The screen adaptation of August Wilson’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, will premiere on Netflix December 18. The film stars Tony and Oscar winner Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman (in his final film role). The first official trailer has just been released and here it is—fasten your seat belts.
The story is set in Chicago in the 1920s, and looks at issues of race, art, religion and the well-documented exploitation of black recording artists by white producers.
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.
The Real Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues
Writing for the New York Times’ series, Overlooked No More, Giovanni Russonello says, “With her unapologetic lyrics, Rainey proudly proclaimed her bisexuality and helped to mainstream black female narratives in a musical style that later became a nationwide craze.”
Ma Rainey recorded nearly 100 songs in the 1920s and many were national hits. Some of those have become part of the American musical canon. Her 1924 recording of “See See Rider,” on which she is accompanied by a young Louis Armstrong, was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2004.