In the News

Law Firm Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder's Connection to 'Black Panther' Star Chadwick Boseman

Law Tribune

"It makes me wonder whether his absence from some of the activities was because he was simultaneously dealing with his disease and diagnosis," Connecticut attorney Josh Koskoff said regarding the actor.

By Robert Storace | August 31, 2020 at 05:00 PM

chadwick

Chadwick Boseman at the 50th NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles on March 30, 2019. Photo:
Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

As celebrities and fans mourn the death of actor Chadwick Boseman, Connecticut litigator Josh Koskoff recalled how his parents had a front-row seat to "Marshall," the role that kick-started Boseman's movie career.

Boseman, who was battling colon cancer for four years, died of the disease at age 43. He leaves behind highlights of a short but dazzling career in which he played King T'Challa in Marvel's "Black Panther." But the actor also portrayed such iconic figures in American Black history as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Memories of Boseman poured in from all walks of life. They included former President Barack Obama to actor Denzel Washington, who once paid Boseman's tuition to Howard University.

Koskoff's father, Michael Koskoff, who worked at Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, died in April 2019. The senior Koskoff was a huge admirer of Thurgood Marshall and got the dream job of a lifetime, Josh Koskoff said, when he co-wrote the screenplay for the movie "Marshall" with Jacob Koskoff, Josh Koskoff's brother.

Now, following his father's death, the younger Koskoff is a partner with the firm. He never met Boseman, but said his parents would discuss the actor's kindness and acting abilities. The elder attorney and his wife were on the set each day of the eight weeks the Marshall movie shot in Buffalo. It premiered in 2017.

Josh Koskoff said the casting for an actor to play Marshall was "a tall order. In part, because Hollywood like the legal profession are shamefully inadequately represented with African American individuals."

Boseman, Koskoff said, "bore no resemblance to Thurgood Marshall, except that he was African American."

It's not widely known, but, Koskoff said, his father relayed to him that Boseman went to the Marshall family to get their approval for his portrayal of the Supreme Court legend. They said yes.

"From what my dad told me, he would have turned down the role if the family was at all uncomfortable with him playing the role," Koskoff recalled. "In the earnest way Chadwick approached the family simply reflected that, while on the outside he did not look like Thurgood Marshall, on the inside he shared his values."

Everyone, from the actors to those behind the scenes, adored Boseman, Koskoff said.

"Everyone thought he was a really decent guy. He was extremely humble, shy and thoughtful," Koskoff said.

Koskoff's parents had dinner together with the crew after shooting each day, he said. "As it turned out, my parents got to know the other actors better than Chadwick as he'd occasionally participate," Koskoff said.

While Koskoff can't be certain, he said it wouldn't surprise him if those missed dinners were due to his cancer, which was reported to have started in 2016. The movie debuted the next year.

"It's been reported that he might have been diagnosed either at the same time or prior to the beginning of the shoot," Koskoff said. "It makes me wonder whether his absence from some of the activities was because he was simultaneously dealing with his disease and diagnosis."

Koskoff said his parents saw the movie at least 50 times and they thought Boseman was the right choice.

"There was a sense from my parents that they were a little bit worried about his ability to pull off the role," Koskoff said. "After a while, though, they started to see the inside of the man that Thurgood Marshall's family had noticed under the skin. He was able to channel Thurgood Marshall despite not looking like him."

Josh Koskoff, as it turned out, sat next to Marshall's second wife, Cecilia Suyat Marshall, at the premiere of the movie in New York City.

After the film was over, Koskoff said, she told him: "That young man who played my husband was a very handsome young man, but not as handsome as Thurgood. I thought that was very, very sweet."