▶ Watch Video: Remembering the life and legacy of Chadwick Boseman

The unexpected death of Chadwick Boseman was a surprising and painful loss to millions of fans around the world. According to writer Tre Johnson, it was a loss of an icon whose passing dealt a “deep blow” to Black Americans already bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic and social tensions throughout the U.S.

“It’s hard to divorce this from the times that we’re in with the pandemic and the racial unrest that’s happening here in the country,” he said on “CBS This Morning” Monday. “I think Chadwick’s role and presence in the role of ‘Black Panther’ elevated him to the status of icon. And I think to lose that type of symbolism during this time right now… it’s a tremendous loss.”

Boseman died Friday at the age of 43 after a battle with colon cancer. Boseman, who was known for playing Black icons such as Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson, was diagnosed with the disease in 2016. Since then, the release of “Black Panther” elevated him to superstar status as Marvel’s first Black superhero.

“There was an authenticity and a grace and respect to not just each role that he was inhabiting but also, I think, to what it meant to the Black community each he stepped in front of the camera,” Johnson said.

He said the gravity and dedication Boseman brought to his culturally and historically significant roles “shaped the Black audiences’ hearts.” His rise, which coincided with the end of President Obama’s landmark tenure as president, came at a crucial time for Black Americans, the writer said.

“I think the Black community in particular was looking for a new type of hero,” Johnson said.

Boseman answered the call and continued to do so even after his cancer diagnosis, which he kept hidden from the public. Johnson credited the actor’s “dedication to story, to craft, to family and community” for choosing to continue his work.

“I think for many of us in the Black community who get unique platforms and opportunities to speak, you know, I think you see yourself less as yourself and more as a vessel for the stories and experiences for the community,” he said. “I suspect that that was a lot of what was on Chadwick’s mind, is that he saw his body and his work as serving an even bigger and greater purpose.”

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