Chadwick Boseman may have shot to international fame and cemented his place in cinematic history by headlining the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther, a cultural and commercial milestone for representation and diversity in the blockbuster space, but before that the actor was best known for playing real-life figures.
He may have only starred in fifteen movies before his tragic passing last summer at the age of just 42, and four of them saw him suiting up in the MCU, but Boseman still left behind an incredible body of work. It was viewed as a travesty that he didn’t win the Best Actor Academy Award for an incendiary turn in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but his friends and peers have made it clear he doesn’t need awards to bolster his legacy.
After first breaking out as Jackie Robinson in 42, Boseman gained more mainstream attention for embodying James Brown in Get on Up, with 2017’s Marshall firmly establishing him as the go-to guy for delivering showstopping work in acclaimed biopics. The story follows the early career of groundbreaking Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and it was steeped in social and political anxieties that are just as prescient today as they were back then.
Both the biopic and the courtroom drama can be dry and exposition-heavy genres if the execution is off, but what Reginald Hudlin’s film lacks in style it more than makes up for in substance. Marshall is now streaming on Netflix, and it should play well over the coming days as fans revisit the back catalogue of a talent taken far too soon.