Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Is Chadwick Boseman's Last Role, But It Could Make Oscars History For Another Reason

2020 is almost over, but Netflix still has a handful of original movies to deliver to the masses before the year is finished, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. That movie has earned more attention in recent months since it will mark the final live-action performance from Chadwick Boseman, who passed away in late August from complications related to colon cancer. There’s already talk about Boseman earning a posthumous Oscar nod for his performance, but it turns out Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom could also make Academy Awards history in relation to the movie’s other star, Viola Davis.

Viola Davis has collected numerous accolades over the years, which include Academy Award nominations for 2008’s Doubt and 2011’s The Help, and finally taking home one of those prestigious statuettes for Best Supporting Actress as Rose Lee Maxon in 2016’s Fences. Should Davis earn a fourth Oscar nomination for playing Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’s eponymous character, she will become the most nominated Black actress in Oscar history, as pointed out by Gold Derby.

Currently, Viola Davis is tied on this front with Octavia Spencer, who won her first Oscar for The Help, and was later nominated for Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water. Whoopi Goldberg earned an Academy Award nomination for The Color Purple and won one a few years later for Ghost. Other Black actress who have won Oscars over the years include Hattie McDaniel, Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson and Lupita Nyong’o.

We’re still several months away from learning who will make up the lineup of nominees at the 93rd Academy Awards, but so far, both Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman seem like they’ll be strong contenders. There’s also reportedly been talk about Boseman possibly scoring an Oscar nomination for his role as “Stormin’ Norman” Holloway in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, another movie released on Netflix this year. If Boseman wins one Oscar, or by some chance even two, he will become the third actor to be posthumously awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with his predecessors being Peter Finch for Network and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will mark Viola Davis’ only fictional movie for 2020, although she did appear as herself in the documentary Giving Voice, which will also premiere on Netflix later this month. 2020 also saw Davis wrapping up her six-season tenure as Professor Annalise Keating on the ABC series How to Get Away with Murder, which aired its series finale on May 14. Davis can be seen next year reprising the DCEU’s Amanda Waller in The Suicide Squad.

Set in 1927 Chicago, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on the same-named play by August Wilson, follows an afternoon in the life with the title singer as clashes with her manager and producer over control of her music during a recording session. Meanwhile, Levee not only has an eye for Ma’s girlfriend, but is also keen on leaving his own stamp on the music industry. The cast also includes Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Taylor Paige, Susan Brown, Jonny Coyle and Jeremy Shamos. George C. Wolfe directed the movie and Ruben Santiago-Hudson penned the screenplay.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom arrives on Netflix December 18. Find out what else the streaming service is delivering this month with our detailed lineup, or get a jump on next year’s theatrical offerings with our 2021 release schedule.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.