What Chadwick Boseman's Relationship Was Like With Each Of His Black Panther Co-Stars

With the release of the "Black Panther" sequel, "Wakanda Forever," in November 2022, we're reminded of the original film's groundbreaking cultural impact on the cinematic landscape. Not only was the landmark superhero film hugely popular, but it came to prove itself a beacon of Black representation in an industry that has, at worst, relied on gross racial stereotypes and, at best, cast Black performers in reductive non-roles. As exciting as the sequel may be, however, for many fans, Chadwick Boseman was synonymous with the franchise, with "Black Panther" perceived as his grand finale. Thus, his absence in the second installment will be palpable, not least for his grieving co-stars.

When Boseman died of colon cancer in 2020, celebratory tributes poured in, and the post announcing his death was the most re-tweeted of the year, testament to his popularity. The old proverb advises us to never speak ill of the dead, but many are not lionized in death and this is none more apparent than with celebrities; exaltations of the late Jerry Lee Lewis, for instance, have been criticized for glossing over his problematic past. However, there appears to be virtually no one who has a bad word to say about Boseman. Indeed, he was no ordinary celebrity, and he remains beloved by those who worked with him.

Though he left us far too soon, Boseman is immortalized as T'Challa. And for his grieving co-stars, he will always be a King. Let's take a look at what Chadwick Boseman's relationship was like with each of his "Black Panther" co-stars.

Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman go way back

They may have been squaring off against each other in "Black Panther," but away from the cameras, Michael B. Jordan and Chadwick Boseman were besties. The actors first met back in 2003, when Jordan succeeded Boseman as the character Reggie Montgomery on soap opera "All My Children," per The Wrap. Even at this early stage in the duo's careers, Boseman, who was a decade older than Jordan, had the younger actor's back. Having ditched the role due to his discomfort with Reggie's apparently stereotypical depiction, Boseman was able to get the producers bestow the character more gravitas once Jordan took over.

As Jordan revealed in a heartbreaking Instagram post (via E! News) following Boseman's untimely death in 2020, the late actor was his guiding force. "One of the last times we spoke, you said we were forever linked, and now the truth of that means more to me than ever," he wrote. "Since nearly the beginning of my career, starting with 'All My Children' when I was 16 years old you paved the way for me." Poignantly, the actor admitted that he never got a chance to tell Boseman, whom he referred to as a big brother, how much he truly meant to him before he died.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Jordan admitted that Boseman's death was his worst moment of 2020. "Yeah, man, it hurt," he said. "It hurt a lot. That's probably what made me cry the most this year."

Chadwick Boseman loved Lupita Nyong'o

As off-again-on-again lovers T'Challa and Nakia, Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong'o had immense chemistry on screen, a reflection of the profound bond the actors shared behind the scenes. In a 2018 interview with E! News, Boseman and Nyong'o engaged in some lighthearted flirting, as the stars complimented each other's looks and talents. "It's not hard to fall in love with Lupita," Boseman enthused. "She's a beautiful person. She's intelligent, strong, assertive." Nyong'o was equally complimentary about her co-star and friend, remarking that he's "easy on the eye." That year, Nyong'o poked gentle fun at her onscreen beau's Rolling Stone thirst trap cover, recreating the snap on Instagram (via Teen Vogue) above the caption "From someone who loves you."

Despite living with cancer for four years, Boseman was able to keep his illness a secret from all but a select few people. It's testament to his close friendship with Nyong'o, then, that she knew of his ailment, though she was unaware of its severity. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, she reflected on the pain of losing her friend, and the shock of discovering the news of his passing from fellow actor Viola Davis. Recalling an instance in which Boseman refused to fly to South Africa despite her pleading with him to make the journey, Nyong'o acknowledged in hindsight that his illness prevented him from doing so. "That's the thing about Chadwick," she said. "Chadwick wasn't trying to have everyone be like him. What he inspired was you to be your best self."

Chadwick Boseman was a big brother to Letitia Wright

From the moment she met Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright knew that it was going to be the start of a beautiful friendship. As she revealed to The Wrap, Wright was in awe of Boseman, who quickly became the big brother she never had. In an interview with Cassius, Wright discussed the closeness of the pair's relationship. Accordingly, she explained that Boseman comfortably settled into his surrogate big brother role. "Sipping on his smoothie, looking at me up and down, sizing me up, I was like, 'You finna be my big brother,'" she recalled. "We just fell in love with each other."

