As we are getting closer to the December release of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom we are starting to get images from the film. I have added some to our gallery.
The actress undergoes a thrilling transformation in Netflix’s awards contender. Could Oscar No. 2 be on the way?
At this point, it’s cliché to compare Viola Davis to Meryl Streep. By her own admission, the first Black artist ever to win the triple crown of acting awards (Oscar, Emmy, Tony) is rarely offered the parts her white Doubt costar (and friend) is known for: larger-than-life characters made to disappear into, ones that require a thick accent, body transformation, and, occasionally, fake teeth.
While the title role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom finally provides said character for Davis — complete with a face full of makeup resembling greasepaint and a mouth full of gold teeth — she did not, initially, want to accept it.
“The spirit of an artist is you always feel like you’re going to be found out. That is how I felt with Ma Rainey,” Davis tells EW about the legendary blues singer. The Ma Rainey she recalls from a 1980s stage production was played by the late Barbara Meek, “a woman of her time who absolutely owns her power,” and is “unapologetic in nature.” Says Davis, 55: “I see myself as a lot of August Wilson characters, but not that one.” (She won an Oscar and a Tony for Wilson’s Fences, starring in both the 2016 film and 2010 Broadway revival.) When Black Bottom producer Denzel Washington offered her the role, she “suggested a slew of other actresses.”
So why did she ultimately come around? Ma Rainey shows a “part of womanhood [that] has been strangely absent from a lot of narratives that were written at the backdrop of this time period,” Davis says. “Being born in South Carolina, my aunt, my grandmother, they would get together and go to the school and beat up a teacher who whipped my mom during class. They would suss somebody out in a minute.” Returning to Ma Rainey’s fearless demeanor, Davis adds, “There is not one equation of domesticity to her at all — and she’s also the only character that’s based on a real person.”
An adaptation of Wilson’s play of the same name, the Netflix film (streaming Dec. 18) follows a group of Black bandmates in 1920s Chicago as they vie to get a successful recording session out of their demanding frontwoman. (Davis describes her as “a little bit of a fascist.”) There isn’t a single fool Ma Rainey suffers, regularly refusing to sing until her white producers meet her needs.
Davis found the physical part of playing Ma Rainey to be the easiest part of the job; those key attributes are “the given circumstances,” she says. “You can look at it and you can have your vanity walk into the room before you and say, ‘No. I want to look cuter.’ Or, ‘I want to not have the gold teeth because it may be distracting.’ But I’m one of those artists that absolutely believe that the way that you honor that character and that human being is by embracing every aspect of who they are.”
Once you put that mask on, Davis continues, “Everything else becomes the hard work. Everything else in terms of figuring out her pathology, figuring out how she fought on the day-to-day basis. From the time the movie starts to [the time] it ends, it is a chess game. It is a game of power and value. It’s constantly, ‘Okay. No…. You want to take what from me? Nuh-uh. You’re not going to take that from me. I’m going to figure out how to get that back or how to get one up on you.”
Director George C. Wolfe expands on his star’s example with a parallel metaphor. “It’s a boxing match in which the words become the punches. It’s like when you have a larger sense of who you are and the exterior world and the external world doesn’t acknowledge that, then you feel like you’re perpetually caught up in some contest,” he says. “Somebody not getting a Coke for you takes on a magnified meaning because everything is a reflection of the respect that you deserve versus the respect that you get.” (Case in point: One of the film’s most memorable scenes involves Ma Rainey halting any and all progress until she is hand-delivered her requested cold Coke.)
The Mother of Blues saves some of her most hard-hitting blows for Levee, her young, ambitious trumpeter (the final film role of Chadwick Boseman, in an exceptional performance). Trying to underhandedly modernize Ma Rainey’s music to raise his own profile, “Levee represents everything that is antithetical towards her belief system,” says Davis. “He is representative of a new phase of music that will render her extinct. He is unruly and undisciplined.” Adds Wolfe: “Levee is a metaphor for this country. He has a vision of the future that’s spectacular, but he has never healed or fully acknowledged his past, and that’s the question for America right now.”
