Film fans have anticipated the release of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom as the last on-screen performance from late actor Chadwick Boseman, whose death from cancer shocked everyone this year. But for Pittsburgh, the film carries extra weight as yet another big-screen take on a work by native-born playwright August Wilson, whose locally-set play Fences was adapted into an Oscar-winning film by Denzel Washington. (That it was also shot in Pittsburgh was a big plus.)
Now Netflix has dropped the first trailer for the film, set to hit the streaming platform on Dec. 18.
Washington produced Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which features his Fences co-star Viola Davis in the titular role. As the trailer reveals, Davis transforms herself to play Rainey, the legendary real-life performer whose powerful voice earned her the title “Mother of the Blues.” Set in 1920s Chicago, the film follows her and her band over the course of a fateful recording session, where Rainey clashes with her white manager and producer, and her trumpeter Levee (Boseman) has plans to pave his own path.
Like with Fences, Pittsburgh also played a role in bringing Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to life. The city's North Side was converted into 1927 Chicago when production on the film began in July 2019.
If you weren’t already looking forward to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the trailer offers enough clips of big performance numbers (thanks to director George C. Wolfe, who has a long background on Broadway) and flashes of brilliant performances by Davis and Boseman to seal the deal.