As previously reported, the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Tony and Oscar winner Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman in his final film role, will premiere on Netflix December 18. Tony winner George C. Wolfe directs, with Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson (a frequent Wilson interpreter himself) penning the screenplay.
Based on Wilson’s 1982 play, the movie explores the exploitation of Black musicians in 1920s Chicago while centering on the “Mother of the Blues” and her band members during a tense recording session.
Davis plays Ma Rainey, with Boseman as Levee, the band’s ambitious and impulsive trumpeter. The cast also includes Michael Potts as Slow Drag, Glynn Turman as Toledo, Tony nominee Colman Domingo as Cutler, and Tony nominee Jeremy Shamos as Ma’s manager Irvin, along with Jonny Coyne, Taylour Page, and Dusan Brown.
A First Look at Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman
The drama first played Broadway in 1984; a 2003 revival starred Whoopi Goldberg in the title role.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom marks Davis’ second August Wilson role on screen, having won an Oscar and her second Tony for playing Rose in Fences opposite Denzel Washington (who also directed the film adaptation). Washington was initially attached to this title as well as part of an HBO deal to produce nine of Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays before the project moved to Netflix.
Also among Netflix's myriad current and upcoming stage-to-screen titles are The Boys in the Band (now available), The Prom (premiering December 11), and a limited series adaptation of A Chorus Line from Ryan Murphy.