The late Chadwick Boseman was the consummate actor who always gave his all in roles. According to George C. Wolfe, the Tony Award-winning director of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, he was so connected to his role of Levee, that he cried after a particularly emotional scene.
During a conversation with the WSJ Magazine, Wolfe revealed that after filming a scene during which Boseman’s character, Levee, confronts someone for believing in God, Boseman began to cry. “It was raw and explosive,” the director said of Boseman’s acting during the scene. “Afterwards, Chadwick just started to sob, and Colman [a co-star] hugged him, and then Chadwick’s girlfriend basically picked him up.”
Boseman had been fighting a private battle with colon cancer at the time the movie was filmed. He passed away in late August, four years after being diagnosed. Wolfe was unaware of the Black Panther star’s illness and during the interview, recalled how some of Boseman’s remarks are a bit more clear now that he knows what he was enduring.
“He talked to me about having a secret, and how intense it is to reveal a secret to someone else, how vulnerable that makes you feel,” Wolfe said.
Boseman’s co-star, Colman Domingo, remarked that he sensed something was going on with the actor, saying that he “could tell with Chad sometimes, he had something on his mind.”
The film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is based on August Wilson’s 1984 play of the same name and is set in 1927. It stars Viola Davis, who was also granted a leading role in another screen adaptation of Wilson’s work, Fences, in 2016. She portrays Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, a popular blues singer who fiercely protects her legacy. The film was produced by Denzel Washington.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is set to debut on Netflix on December 18.