Chadwick Boseman has quickly ascended to the top of his acting generation. Now synonymous with the global icon Black Panther, remember, Boseman got his start playing bit roles on the small screen. After guest-starring on several TV series throughout the oughts, Boseman landed a recurring role on Lincoln Heights in 2008. Ten years later, he’s become one of the most famous stars on the planet.
The question then becomes, which roles are Boseman’s best so far? While he’s only appeared in 10 films or so, it’s clear Boseman favors quality over quantity and isn’t afraid to portray some of the most famous real-life figures who ever lived. Here are Chadwick Boseman’s 10 best roles in TV and movies, ranked!
10 Nathaniel Ray (Lincoln Heights)
While Boseman got his acting start by guest-appearing on several TV series, it wasn’t until he landed the recurring role of Nathaniel Ray on Lincoln Heights that his career really began to take off. Now look at him!
Set in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the show revolves around the Suttons, a family who recently moved to the most crime-ridden part of town. Boseman plays Nate Ray, who turns out to be the illegitimate son of Eddie Sutton, much to his surprise. Nate was raised in the south and served in the armed forces in Iraq, which has resulted in him struggling with PTSD.
9 Graham McNair (Persons Unknown)
Boseman got his second major recurring TV role on Persons Unknown. Now there isn’t a person who doesn’t know his name. Oh, the irony’s delicious!
The series follows a bevy of teenagers who suddenly awake in a mysterious ghost-town with no idea of where they are or how they arrived there. During his 13-episode series run (one season), Boseman played one of the lead characters, Sergeant Graham McNair, a straight-laced Marine and staunch Muslim. Having spent time as a mercenary, McNair found religion after witnesses the government’s torturous treatment of so-called terrorists.
8 Floyd Little (The Express)
Boseman’s forte of playing real-life characters stems from his first feature film when he played Floyd Little in the American football biopic The Express. Old habits die hard, ay?
The film follows the collegiate career of Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), the first African-American football player to win the Heisman Trophy. Boseman plays Floyd Little in the film, a halfback who was drafted sixth overall in the first AFL-NFL draft back in 1967. The film begins a motif found in many of Boseman’s films, in which he portrays groundbreaking African-American characters!
7 Vontae Mack (Draft Day)
Speaking of NFL drafts, Boseman partook in the titular lottery opposite Kevin Costner in Draft Day. Boseman plays Vontae Mack in the film, a highly recruited and sought-after linebacker who is ranked atop of every NFL team’s draft board.
The only problem is a nagging knee injury that could hinder his performance. As the Cleveland Browns’ General Manager (Costner) weighs the risk to the reward of drafting a linebacker over a flakey quarterback, Mack must wait with bated breath to see what team will draft him.
6 Thoth (Gods Of Egypt)
Although Alex Proyas’ Gods of Egypt wasn’t very well received by critics, there’s no denying the mythological power Boseman held in the film as the mighty Thoth!
According to ancient Egyptian myth, Thoth is the God of writing, wisdom, magic, and the moon. He is said to be either self-made or born from the seed of Horus implanted on the forehead of Set. In the film, Egypt is thrown into chaos when Set (Gerard Butler) overtakes the crown and threatens to kill those who oppose his reign. As Thoth, Boseman does whatever it takes to keep his new leader on the throne.
5 Jacob King (Message From The King)
In one of the few fictional characters he’s played to date, Boseman pursued a path of violent vengeance on behalf of his missing sister in Message From the King. Hey, what are big brothers for?!
Once King arrives in Los Angeles from South Africa, he immediately experiences a culture shock. As King weaves his way through the seedy underworld of L.A., he searches for his younger sister among the crime and drug-ridden streets. With every sign telling him to return home safely, King doggedly tracks his sister down no matter the consequences.
4 James Brown (Get On Up)
From Jacob King to the King of Soul…Boseman can do it all! One year after playing Jackie Robinson (stay tuned), Boseman played another towering real-life figure in James Brown, the king of soul music.
The cultural impact Brown had on the landscape of American music cannot be overstated, and Boseman fully immerses himself into the role. He twists, gyrates, and cavorts around the stage and completely alters his voice to sound as much like Brown as possible. Boseman spent two months learning how to sing and dance so that he could do all of his own dancing in this movie.
3 Thurgood Marshall (Marshall)
Boseman continues to honor real-life American giants by portraying their stories on the big screen, and Marshall is just another example in a long and deliberate line of characters.
Boseman plays Thurgood Marshall in the film, a dedicated NCAAP lawyer who made history by becoming the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. The episodic biopic charts Marshall’s success through various cases he won throughout his career, and the difficult personal decisions he had to face in the process. In a bit of trivia, both Boseman and Marshall attended Howard University.
2 Jackie Robinson (42)
It may not be his number one best, but it’d be hard to argue a more important role Boseman has played than that of Jackie Robinson in 42.
Based on a true story, 42 chronicles Jackie Robinson’s brave and historical journey as the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. Set in 1947 during a time of institutional racism and divisive prejudice, Jackie Robinson is recruited to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. While grateful for the opportunity, Robinson learns what a difficult price there is to pay for breaking through the color barrier.
1 T’Challa (Black Panther)
Given the record-breaking success of the universally beloved Black Panther, fictional or not, it only seems right to credit the role of T’Challa as Boseman’s best to date. At the very least, the character is a symbol of success!
Of course, playing the role over the course of several movies also helps T’Challa’s case. As of this writing, Boseman has suited-up as the Black Panther four times, and he’s set to reprise the role in earnest when Black Panther II comes out in 2022. The proud warrior king of Wakanda proved the commercial viability of a movie that celebrates African heritage.