Davis remembers her climatic dressing-down of Levee as particularly gratifying. “I’m a person myself who has issues with confrontation. I felt like that entire sequence was about ownership of power,” she says. “It was about letting every motherf—er in the room know who’s the boss.” Message received.
Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player (Chadwick Boseman), and the white management determined to control the legendary “Mother of the Blues.” Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by George C. Wolfe. Starring Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Glynn Turman, Dusan Brown and Taylour Paige. Coming to Netflix December 18.
Viola shows her support by lending her voice (literally) to the new ads for Jaime Harrison’s campaign for South Carolina Senate.
Viola shares why she supports Jaime.
“My grandfather was a sharecropper, my father was a horse trainer, and my mother was a maid and factory worker. We didn’t have much, but I was taught to believe with hard work, strong values, and the opportunity to succeed, you can do anything. That’s why I’m supporting Jaime Harrison. He knows what it’s like to scrape the last penny you’ve got to pay the bills. He’s fought to bring jobs and resources back to our home, and I know that he’ll restore hope to South Carolina.”
In the new Netflix adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” it’s a sweat-slicked summer day in Chicago 1927 and everybody wants something. White music-industry bigwigs want a new recording from the indomitable Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), a Southern singer dubbed the “Mother of the Blues,” and they want it fast. Her ambitious trumpeter, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), is desperate to put a contemporary spin on Ma’s old-fashioned songs, hoping it will launch his own career.
And what does Ma want, after she’s arrived late to her recording session, caused a commotion on the street and sized up the pleading music men who now swarm her like gnats?
Well, for starters, she wants a Coke. So where the hell is it?
Adapted from the 1984 August Wilson play by the director George C. Wolfe and the screenwriter Ruben Santiago-Hudson, this new take on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” will arrive Dec. 18 on Netflix, though much has changed since the film was shot last year. In August, the 43-year-old Boseman died after a private battle with colon cancer; Levee is his final role.
“He did a brilliant job, and he’s gone,” said Denzel Washington, a producer on the film. “I still can’t believe it.”
Moreover, after a summer of racial reckoning for the country, Wilson’s tragic story of Black Americans navigating a rigged system has become only more relevant. “How can you move forward,” Wolfe said, “when you’re still haunted by the past?”
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is the second film adaptation of a Wilson play produced since 2015, when Washington was entrusted by the Pulitzer Prize winner’s estate with bringing his work to the screen. The first, “Fences,” was directed by Washington and won Davis a supporting-actress Oscar; next, Washington hopes to assemble his son John David Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and the director Barry Jenkins for an adaptation of Wilson’s 1987 play, “The Piano Lesson.”
“The greatest part of what’s left of my career is making sure that August is taken care of,” Washington said.
But when Washington and Wolfe first went to Davis to play Ma Rainey, the actress was hesitant. Though she was a two-time Tony winner — for her 2001 performance in Wilson’s drama “King Hedley II” and her role in the 2010 Broadway revival of “Fences” — Davis had never played a diva quite like the real-life blues singer Ma Rainey, and wondered if she even could.
“I thought of 50 other actresses before I thought of myself,” Davis said. “She’s unapologetic, and that extends to her body and the way that she dresses. And trust me — as Viola, in my life, I don’t do that.”
I have added some images from Viola’s role in the film Troop Zero to our gallery.
Viola Davis Online > CAREER > Films > 2019 | Troop Zero
OMG! CAN’T WAIT!!!!!
When James Gunn says, “It’s going to be different from any superhero movie ever made,” he means it! See more in this official first sneak peek behind the scenes of #TheSuicideSquad! #DCFanDome
Check out the cast and characters of the new Suicide Squad Film!
YOU. ARE. NOT. READY. But here we go anyway! Buckle up for the ultimate character reveals from @JamesGunn’s #TheSuicideSquad. #DCFanDome
Excited to share this beautiful new look designed by Claudia from Never Enough Design. Hope you like them as much as I do!
I want to take a moment to wish Viola a very happy birthday! Here is to a wonderful year of amazing blessings and a whole lot of love!