David Lee, Netflix
In one of 2020's many tragedies, actor Chadwick Boseman died at the age of 43 after a private battle with colon cancer. Before his death, the Black Panther star filmed scenes in 2019 for his final role, which the world has yet to see. His final on-screen performance is in the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is based on the life of blues singer Ma Rainey (played by Viola Davis) and explores the Black experience in 1920s Chicago. In the film, Boseman plays Levee, an ambitious trumpeter and member of Ma's band—and Netflix just released a first look at images from the film.
In a tweet, Netflix shared four photos, two of which feature Boseman. Davis, who starred alongside the late actor, raved about his performance in an interview with The New York Times.
“A lot of actors mistake their presence for the event,” Davis said. “An actor of Chadwick’s status usually comes on and it’s their ego who comes on before them: This is what they want, this is what they’re not going to do. That was absolutely, 150 percent off the table with Chadwick. He could completely discard whatever ego he had, whatever vanity he had, and welcome Levee in.”
Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman star in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a new film based on August Wilson’s award-winning play from director George C. Wolfe and producer Denzel Washington. @MaRaineyFilm premieres December 18. pic.twitter.com/ErhrQAW4nU— Netflix (@netflix) September 30, 2020
In the interview, Davis also explained that she had no idea Boseman was battling cancer at the time of filming. “I’m looking back at how tired he always seemed,” she said. “I look at his beautiful, unbelievable team that was meditating over him and massaging him, and I now realize everything they were trying to infuse in him to keep him going and working at his optimal level. And he received it.”
Denzel Washington, a producer on the film, also spoke about Boseman's performance with awe and pride, telling the Times, “He did a brilliant job, and he’s gone. I still can’t believe it.”
The film, which is adapted from a 1984 August Wilson play, will be available on Netflix on December 18th.