They say you should never meet your heroes. I'm proud to say I met mine

As tributes pour in for Chadwick Boseman, one TODAY producer remembers the inspiring moment she met King T'Challa.
TODAY producer Megan Wheeler and Chadwick Boseman. Wheeler had a memorable meeting with the "Black Panther" star when the actor sat down with Willie Geist for Sunday TODAY in 2018.
TODAY producer Megan Wheeler and Chadwick Boseman. Wheeler had a memorable meeting with the "Black Panther" star when the actor sat down with Willie Geist for Sunday TODAY in 2018. Megan Wheeler
/ Source: TODAY

Chadwick Boseman died on Friday, Aug. 28, at the age of 43 after a four-year battle with colon cancer. From former presidents, Hollywood heavyweights, music icons and even little children wearing his Black Panther costume, the tributes have been pouring in for the beloved "Black Panther" star.

Megan Wheeler, a coordinating producer with TODAY.com, shares her own tribute to King T'Challa, remembering their encounter two years ago in February 2018. It was a moment that has stuck with her ever since.

For about two years before "Black Panther" came out, I had been pitching an interview with the actor Chadwick Boseman to my senior producers. My admiration for him started in 2013 after I saw the movie "42," in which he played Jackie Robinson.

I knew he was going places. I could see it from his movie roles portraying Black male icons, and also the fact that he was a Howard University alumnus.

We should have him on for a Sunday profile, I thought. When I pitched him, I pointed out he had just signed on to play the lead in Marvel's "Black Panther." It was about a Black superhero, and I knew was it was going to be a big film.

When I was growing up, my parents always tried to expose me to "heroes" that looked like me. It wasn't easy, but my parents wanted me to understand and see that I mattered as a young Black girl. So in my job now, I always try to introduce and elevate “Black excellence” whenever I see it.

I continued to hear about this comic book movie and, in the meantime, Chadwick went on to play another Black icon, James Brown in 2014's "Get On Up."

In 2017, he was going to be playing former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and I thought to myself, This is it. This is when we interview him before he blows up in "Black Panther."

Still, my bosses passed on the idea.

In this business, what’s hot is hot, and sometimes if an actor isn’t widely known, we don’t have an opportunity to feature them. I was sad about it, but I thought to myself, one day I will meet this man and make it happen.

I ended up leaving Weekend TODAY a few months before "Black Panther" was set to come out. I started to work overnights for the show. The overnight shift can be brutal, and often I felt crushed and exhausted every morning coming home from work.

One day, I got an email from a former co-worker with a simple subject line: "Chadwick Boseman." She told me Willie Geist was going to interview him for Sunday TODAY in a few days. Could I make it to the interview?

Oh my god!

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther (C)Walt Disney Co. / Courtesy Everett Collection

The producer wanted my input for the interview. She knew how much I had wanted him to be on the show and how hard I fought for it. I’ll always appreciate her kindness.

I knew how much "Black Panther" meant to so many people, including my boyfriend, whom I had just started seeing. We actually went to see "Black Panther" together on one of our first dates. He kept telling me, “I never thought I would see the day when I would be able to see King T'Challa on the big screen in real life.”

I thought I should do something for him if I was going to meet Chadwick. I wanted to find an old school "Black Panther" comic and see if I could get it signed by the king. I mean, what did I have to lose?

The day of the interview, I was so nervous to interact with him. When it was over, Willie Geist told him, “Chadwick, this is Megan! She’s a huge fan.” (I will always appreciate Willie understanding how big this moment was for me.)

Chadwick stopped what he was doing, looked me right in the eyes and said, “Oh is that right? Nice to meet you, Megan. What do you do?”

“I'm an associate producer and I have been pitching you for quite some time," I told him, while quietly freaking out inside. "I'm so happy that you are finally getting your due."

“Oh, thank you so much," he replied with a smile. I then asked him to sign my boyfriend's comic, and he gladly obliged, adding, "I hope he knows he is a very lucky man!”

I responded with an awkward laugh. Since I was speaking with the king of Wakanda, I kind of forgot that I even had a boyfriend in that moment.

Next, I asked for photo. I was so nervous as we were about to take the picture with our Wakanda salute, I had my left arm over my right. He laughed, "No, no, we got to do this right." So he changed my arms to be right over left.

I told him how much meeting him meant to me and he said, “No, it was my honor to meet you, and you keep doing your thing and keep pushing.”

Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for MTV

Then King T'Challa was gone.

It was a moment I'll never forget. The photo from that day has been my Facebook profile pic ever since. All these years later, even Willie remembered the moment. It’s a cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words. But maybe some are worth even more.

I’ll never quite find the words to express the impact that Chadwick had on me, but in the last few days it has brought me to tears to see his impact on the world. He entertained everyone, but I need to thank him for letting little Black children see and know that we are dignified and have power that is not a threat. That our blackness is not weakness, but instead a beautiful, true superpower.

Rest easy, king. Your work was good.

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