Beloved by family, friends, co-workers and fans alike, Chadwick Boseman certainly made an impact before his passing in August. Perhaps best known for playing Black Panther, Boseman held quite the resume and displayed a wide range of roles. The character that will cement him in the minds of many, however, is his final character, Levee in the Netflix film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman’s co-stars shared memories of his playful spirit on set in an interview with CinemaBlend.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, tells the story of legendary “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey (the phenomenal Viola Davis) and the members of her band as they work to record a new album. Tensions rise as Ma battles with her producer and manager over control of her music, and bandmate Levee (Chadwick Boseman) who wants to make a name for himself in the music industry. In contrast to the drama unraveling in the story, things were very light on set. As Colman Domingo (who plays fellow band member Cutler) said of Boseman:
[I remember] how much he loved to rehearse. How much he loved to play that trumpet. How much he loved to just inquire August Wilson’s rich text, and he was playful. He would walk in, sort of like with a quiet grace, with his big ol’ brim hat to the side and his trumpet, and usually some Harem pants. So he just looked like a musician coming through. He didn’t look like an actor, he looked like, you know, a musician coming through, just willing to play and willing to be open.
Make no mistake, every actor that appears in this film is phenomenal. The performances are truly captivating, yet among all this talent, Chadwick Boseman steals the show. When his character is elated and optimistic, so are we, and when he hurts, we feel that too. We get to go on this emotional journey with him scene by scene and Levee is absolutely one of Boseman’s greatest performances.
Co-star Michael Potts (who the band calls Slow Drag) shared a memory of something Boseman and his character Levee have in common: playing the trumpet. The music featured in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is incredible, and one of the sources of contention between Viola Davis’ Ma and Chadwick Boseman’s Levee is deciding who made the better arrangement of the song. Levee is a great trumpet player, and it turns out Boseman was as well. He loved playing the trumpet, and always had a good time on set. Here’s what Potts shared:
[I remember] that sly smile. You always knew something else was going on. He was always thinking, always watching, always present. Even, you know Colman talked about this, but even when he was playing that trumpet and, if the three of us were riffing on something he’d just pop in. He didn’t miss a beat, he knew exactly what we were talking about.
Glynn Turman plays Toledo in the film, also part of Ma Rainey’s band, and he shared a very personal memory of Chadwick Boseman. It’s well known that Boseman was a kind and caring man with an energy that lifted everyone around him. Turman particularly noted the love Boseman shared with his wife. Here’s what he told CinemaBlend:
I love how caring he was, and how wonderful he and his bride-to-be were together. I liked to watch them being playful together or loving with one another. That had nothing to do with acting, you know? It had nothing to do with the story, it had nothing to do with where we were, it was just his world, you know? It was wonderful to watch that part of his life.