Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman secretly married his wife Taylor Simone Ledward before his death, it has been reported.
The actor passed away at home in Los Angeles after a private four-year battle with colon cancer. His beloved wife was at his bedside alongside close family.
Chadwick had asked Taylor, a singer who graduated from California State Polytechnic University, to marry him in October last year and the pair are thought to have said their vows in a private ceremony before the actor’s cancer advanced.
They kept much of their early relationship secret, before allowing themselves to be pictured together at award ceremonies and red carpet premiers.
He was diagnosed with the cancer a year into their relationship, and battled it with Taylor by his side. In March last year he spoke about their romance for the first time at the 50th NAACP Image Awards, saying: ‘Simone, you’re with me every day. I have to acknowledge you right now. Love you.’
When the cameras panned to her, she could be seen mouthing back the words ‘I love you’.
The actor’s death at the age of 43 was reported yesterday. He leaves behind his wife and close family members. The couple have no children.
Their budding romance was first confirmed in 2015, when the pair were spotted together by paparazzi at Los Angeles International Airport.
She was then seen with him again in 2017 as a guest on US talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and by 2018 she was regularly joining him at star-studded premieres including Black Panther and 21 Bridges.
Taylor’s grandmother confirmed the pair were ‘very happy’ together when she spoke to InTouch Weekly in April 2018. ‘They respect each other,’ she said. ‘She’s very happy, and he is, too.’
Ledward’s sister once commented on Instagram to say the couple ’embody true love’.
Writing underneath an image of Boseman with co-star Lupita Nyong’o. she wrote: ‘His real life queen is gorgeous, and together they embody true love. Not to mention they would make some beautiful babies.’
She joined him throughout the awards season in 2019, as he toured following his performance in blockbuster movie Black Panther.
Chadwick is thought to have finally popped the question in October 2019 during a date night in Malibu. ‘Chadwick and Simone got engaged. It was a long time coming and everyone is really happy,’ a source told Gossip blog MediaTakeOut.
The last time they were seen together was in February this year when they watched the NBA All Star Game in Chicago, and appeared to be in good spirits as they laughed and joked together.
Chadwick’s shocking death comes just ten months after the pair are understood to have become engaged, with the wedding ceremony thought to have taken place recently. The couple were reportedly planning to tie the knot with a ‘2020’ wedding.
Announcing Boseman’s death, the family said in a statement: ‘It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV,’ the family said.
‘A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much.’
The family revealed several of Boseman’s recent films, including Marshall, Da 5 Bloods, and August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, were filmed ‘during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.’
‘It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther,’ the statement said. ‘The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.’
Boseman is survived by his wife Taylor Simone Ledward and a parent and had no children, his publicist said. The actor had kept his diagnosis and much of his personal life under wraps.
He had been reported to be dating Ledward after the pair were spotted together on the red carpet at the 2019 SAG awards, but his marriage was not reported until his death.
The couple was last seen together in February at the 69th NBA All-Star Game in Chicago.
Boseman had not spoken publicly about his cancer diagnosis, but had sparked concerns over his health earlier this year after fans took note of his unusually thin appearance.
Born in South Carolina the son of a nurse and an upholstery entrepreneur, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. He has roots in the West African country Sierra Leone.
The actor had been known for playing real-life figures, including professional baseball player Jackie Robinson in 2013 biopic, 42, James Brown in 2014’s Get On Up, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s Marshall.
But his most memorable role was his 2018 performance as T’Challa, king of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda and the crime fighter known as Black Panther, in the first major studio superhero movie featuring a predominantly African-American cast.
The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of the year and was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture. It won three Academy Awards – in the best original score, best costume design and best production design categories.
Boseman originated the Black Panther film role two years earlier in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and reprised the part twice more in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
He shrugged off doubters who tried to convince him not to give the superhero an African accent, saying: ‘There was a time period where people would ask me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character that spoke with that accent. I became adamant about the fact that it’s not true.’
News of Boseman’s death came on the day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson Day.
The holiday is usually observed on April 15, but the celebration was moved to August 28 to accommodate the COVID-19-altered schedule.
Boseman had shared an Instagram post at the time saying he was celebrating with the launch of Operation 42, an initiative donating $4.2million in personal protective equipment to hospitals servicing African American communities at the peak of the pandemic.
‘Thank you, Jackie, for refusing to accept the world as it is, for showing us that we can make a difference,’ Boseman said.
The post, which included a video of the actor wearing a ’42’ baseball cap, had sparked concerns among fans who pointed out that he had grown noticeably thin.
In June, Boseman joined more than 300 black actors and filmmakers who signed an open letter urging Hollywood to steer away from entertainment glorifying police brutality and corruption and to invest in anti-racist content.
The letter was written in the midst of a cultural and political reckoning with systematic racism in the United States in the wake of the George Floyd death in Minneapolis.
Even at the outset of his Hollywood career, Boseman was clear-eyed about – and even skeptical of – the industry in which he would become an international star.
‘You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,’ he told AP while promoting 42.
‘The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a black hero who has a love story … he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.’
He took on his first producing job in last year’s action thriller ’21 Bridges,’ in which he also starred, and was last seen on-screen in Spike Lee’s film Da 5 Bloods as the leader of a group of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Boseman completed one last performance, in an adaptation of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The Netflix film, in which Boseman stars alongside Viola Davis, finished shooting last summer.
Following the shock news of his death, tributes to Boseman poured in from across the entertainment industry on social media.
Marvel Studios released a statement on his passing on Twitter saying: ‘Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman’s family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace.’
‘This is a crushing blow’, actor and director Jordan Peele tweeted. ‘This broke me,’ said actor and writer Issa Rae.
Marvel co-star Chris Evans paid tribute to his friend in a poignant tweet saying: I’m absolutely devastated. This is beyond heartbreaking. Chadwick was special. A true original.
‘He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist.He had so much amazing work still left to create. I’m endlessly grateful for our friendship. Rest in power, King.’
Marvel stars Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Brie Larson and Don Cheadle also paid tribute.
Alongside a picture of them together, Cheadle posted, ‘I will miss you, birthday brother. you were always light and love to me. my god … forever and ever …’
In his tribute, Marvel chief Kevin Feige, the mastermind behind the extraordinarily successful Marvel Cinematic Universe, called Chadwick’s passing ‘absolutely devastating.’ A
‘He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible,’ Feige said.
‘He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.’