Over a month ago, actor Chadwick Boseman passed away at 43 due to complications from colon cancer. While Boseman’s time in the Hollywood spotlight didn’t last nearly as long as it should have, he left behind an impressive body of work, and there’s one more movie the public can look forward to seeing him in: Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
While the streaming service ended up postponing a virtual event plugging Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom shortly after Chadwick Boseman’s death, it’s been announced that the Netflix original will premiere on December 18. Additionally, we finally have our first look at Boseman and his costars, including Academy Award-winner Viola Davis, in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Take a look!
Considering how much Chadwick Boseman’s profile was boosted by starring in biopics like 42, Get on Up and Marshall, I find it somewhat fitting that his final movie revolves around a historical figure. Based on the same-named play by August Wilson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set in 1920s Chicago, and going off these pictures, the movie is efficiently rocking those Jazz Age vibes.
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was one of the first professional African American blues singers, and was labeled by the public as the “Mother of the Blues.” Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom follows the eponymous talent during an afternoon recording session as she clashes with her white manager and producer over control of her music. Chadwick Boseman plays Levee, a trumpeter in Rainey’s band who is determined to put his own spin on her songs to further his career.
Here’s what Viola Davis told The New York Times about her experience working with Chadwick Boseman on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom:
A lot of actors mistake their presence for the event. An actor of Chadwick’s status usually comes on and it’s their ego who comes on before them: This is what they want, this is what they’re not going to do. That was absolutely, 150 percent off the table with Chadwick. He could completely discard whatever ego he had, whatever vanity he had, and welcome Levee in.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s cast also includes Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Taylour Page, Jonny Coyne Jeremy Shamos and Dusan Brown. You can see the director, George C. Wolfe, in the bottom righthand picture of the post above collaborating with Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson penned the script.
Chadwick Boseman left a memorable impression earlier this year on Netflix starring as “Stormin’ Norm” Holloway in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, so it’ll be interesting to see how his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom compares to that. It’s also worth mentioning that even though Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will go down as Boseman’s final movie, he’ll be heard one more time in Disney+’s upcoming animated series Marvel’s What If… ?, in an episode that explores what would have happened if T’Challa became Star-Lord instead of Black Panther.
Once again, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will premiere on Netflix a week before Christmas. Find out what the streaming service has coming up in October with our handy lineup.