For Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, a close friendship seemed almost destined. From their early gigs playing the same role on a daytime soap opera to their big-budget showdown in the groundbreaking Black Panther, their journeys were uniquely linked.
Boseman -- who died Friday after a yearslong battle with colon cancer -- spoke with ET's Nischelle Turner in 2018 at a press day for Black Panther, and the celebrated actor opened up about his connection with Jordan, which he said became stronger during the production.
"We're all competitive, and I think that's where the respect is," Boseman shared. "There's a great group of black actors… We all love each other's work and respect each other, and it was important for Michael and I to buy into being in this movie together."
In the film, Boseman stars as the eponymous superhero Black Panther, whose real identity is T'Challa, the king of the African nation of Wakanda. Jordan stars as Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, a former U.S. black ops soldier who goes rogue and travels to Wakanda, where he seeks to overthrow T'Challa and claim the throne.
"[Michael] had to buy into playing a villain, which he hasn't done, you know, and I had to buy into having the weight of the hero [on me]," Boseman reflected. "So it's something that we both had to buy into doing together and to collaborating together."
"I knew we're tied together to a certain degree, forever," Boseman said of their respective characters in the film. "It's like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, because these two characters are essentially two sides of the same coin."
Like their characters in the film, Boseman and Jordan's own past intertwined in ways they didn't realize for some time. In 2003, when he was 26, Boseman was cast to play Reggie Porter on All My Children. He had the role for a week, but was cut, and a 16-year-old Jordan was cast to replace him.
According to a joint interview with Boseman and Jordan with The Wrap in January 2019, Boseman didn't like some of the racial stereotypes written into the character and his storylines.
"It’s one of those things where you get a role, and you don’t really know,” Boseman explained. “When I got it, I was like, ‘This is not part of my manifesto. This is not part of what I want to do. How can I make it work?'"
He ended up going to the producers and writers with his concerns, and they let him go. However, he said they took some of his suggestions to heart for when they cast Jordan and shaped the character.
"They said, ‘You are too much trouble,’ but they took my suggestions, or some of them. And for me, honestly, that’s what this is about.”
"I’m younger than Chad, and I was coming into All My Children fresh off The Wire -- wide open, still learning. I was playing this role not knowing that a lot of the things I was going through were because of what he’d already done for me," Jordan recalled. "It’s hard to speak in the moment about how things we do can affect other people. But this is a pure example, right here on the spot -- we ain’t never talked about this before a day in our lives -- to understand how what people do now can directly affect what other people do in the future."
"And the work that we’re doing on Black Panther is hopefully doing the same thing for the next group of actors that are coming up," Jordan added. "Just like our predecessors opened up doors and made things easier for us."
Even as onscreen enemies in Marvel's box office–shattering hit, the two stars were incredibly supportive and respectful, even in moments of competition -- like when asked about their shirtless fight to the death, and which of them is a better fighter in real life.
"I mean Chadwick's pretty like, you know, he's pretty athletic… he's very limber and his martial arts are definitely there. He's been trained in that for a long time, so he's got that under his belt. I'm, you know, into more of the boxing training I did with Creed, you know, I lived as a fighter so I kinda learned that," Jordan told ET in 2018, jokingly adding, "I'm gonna say me, just 'cause. I'll just say me."
"It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman," reads the statement posted on his social media page. "Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last four years as it progressed to stage IV. "
"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. 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," the statement continues. "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side."
Boseman had never spoken publicly about his diagnosis, and the news came as a shock to many.