The Black Panther star died on Aug. 28 at age 43 after a private four-year battle with colon cancer

By Claudia Harmata
October 01, 2020 09:35 AM
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Netflix has released first look images at Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the last movie Chadwick Boseman worked on before his death in August after a private four-year battle with colon cancer.

On Wednesday, the streaming service tweeted out four photos from the period piece, which explores racial tensions in the music industry set in Chicago in 1927.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is based on August Wilson's 1982 play about the "Mother of Blues" Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her experience with white management at the time. Boseman plays troubled trumpet player Levee, who vies for his own spot in the music world.

Credit: NETFLIX

The film was adapted by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and was produced by Todd Black and Denzel Washington.

“He did a brilliant job, and he’s gone,” Washington told The New York Times of Boseman. “I still can’t believe it.”

Looking back on when they were shooting, Davis admitted she never truly knew what Boseman was going through at the time — filming the movie while battling his cancer.

"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.”

Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
| Credit: Netflix

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Times Movie critic Kyle Buchanan said Boseman brings "an electrifying physicality to Levee," and that it is his "finest screen performance," deserving of an Oscar.

Davis echoed Buchanan, saying that 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.”

Ted Sarandos, Netflix Co-CEO and chief content officer, called Boseman "a superhero on screen and in life" in a previous statement to PEOPLE. "It's impossible to imagine working at the level he has while valiantly battling his illness," he said. "His legacy as a person and an artist will inspire millions. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time."

The actor died at his home, his family confirmed on social media on Aug. 28. He was 43.

"It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman. ⁣Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV," they said.

"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy," the family statement continued. "It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther. ⁣He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side. ⁣ ⁣ The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time."⁣

Fans will be able to watch Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on Dec. 18, 2020.