David Sims in The Atlantic:
Almost as shocking as the news that Chadwick Boseman died yesterday at the age of 43 was the revelation that the actor had spent the past four years battling colon cancer. This timeline means that he was diagnosed in 2016—the year that he debuted as King T’Challa in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. And it means that after his diagnosis, Boseman filmed and appeared in Marshall, Black Panther, two more Avengers movies, 21 Bridges, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and an upcoming adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. This output is immense coming from an actor who had been making major Hollywood films for only two years before his big Marvel break—a superstar run that seems all the more miraculous in light of the knowledge that Boseman pulled it off while quietly undergoing many surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy.
…Boseman’s history of playing beloved, revolutionary figures shaped the way audiences and other directors saw him. When Spike Lee was making his latest film, Da 5 Bloods, he centered the plot on a Black soldier who had died in the Vietnam War: Stormin’ Norman, a wise squad leader whose compatriots try to recover his body many years later. Lee was adapting an original script that depicted Norman as still being alive, carrying out raids deep in the jungles, but he decided that the character made more sense as a deceased, romanticized figure—a tragic loss from a bleak era in American history. “Here’s the thing for me. This character is heroic; he’s a superhero. Who do we cast? We cast Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and we cast T’Challa!” Lee told me in an interview earlier this year. “Chad is a superhero! That character is Christlike … there’s light from heaven coming down from above on him.”