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Later this month, Netflix will release Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the story of famous Blues legend, Rainey and her trip to perform in Chicago during the 1920’s. As you can imagine, Rainey was facing both racism and sexism as a Black woman in the cutthroat music industry. In addition to her story, the film’s plot is thrust forward by the character of Levee, a trumpeter, who has his eyes on Ma’s girlfriend but also is seeking to make a name for himself.

Levee is played by Chadwick Boseman in what would be his last film before he died after a long battle with colon cancer this past August.

Viola Davis, stars in the film’s lead role as Rainey. And during a recent interview with Extra, she spoke about the film, Chadwick’s contribution and the sense that he’s okay even though he’s transitioned.

See what she had to say below.

What was it like working with Chadwick, given the circumstances he might have been working under?

“Perfection. What it does is, it elevates him more to the level of heroism. Someone who can put themselves aside and work for the greater good and someone who works with integrity by the way. And someone, absolutely, who had a fierce belief in God and a higher power.

That’s why I know that Chadwick is ok. There’s something in my spirit that feels like he was ready. And also something in my spirit that feels like he absolutely lived right. He just lived right. He lived in the moment. He squeezed out the beauty of life in every single moment and that brings me some contentment.

In speaking about her character and which aspects of Ma Rainey she identifies with personally, Davis said:

“The parts of her that want everyone to know her worth and her value. That’s the part that I will identify with. I feel like everything I do is to satisfy that one need. That’s my big thing. My big, big, big thing. This is very vulnerable but I don’t like when people question my ability. I can’t stand that and that’s coming from me as a Black artist and as a Black female artist. So that part, I really understand Ma.”

You can watch this clip from Davis’ interview in the video below.


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom begins streaming on Netflix on Friday, December 18.


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