Much has been made of Viola Davis’ transformation into blues woman Ma Rainey — a real-life legend but Chadwick Boseman’s performance as Levee, his final role, will long be remembered as one of his best.
In preparation for the film’s Netflix debut this week on December 18th, BOSSIP and GlobalGrind are proud to exclusively premiere a specially created featurette devoted to Boseman’s performance. In the clip, which is titled “Chadwick Boseman, A Man Among Men,” ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ producer Denzel Washington, director George C. Wolfe and co-stars Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, and Michael Potts take turns giving Boseman accolades for his work in the film. From Turman, we learn that the actors all rose to the challenge of learning their instruments, in part thanks to Boseman taking on the task first. Davis talks about working with Boseman in both ‘Ma Rainey’ and ‘Get On Up’ and we love what Michael Potts has to say about Boseman’s lack of ego. Check out the clip below:
We were able to screen the entire film early and can tell you that while Viola Davis donned a padded suit, gold teeth, and heavy makeup to capture Ma Rainey — it was Boseman’s transformation that was most powerful. Levee is ambitious and boastful, he’s playful but also complex as we learn throughout the film, which plays out over the course of the day. Like his fellow bandmates, racism has left him with deep wounds, perhaps deeper than anyone else in the group and while his hopes and dreams offer a promise to deliver him a new opportunity, we can see that he is living dangerously close to losing it at any moment.
Levee is different from any character we’ve ever seen Chadwick Boseman play before. He isn’t the real-life icon that Boseman had to capture to play Jackie Robinson in ’42,’ or Thurgood Marshall in ‘Marshall‘ or the superhero legend that was Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ star T’Challa. He’s flawed, differently though from James Brown, who Boseman brilliantly imagined in ‘Get Up.’ The cracks that have forged his painfully fragile ego are convincingly bared in Boseman’s performance. He is an epic character in the index of indelible roles written by August Wilson and it is only right that Boseman’s final bow was for this film.