Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of August Wilson’s critically acclaimed 1982 play of the same name, was always going to have lots of eyes on it. Directed by playwright-turned-filmmaker George C. Wolfe, the film details the events of one fateful recording session for iconic blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and her band. Like Wilson’s play, it would be a highly emotional display of acting as the story tackled powerful issues of race, gender equality, career ambition, and more, and was pegged early on as a major awards contender this year. So yes, this film was always going to have lots of eyes on it, but now those eyes may be filled with some unexpected emotion as this is Chadwick Boseman’s final performance before his shocking death earlier this year.
Boseman plays Levee, a hot-headed and ambitious trumpeter in the band led by Viola Davis’ Ma Rainey, who wanted to make his own mark on the Chicago music scene. Known as the “Mother of Blues”, Rainey is a well-established and highly respected musician who doesn’t agree with Levee’s radical ideas, putting the two at loggerheads as the rest of the band gets caught up in the tumult. And based on the first trailer released by Netflix yesterday, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom looks like dynamite! Check it out below.
I’m not going to lie. It’s damn hard to see Boseman’s fired up performance here as he exclaims teary-eyed that “I’ve got my time coming to me,” without getting a little teary-eyed myself. But Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has a lot going for it here other than just real-world tragedy. Tony Award-winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson pens this adaptation with gusto as Davis appears to completely disappear into her role as Rainey here. The Oscar winner appears to be on track for more gold, having already won for Best Supporting Actress in 2016 for Fences, another adaptation of an August Wilson play in which she co-starred with Denzel Washington who produces here.
As for Boseman, there’s already talk that Netflix will be campaigning for a posthumous Oscar nomination for the late actor for his work in this film. There’s even a chance that the streamer may double down and also put him forward for his powerful work in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods earlier this year. If that were to happen, and both campaigns were successful, that would make Boseman the first actor in history to receive two posthumous nominations.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom also stars Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts and is set to debut on Netflix on 18 December 2020.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was the title of one of the blues singer’s songs with the “black bottom” being a dance named after the Black Bottom area of Detroit.
Last Updated: October 20, 2020