Chadwick Boseman died at 43 after a private four-year battle with colon cancer

Chadwick Boseman's last movie sees him doing what he did best — disappearing into inspiring characters.

The late actor, who died at 43 on August 28 after a private four-year battle with colon cancer, stars alongside Viola Davis in Netflix's upcoming Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The film marks the beloved actor's last time appearing on the screen.

Netflix released the first trailer for the film on Monday, showing Boseman in his lively last role as troubled trumpet player Levee as he bets on his talent for his own spot in the music world. The movie takes place in 1927 Chicago and explores the racial tension in the music world as white record executives profited off of Black artists.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is based on August Wilson's 1982 play about the "Mother of Blues" Ma Rainey (Davis) and her experience with white management at the time. The trailer shows how Davis's Ma becomes a big star while Boseman's Levee thinks he deserves every bit of the spotlight.

chadwick boseman
Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
| Credit: NETFLIX

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The film was adapted by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and produced by Todd Black and Denzel Washington, who once paid for Boseman and some of his Howard University classmates to attend acting school at Oxford University.

Washington spoke to the New York Times last month about Boseman's performance in the film, saying the actor "did a brilliant job, and he’s gone. I still can’t believe it.”

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Davis also talked to the outlet about how she now understands why Boseman often had his team around him while filming.

"I’m looking back at how tired he always seemed,” she told the Times. “I look at his beautiful, unbelievable team that was meditating over him and massaging him, and I now realize everything they were trying to infuse in him to keep him going and working at his optimal level. And he received it.”

Still, Davis said Boseman allowed his character to completely take hold of him for the film.

“A lot of actors mistake their presence for the event,” Davis said. “An actor of Chadwick’s status usually comes on and it’s their ego who comes on before them: This is what they want, this is what they’re not going to do. That was absolutely, 150 percent off the table with Chadwick. He could completely discard whatever ego he had, whatever vanity he had, and welcome Levee in.”

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom starts streaming on Netflix on Dec. 18.