The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards looked very different on Sunday night.
And also, at the outset of the show, very somber.
The ceremony was forced to go all virtual this year, due to the coronavirus pandemiic, and was tragically also forced to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman before any trophies were handed out.
The beloved actor, of course, died of colon cancer late last week at the very young age of 43.
“Before we get into the music tonight, we need to talk about the devastating loss of Chadwick Boseman, an actor whose talent and passion is a true inspiration to all the fans he touched and everyone he encountered,” Keke Palmer said on air this evening.
“We dedicate tonight’s show to a man whose spirit touched so many. He is a true hero.
“Not just on screen but in everything he did. His impact lives forever.”
The loss of Boseman has greatly affected those who knew him well and who worked with him over the years on such films as 42 and Black Panther.
However, Boseman was also seen as a civil rights activist and as a beacon of hope to many within the Black community after anchoring the aforementioned Marvel blockbuster, which featured an all-minority cast.
He also portrayed such real-life icons on screen as Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall.
In addition to Palmer’s speech, meanwhile, MTV aired a brief segment of Chadwick’s speech from the 2018 MTV TV and Movie Awards.
The Black Panther star’s death was confirmed on Friday, August 28 in a statement shared to his respective social media accounts.
In this announcement, it was revealed that the 43-year-old had been privately seeking treatment for colon cancer for the better part of the last four years, filming multiple movies while undergoing chemotherapy.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement read in part.
“From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all 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.”
This message also confirmed that Boseman passed way with his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, by his side.
Prior to his death, fans were unaware that he had married the singer.
On Sunday, Danai Gurira honored her late friend and Black Panther colleague for his heroism and inspiration.
“How do you honor a king? Reeling from the loss of my colleague, my friend, my brother. Struggling for words. Nothing feels adequate. I always marveled at how special Chadwick was,” she wrote on social media.
“Such a pure-hearted, profoundly generous, regal, fun guy.”
Gurira played Okoye, General of the Dora Milaje and the head of Wakandan armed forces, in Black Panther.
Added the actress:
“My entire job as Okoye was to respect and protect a king. Honor his leadership. Chadwick made that job profoundly easy. He was the epitome of kindness, elegance, diligence and grace.
“On many an occasion I would think how thankful I was that he was the leading man I was working closely with.
“A true class act. And so perfectly equipped to take on the responsibility of leading the franchise that changed everything for Black representation.”
Along with the above photo of the pair hugging at an event promoting their Marvel film, Gurira also shared an image of their set chairs placed side-by-side and labeled with their characters’ names.
And she wrote:
He made everyone feel loved, heard and seen. He played great, iconic roles because he possessed inside of himself that connection to greatness to be able to so richly bring them to life.
He had a heroic spirit, and marched to the beat of his own drum; hence his excellence as an artist and the incredible courage and determination as he faced life’s challenges; while still guiding us all.
He was zen and sweet and funny (with the very best laugh), attentive, and truly, truly, good. I can’t even wrap my mind around this loss.
A loss resonating in my own heart as well as around the globe. The children he inspired, my heart aches for them, to lose their hero just as they finally found him. I am so thankful to have taken the Black Panther journey with him.
To have known him, spent time in his light and leadership and to call him forever a friend.
Gurira concluded her post with a phrase in Zulu. “Lala Ngoxolo Kumkani,” she wrote, which is translated to:
“Sleep in peace, O king.”