Oscar winner Denzel Washington, who directed and stars in the forthcoming film version of August Wilson's Fences, will next tackle a screen version of the late Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, according to The Stage.
Fences is the first of Wilson's 10-play Century Cycle to make its way to the silver screen — it arrives nationwide December 25 — as part of a deal Washington struck last year to bring the entire Century Cycle to the screen. The first will be seen in cinemas; the other nine, according to The Stage, will play the small screen.
“He did 10 plays. I've been given the opportunity by the August Wilson estate. I'm directing and producing and acting in one (Fences) and I'm executive producing the other nine. I made a deal with HBO,” Washington previously told The Hollywood Reporter.
The screenplay for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has been completed. No timetable has been announced.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Wilson's first work to arrive on Broadway, is a powerful account of a blues singer and the effect racism has on her life and career, and how anger bubbles inside musicians who are part of her world. Wilson followed Ma Rainey's with Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, King Hedley II, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf. Jitney (1982; the first written in the cycle) makes its Broadway debut later this season.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opened at Broadway's Cort Theatre in October 1984, playing 276 performances before closing in June 1985. Featuring direction by Lloyd Richards, the play cast Theresa Merritt in the title role. The remainder of the company featured John Carpenter, Lou Criscuolo, Scott Davenport-Richards, Charles S. Dutton, Leonard Jackson, Robert Judd, Christopher Loomis, Aleta Mitchell, and Joe Senaca. Nominated for a Tony Award, Ma Rainey's won the 1984 New York Drama Critics Circle Award. The play was revived in February 2003 starring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton.
Viola Davis stars opposite Washington in the upcoming Fences film; both actors starred in the drama's Broadway revival, each winning a 2010 Tony Award.