Netflix has just revealed the first photos from Chadwick Boseman’s final role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The upcoming drama is based on the August Wilson play of the same name and will star both Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis. The film centers around the “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey (Davis) at a recording session in 1927 Chicago. Boseman plays Levee, an up-and-coming trumpeter who is trying to make a name for himself in the music industry.
You can take at the photos in this tweet from Netflix:
These photos show what seems to be both the recording studio and a performance by Rainey on the stage, surrounded by background dancers. Chadwick Boseman can also be seen with his trumpet in a charming photo with both David and director George C. Wolfe.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is directed by Wolfe, who has a history of directing theater, including Angels in America in 1993, The Normal Heart in 2011, and most recently, Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus in 2019. He’s also directed such films as the 2017 made-for-television movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, 2014’s You’re Not You and the 2008 Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Nights in Rodanthe. The screen adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is written by playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who wrote Lackawanna Blues, which Wolfe directed. The film is also being produced by Denzel Washington, who previously directed Wilson’s play Fences in 2016, which also starred Davis.
In an article from The New York Times, Davis said of her costar Chadwick Boseman, “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 is the last role Chadwick Boseman completed before his surprising death on August 28, 2020, after a years-long fight with colon cancer. Boseman, however, still is scheduled to have a guest voice role in Disney+’s upcoming animated series, What If…?
Before his untimely death, Chadwick Boseman starred in a slew of critically and commercially successful films. Earlier this year, Boseman appeared in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods – also for Netflix. Last year, Boseman starred in 21 Bridges and Avengers: Endgame, and in 2018, starred in both Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther, making him the first actor ever to appear in the #1 and #2 highest-grossing films in a year.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is scheduled for a December 18 release, placing right in time for what is likely to be an unusual Oscar season. Netflix has been a heavy-hitter at the Oscars in the past year, most recently with their releases of Marriage Story and The Irishman last year. This year should be no different. Other major releases that Netflix certainly is prepping for Oscar season include documentary Dick Johnson Is Dead, which releases tomorrow, George Clooney’s next trip behind the director’s chair, The Midnight Sky, scheduled also for release in December, and the Amy Adams and Glenn Close-starring Hillbilly Elegy, which is planned for release before the end of the year.