Completing the "Black Panther" sequel without Boseman was, understandably, traumatic for Wright, her grief entwined with a severe injury she sustained during a stunt, per Elle. But as she told the outlet, she kept thinking of her late friend as she struggled to get through takes, remembering that he was able to achieve so much despite his devastating prognosis and physical suffering. "That allowed me to gain so much strength," she said. Subsequently, Wright explained that she hoped the film would help others struggling with grief. "You wish you held on to him longer, but he's not here," she philosophized. "So all that you have is to piece together the memories and what he's left behind." As Wright said on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," she channeled Boseman throughout her performance in the sequel, which she deemed a loving memorial to the late star.

Martin Freeman says Chadwick Boseman is a hero

British actor Martin Freeman had a great relationship with Chadwick Boseman, both on and off set. In an interview with "Red Carpet News TV," he looked back on the pair's bond. "I truly loved working with Chadwick," he said. "Not only on camera but just his company was great ... He was a good man and you can't say that about all of us." Freeman has spoken of his awe at Boseman, whom he likens to a real life superhero. At a press junket in 2021 (via ABC 7 News), he discussed the respect he has for his late co-star, recalling the grueling regimen he put his body through, all the while living with cancer. "I think that is truly heroic. That's the stuff that real life heroism is made of — sort of a selflessness that he didn't draw attention to," he mused. "I respected him a lot in life and I respect him even more with the knowledge that we have now."

In an interview with Sky News, Freeman admitted that he and the majority of his co-stars had no idea Boseman was sick. As such, he spoke of his shock at learning that Boseman was going through cancer during filming, thereby pondering the life lessons he learnt from the sadly departed star. "Losing him was awful," he said. "It was dreadful ... We had no idea. And that's when you kind of go, You can never complain again ... When people are capable of this superhuman act of fortitude."

Daniel Kaluuya said his co-star was a mentor to him

On screen, W'Kabi and T'Challa were BFFs, and away from the cameras the talented twosome who embodied the characters shared a profound bond. In 2018, Daniel Kaluuya admitted to reporters that he was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by his Oscar nomination and the sudden onslaught of fame, per Yahoo!. But Chadwick Boseman reassured the star. "I saw Chadwick Boseman, I was like, 'What is this?'" the British actor recalled. "And he was like, 'I know bro, it's a good feeling. It means you're ready for it. Accept it.'"

Speaking with Complex following Boseman's death, a visibly emotional Kaluuya discussed the meaningful connection he formed with his co-star. "Chad was a light. He was a leader," he said. The actor shed light on the mentor role that his ailing co-star adopted, advising Kaluuya on how to conduct himself during press junkets for his breakthrough role in "Get Out." "I didn't ask him for that. He just went, 'Boom. Here.' He's playing Black Panther; he doesn't have time for that!" he joked. 

But the pair's relationship wasn't confined to the Marvel studio set: Away from their work life, the actors were close, too. In one of his happiest memories, Kaluuya recalled being invited to an epic house party hosted by Boseman, where guests were treated to a drummer performing along to Mobb Deep. "That was an incredible experience ... He's gonna be deeply missed, man. I miss him, man. Real talk," he said in a bittersweet reflection.

Danai Gurira loved working with Chadwick Boseman

Danai Gurira and Chadwick Boseman were great friends. The pair exhibited their playful chemistry in a video for Vanity Fair, in which they were assigned with facing their fears by petting chameleons, guinea pigs, and frogs. Evidently more grossed out by the tasks than Boseman, Gurira was comforted by her co-star, who also chortled charmingly at her comical reactions. 

It was this genial personality that endeared Gurira towards Boseman, as she detailed in a Twitter ode following his death. "I always marveled at how special Chadwick was," she wrote. "Such a pure-hearted, profoundly generous, regal, fun guy ... He was zen and sweet and funny (with the very best laugh), attentive, and truly, truly, good." Despite her sorrow at his demise, Gurira said that she was glad she was able to befriend Boseman, however briefly, and spend the last few years he had left with him. As such, she said that the idea he is no longer with us was difficult to come to terms with.

