boseman “cared so intently” of making sure the voice recording was perfect.
“Hindsight will tell us that Chad felt that way because he too was battling a disease,” says Moore. “But I don’t think that’s true. I think that’s just who he was as a man.”