Based on August Wilson’s Tony-nominated play of the same name, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom stars Viola Davis as singer Ma Rainey, the rightfully-nicknamed Mother of the Blues. The actress, who’s won an Oscar, an Emmy, and two Tonys, looks to give the kind of powerhouse performance you’d expect from Viola Davis (a casual reminder that everyone should watch Widows), but much of the conversation surrounding the film will be about Chadwick Boseman. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the final on-screen performance from the Black Panther star, who died from cancer at age 43 in August.
Boseman plays trumpeter Levee, who’s “representative of a new phase of music that will render her extinct,” as Davis described to Entertainment Weekly. “He is unruly and undisciplined.” The actress, who previously starred in Wilson’s Fences, agreed to appear in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom because it shows a “part of womanhood [that] has been strangely absent from a lot of narratives that were written at the backdrop of this time period.”
Here’s the official plot synopsis.
Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player (Chadwick Boseman), and the white management determined to control the legendary “Mother of the Blues.” Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom premieres on Netflix on December 18.