As Gurira explained to Elle, she was in awe of Boseman's presence while working with him, but she was equally astounded by his humble nature. Perhaps one of the most bittersweet outcomes of Boseman's death is that the cessation of his friendship with his co-stars ultimately brought them closer together. "Different seasons require different types of friends," she philosophized, adding, "And this season we didn't need colleagues: we needed friends. We needed comfort and a great support system." 

Andy Serkis was deeply affected by the late star's death

Andy Serkis may have played the villainous Ulysses Klaue, an enemy to the titular superhero in "Black Panther," but behind the scenes, Serkis and Chadwick Boseman shared a harmonious relationship. As the former revealed in a chat with People, he and Boseman had a playful onscreen relationship. A little too playful, perhaps, since Boseman seriously injured Serkis during their first encounter. "Very first take, he kneed me so hard in the chest because he couldn't really see with his mask on," Serkis joked. "I felt like he'd broken my ribs ... I was like, 'I'm gonna die!'" Thankfully, Serkis was able to get through the take (okay, all 30 of them).

When Boseman died, Serkis penned a moving dedication to him on Instagram, poignantly referring to the late actor in the present tense. "Your quiet steel and raging fire beautifully tempered by the fact that you are an honorable, generous, humble human being," he wrote.

During an appearance on "Sway's Universe," the British star discussed the lasting impact of Boseman's shock death. Serkis, who said that he was devastated when he found out that the young actor had died, commended Boseman for his dedication to his craft, calling him a "beautiful human being who was so passionate about what he did ... an inspiration to everyone on the set." Moreover, he explained that losing Boseman, although tragic, had enabled him to appreciate his loved ones more than ever. "Chad kind of epitomized that, really," he touchingly conceded.

Chadwick Boseman was a hero to Winston Duke

Like many of the young actors who worked with Chadwick Boseman, Winston Duke looked up to and idolized him. In a 2018 GQ interview, he remembered meeting his co-star for the first time. At the up-and-coming actor's audition, Boseman was his screen-test partner, and casting directors required the pair to wrestle. "I walked in there and I saw his face, and I'm like, 'Oh, damn. It's real' ... I had these beads on my hand ... I wore boots and these cargo pants," Duke recalled. "And as we're wrestling around, my pants split and my beads broke. And I was just like, 'You know what, man? Go with it ... Champions adjust.'" A champ indeed. Despite his initial faux pas in the presence of Wakanda's King, Duke and Boseman soon grew close.

In a heartbreaking Instagram memorial to his co-star, Duke reflected on the ways in which Boseman inspired him, but bitterly conceded that he thought he'd get to grapple with him one more time. "How do I start to honor a man who I saw as a giant in many ways; with whom I thought I had so much more time," he wrote. Calling Boseman a "friend and hero," Duke revealed that the late star gave him direction and advice in the lead-up to filming, and inspired him with an artistry that he sought to emulate. Speaking with Access, he resolved to honor Boseman with the "Black Panther" sequel, declaring that the star is now a "Marvel Disney Legend."

Angela Bassett and Chadwick Boseman were great friends

Angela Bassett first met Chadwick Boseman decades before they entered the MCU as mother and son. "During the premiere party for 'Black Panther,' Chadwick reminded me of something," Bassett wrote on Instagram. "He whispered that when I received my honorary degree from Howard University ... he was the student assigned to escort me that day. And here we were, years later as friends and colleagues, enjoying the most glorious night ever!" The pleasant twist of fate enabled the two actors to forge a meaningful friendship, but the serious thesps weren't immune to embracing their silly sides.

Back in 2018, Boseman joked that Bassett was the rap queen of Wakanda, a title previously claimed by Letitia Wright, in reference to rap battles that were apparently a frequent custom for the cast between takes, per Vanity Fair. Meanwhile, Bassett poked gentle fun at Boseman in return. During an appearance on "Watch What Happens Live," Bassett was asked who she thought was the greater lothario in the bedroom: Boseman, or his arch nemesis Killmonger aka Michael B. Jordan. She confessed that it was likely Jordan, no doubt drawing the wrath of King T'Challa.

