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Activist Imani Barbarin illuminates the dark truth of Chadwick Boseman’s casting as Black Panther

People with disabilities and chronic illnesses continue to be looked over by Hollywood.

Everyone was heartbroken after Chadwick Boseman‘s passing following his battle with cancer. However, one thing that shocked people was that Boseman didn’t tell anyone about his illness when he auditioned and was cast for the role.

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While everyone mourns Boseman once again following the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, disability rights activist, Imani Barbarin, released a video that told the cold hard truth on why someone like Boseman wouldn’t disclose their illness.

Barbarin shared a video where she stitched an interview with Ryan Coogler where he said that Boseman was sick when he met him. She discussed how Boseman would more likely not receive the role if he disclose his illness and how the movie industry barely has disabled representation on screen.

She also called out how disabled people tend to feel unsafe whenever they’re around an able-bodied person due to societal standards. If Boseman did get cast in the film with his illness known, would he feel safe considering that he was ridiculed before people knew about his illness?

While her video was hard to swallow, she has a point. Hollywood has a history of erasing disabled stories in its movies and TV shows. And when they do showcase them, they’re usually played by an abled cast member. Sure, there have been improvements for better representation, but that’s not the entire problem.

The larger issue is how people with chronic illnesses and disabilities tend to be looked over, leading people to decide not to disclose their disabilities when applying for these roles.

While people may argue that cancer isn’t a disability, activists pointed out that those diagnosed could be treated the same way. According to The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, Kevin Feige and the rest of Disney and Marvel Studios only found out about Boseman’s illness when he passed away. It was also reported that Boseman wished to keep his illness private and the revelation of his cancer got people scratching their heads as to how he was able to keep his illness a secret.

“On Aug. 28, Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige received an urgent email regarding Chadwick Boseman, with no further information. Unbeknownst to anyone at the studio, the Black Panther star had been battling colon cancer privately for four-plus years and had taken a sudden turn for the worse. By the time Feige read the message an hour later, Boseman already had died, sending shock waves through Disney and the tight-knit Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

It’s not only the film industry. People replied to the post about how they were terminated from their workplace because of their disability and how their contracts were not renewed once they made their illnesses known. According to the 2021 results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19.1 percent of Americans with a disability are employed, and discovered that across all age groups, disabled people were less likely to obtain employment.

While it is sad to learn that Boseman battled cancer in private alongside his performance in Black Panther and other Marvel projects, it’s also a statement on how various industries, especially Hollywood, treat disabled people. Boseman’s story shouldn’t just be seen as inspiring, but also as a message on how employers treat people with disabilities and that they shouldn’t be looked over.

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Erielle Sudario
Erielle Sudario is a Digital Producer for We Got This Covered. Outside of work, she's either DM'ing a 'Dungeons and Dragons' campaign, playing video games, or building keyboards. Erielle holds a Bachelor of Communications Degree (specializing in film and journalism) from Western Sydney University and a Graduate Diploma in Radio and Podcasting from the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School.