Rowling has faced criticism for her remarks on trans women. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

A journalist’s cherished, complicated friendship with a superhero

It’s a funny story, how I met Chad. At least the second time.

The shooting schedule had unexpectedly moved up and by the time of my arrival, the production was on its final day. Boseman was warm and engaging during our interview, his affection for his subject readily apparent. They had only pick-ups left to shoot, mostly choreography, but just seeing him slide around the stage with the swagger of The Godfather re-animated, it was clear that this was a special actor, a chameleon who could slip into the skin — and the physicality — of anyone.

For someone who profiled actors for a living, there was an undeniable rush from the connection we made, and actively rooting for him and witnessing him blossom. But in large part because of my profession, there would be always a little bit of a wall between us. Chad was an intensely private person, especially the more famous he became, and the more he eventually struggled with his health woes.

Still, I was blessed to share so many unforgettable moments with him.

Kevin Feige, Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman and Chris Evans at the Oct. 28, 2014 press event that introduced Boseman as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther. (Photo Getty/Disney/Marvel)

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When he got the Marvel gig, rather than seek out a Hollywood assistant or trainer he was now well-budgeted for, Chad hired one of his closest and most trusted friends, Addison, to be his all-around right-hand man. They already worked out together anyway. It made sense. And Chad was loyal.

I’ll never forget those moments at cookouts when he would slip a few feet away from the crew to kick his feet into the air, building on the martial arts background he had and perfecting the training he was receiving to play T’Challa. Chad was devoted, determined, always a student of the game.

Chad was fiercely intelligent, philosophical, a deep thinker, which could be a pain for journalists looking for sound bites. Chad didn’t like doing interviews, but as the countless clips shared over the past few days have proven, he was not only generous with his time, he also had so much knowledge to drop.

Most entertainment journalists would be lying if they told you they didn’t enjoy the thrill of cozying up to celebrities they interview. But the more attention Chad got, and the closer we became over the years, the more awkward it became in those settings. “Can’t have no one in here who knows where I live,” he cracked when I came in the door at a press junket. In an instant, we’d have to recalibrate from talking all kinds of sh** to being professional and doing our jobs, and neither of us liked it much.

It hurts so much now to know what he was hiding, and that by welcoming me into his world, I may have added even the least bit of stress to his battle. That day, in that trailer, we had a heart-to-heart and put it all on the table. I vowed I would never break his trust, and I never did.

I knew Chad was sick at points — and I worried about him — but had no idea the extent of his illness. He kept it so quiet, so private, not even telling filmmakers and co-stars. As his family revealed on Friday, he was initially diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and the disease grew progressively worse until his death. That’s life’s cruel irony: how someone could have so much going for him yet struggle so much at the same time. Like so many have echoed since his passing, I stand with the world in awe of how he powered through his illness and his treatments to keep delivering incredible work. As his family perfectly stated, Chad was “a true fighter.”

with Kamala Harris as our government was locking children in cages. He worked with Trayvon Martin’s parents in Marshall. He felt an enormous responsibility as a prominent Black man, to celebrate the culture, to empower the culture, to use his stature to serve as a role model for youth, many of whom mourned his passing with the “Wakanda forever!” salute shared on social media.” data-reactid=”104″>Chad was an activist. He marched for immigration rights with Kamala Harris as our government was locking children in cages. He worked with Trayvon Martin’s parents in Marshall. He felt an enormous responsibility as a prominent Black man, to celebrate the culture, to empower the culture, to use his stature to serve as a role model for youth, many of whom mourned his passing with the “Wakanda forever!” salute shared on social media.

was announced just 10 days before Chad died. I have no doubt Logan will continue Chad’s legacy.” data-reactid=”105″>Much of his activism manifested through his art: he wanted to use his time here to make things that mattered. Chad and Logan were always writing and developing and producing, and their projects were steeped in social justice. There’s a film about the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, who fought against gang violence in Boston; a series about the Little Rock Nine, the Black girls who integrated an Arkansas high school in 1954, which was announced just 10 days before Chad died. I have no doubt Logan will continue Chad’s legacy.

I remember fearing we’d never see him once he blew up. I just pictured him being too busy hanging out with Evans and Downey. But that never happened. He kept his friends and family and team — manager Chris, lawyer Michael, publicist Nicki, hair artist Dee, costumer Craig — close. Chris Hemsworth never showed up and crashed the party. (Not that we would’ve turned him down. Chris Hemsworth is a genuinely super-nice guy.) That just wasn’t his style. Chad never changed.

I’ll never forget when Chad started picking up the tabs. Chad was giving.

Kevin Polowy, Jumar Habtemariam, Logan Coles, Addison Henderson, Chadwick Boseman and Chris Huvane

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I’d often think about how our relationship would be different if I didn’t do what I did, or he didn’t do what he did. But we’re so lucky to live in a world where he did what he did. I have no doubt that Chad will go down as one of the all-time greats as we revisit the gifts he left us. The quiet simmer he brought to Jackie Robinson, the explosiveness he brought to James Brown, the dignity he brought to Thurgood Marshall. The authenticity and regal power he brought to T’Challa. A part of Chad was reflected in all those roles.

I’ll never forget celebrating his 40th birthday, never imagining he’d have so few left.

Dancing to James Brown and Fela Kuti. Watching Erykah Badu at the Hollywood Bowl. The barbecues where you could tell how excited our other friends were that he was in the house. Chad brought an energy everywhere he went.

I’ll never forget how incredibly sweet he was with our daughters, and how cool they thought it was they knew a real-life superhero. I’ll never forget watching him drum — that drum became a fixture — as my girls danced along.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw him after my father passed away and the long, warm hug he gave me. It was at the Governors Awards in 2017, one of those black-tie events where our career paths crossed. It didn’t matter who witnessed our embrace. Chad had so much love in him.

The late nights when we were feeling it and he’d wrap his arms around us. The moments that the barrier between us was no longer there.

It was a privilege any time I was in his presence.

I’ll never forget the last time I saw him, at The Dime, of course, when he pulled me aside to tell me he’d gotten engaged. Chad was madly in love, and I’m so glad they got to make it official before he went.

Taylor Simone Ledward and Chadwick Boseman attend the 2019 Oscars. (Eric McCandless via Getty Images)

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My heart aches for Simone, the love of his life, his sweet parents, his loving siblings, his huge South Carolina family, our shared brothers Logan and Addison, Jumar and the rest of our crew.

I was out for a run when I got word that Chad was leaving us. I was shattered. When I finally collected myself and managed to put my headphones back on, I clicked to the next song. It was Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer.” Of the thousands of songs on my phone, how this one? It was a song I didn’t even know I had.

Chad was a man of deep faith. I’ve never been as devout, but this felt like too much to be a coincidence, one of those moments that makes you believe. It felt like divine intervention. Much like that second time I met him, the day Chadwick Boseman walked into my life and affected me forever.