Story at a glance

  • Chadwick Boseman died in August at 43 due to complications related to colon cancer.
  • At the time, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," in which Boseman had a role, was in post-production.
  • The film will be the last on screen debut for the actor and cultural icon.

In the final act of Chadwick Boseman’s career, the original Black Panther has managed to mesmerize audiences from beyond the grave. 

When Boseman died on Aug. 28 and the country mourned, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," a film based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, was in post-production. Boseman plays the role of Levee, an ambitious trumpeter and the romantic rival of Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, the legendary "Mother of the Blues," during a fateful recording session in 1927 Chicago. 

“Chadwick is my baby,” Davis, who had played Boseman’s mother in “Get On Up,” told the Hollywood Reporter. “Chadwick was just an artist. For someone so young, it was incredible to watch that level of not mistaking your presence for the event.”


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Produced by Denzel Washington — the man who once anonymously paid Boseman's tuition to the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer program — this will be Boseman's final film when it releases on Netflix on Dec. 18. 

“He was extremely tired, but there’s a lot of tired people in the business — especially people in his position,” Davis told Zora magazine. “In hindsight, I noticed all the wonderful people he surrounded himself with were always praying over him and meditating over him and I thought that was part of what he demanded or [how he] created that sacred space. I didn’t know they were just trying to pour life and energy into him.”

On set, he didn't tell others about his cancer diagnosis and online faced cruel jokes about his appearance. His death came as a surprise to many fans and peers, but at least for a few hours, Boseman will come back to life on screen.

“He would just fall asleep standing up, but boy, when that camera rolled? You didn’t see any of it,” Davis told Zora.


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Published on Oct 19, 2020