Boseman may be gone, but Bassett believes that his spirit lives on. "We are a spiritual people so we know that his spirit will permeate that set, even now, until it's presented to audiences," she told Yahoo! News of the "Black Panther" sequel. Clearly, the pair had a friendship rooted in fun times, but also a mutual respect and love.

This is what the late actor meant to Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker played "Black Panther's" wise elder Zuri, who guided T'Challa when he needed it the most. Unlike many of Chadwick Boseman's other co-stars, Whitaker didn't appear to be super tight with him. Nevertheless, he has reflected fondly on his amicable working relationship with the young actor.

On Twitter, the Oscar-winner channeled Zuri when he paid tribute to the departed star in poetic, philosophical fashion. "Let the heavens be blessed as you illuminate the sky," he wrote. "Sending my love and prayers to the family. May god continue to hold you in his everlasting embrace." Whitaker also celebrated Boseman's radiant presence that would live on through his work, a sentiment that's all the more devastating given the grief-laden nature of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

In an interview with ABC News, Whitaker disclosed his fondest memories of Boseman, of which he had many. "I was kinda touched when we were doing the coronation scene," he pondered. "We were crowning him king, and everyone in the audience is dancing and drums are playing and I turned to Chadwick and Chadwick says, 'I feel something. I feel this energy' ... As if there was a transformation that was going on." He went on to suggest that it was Boseman's immense discipline, coupled with his receptiveness as an actor, that defined "Black Panther," thus propelling the movie towards monumental success. Moreover, he praised the star as being instrumental in helping people embrace their racial heritage and the beauty that lies therein.

Chadwick Boseman's relationship with John Kani mirrored their onscreen dynamic

It was often the case that Chadwick Boseman adopted a nurturing, mentor role towards his co-stars, many of whom were younger than him (in spite of the actor's noticeably youthful good looks). But sometimes, it was Boseman himself who was guided by the wisdom of older co-stars. On screen, Boseman and South African actor John Kani were father and son. And behind the scenes, their relationship sweetly mirrored this dynamic.

Speaking to SABC News, Kani offered heartbreaking recollections of Boseman, with whom he had an incredible relationship. "Meeting Chadwick, he immediately walked over and said, 'Hello baba,'" he remembered. "I thought, 'Where did you get that?' He said, 'I worked in Cape Town a couple of years ago ... and they gave me a Xhosa name Mxolisi' ... Because my oldest son is Mxolisi, we began a father-son relationship." Kani explained that people noted the two shared a striking resemblance, with his own son, Atandwa, who starred as his younger self in "Black Panther," remarking on their physical similarities. Sadly, he first heard of Boseman's death at 2 in the morning, when his tearful son told him the tragic news. "Young people, you expect some time that they'll talk about you, not you talk about them," he lamented.

In a chat with Cape Talk, Kani said that though Boseman kept his illness a secret, he hinted at not having much time left, stressing the importance of completing "Black Panther" out of fear of not getting such a legacy-defining opportunity again.

Chadwick Boseman was like a brother to Sterling K. Brown

Although Sterling K. Brown had a small part in "Black Panther," he knew Chadwick Boseman long enough to forge a brotherly bond with him. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, the actors, who also starred alongside each other in "Marshall," appeared to align with each other politically, as they lamented the historical scarcity of weighty roles available for Black actors. "He and I can actually be in this movie together, you know?" Boseman said of his co-star and friend. "Whereas there was a period of time where it would only be one person ... It'd be Dezel in this movie. Fishburne in that movie." Brown agreed, declaring how pleased he was to get the opportunity to work with actors like Boseman. Speaking with People (via HelloGiggles) when promoting "Black Panther," Brown praised Boseman as a role model for Black youth.

When Boseman died, an emotional Brown posted an Instagram video in memory of him, revealing that the pair were like brothers. "If still waters run deep, then Chadwick Boseman was a deep brother ... I don't think either one of us were impeded by the idea that it was him or I. We knew that there was room for everyone to play and share together," he said. In light of the young star's absence in "Black Panther 2," these words are all the more poignant, but there's no doubt that Boseman was deeply beloved by his co-stars in the all too brief time they had with him.