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Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman are showstoppers in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom trailer

November 6th, 2020 | by vBollywood Author
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Netflix released the trailer for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the highly anticipated movie adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play of the same name.

The film stars Viola Davis in the titular role. The film is inspired by the real Ma Rainey who reigned as the Mother of the Blues in the 1920s. Set during that same time period in Chicago, the movie follows the singer’s Black band members and white record producers as they wait for the demanding diva to arrive and record some songs.

Once Ma Rainey arrives, it magically seems to be a “a chess game,” or “a game of power and value” as Davis described it to EW. The singer particularly deals with her young, tenacious trumpeter Levee, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, who tries to undermine her in an attempt to modernize her work.

In a virtual press conference where Davis and the movie’s director George C. Wolfe were in conversation with author Nelson George, the Oscar-winning actress reflects on the dynamic between Ma Rainey and Levee, noting “What’s going on with her in general is she’s at the end of her career, and I don’t think people know the power of that, when there’s one thing that defines you. It’s like the old Cherokee birth blessing that says, ‘May you live long enough to know why you were born,’ and Ma Rainey definitely, her mark, her sense of herself in the world is through her music. That’s what made her somebody, and all of the sudden she’s at the end of it.”

When someone like her manager Irvin, played by Jeremy Shamos, encourages her to adapt to the changing times, with the rise of artists like Bessie Smith, “there’s a sense of death in there, but it’s really sort of trapped in that, and me as an actor, I had to find a way of playing that without letting it overwhelm the power, her power,” says Davis.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the second major film adaptation of a Wilson play, the first being Fences in 2016, which won Davis the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Both projects were executive produced by Denzel Washington, who has made it his mission to adapt all 10 plays in Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle, which sought to depict the Black experience at different decades through the 20th century. “I thank god for Denzel because I know it was probably well over 40 years in the making, bringing August’s work to the screen,” says Davis. “And I think that Denzel is the sort of conduit that can do it because he absolutely honors August and his work. And you know, sometimes that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people look at the work and say ‘Oh I love it, but let me shift this, shift that,’ and then there’s little left of that person’s legacy. I don’t see that with Denzel.”

She also adds that, “with all of August’s work there are huge speeches, there are enormous character arcs. It is an enormous undertaking that— it can’t be in the hands of anyone who doesn’t have courage alright? So Denzel was just the man to do it. if you’ve met him, if you’ve been in the presence of Denzel in any way, he is his own man. He beats to the rhythm of his own drum, which is what August did. It’s like sometimes the writer meets the actor meets the director and it becomes this perfect love marriage and that’s what this is.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is all set to be streaming on Netflix on December 18. Watch the trailer above.

Photo courtesy: www.variety.com

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