Colman Domingo says he brought his A-game to his latest film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, where he plays Cutler, a musician in Ma Rainey’s band.
The film, based on the August Wilson play of the same name, centers on an afternoon recording session for legendary blues singer Ma Rainey in 1920s Chicago. It follows Ma’s band members who await her arrival, and Ma, played by Viola Davis, who argues with her white manager and producer. As an actor on both stage and in films, Domingo tells ABC Audio that taking on Wilson’s work was a true honor, but a “huge responsibility.”
“The responsibility is what August Wilson sets up. He is our Black Shakespeare,” he says. “And he sets up our worlds and our language.”
Domingo believes it’s because of Wilson’s ability to capture the culture authentically that the cast found it almost easy to transition into their complex characters.
“The beautiful thing about August Wilson is you don’t have to go too far away to do research,” he says. “You can research Ma Rainey and her band. But, I have family that migrated from the South, that are from Georgia, that are from Alabama, you name it.”
“I’m a lover of jazz and blues,” he continues. “And I think… by living, I’ve had a lot of research in my bones and in my ears about these musicians. And so, it just felt like bringing all that to the front.”
Colman says that with Wilson’s work, “you have to bring everything you have.”
“We brought our souls to it. We knew we had to,” he says. “In every scene. Every interaction was not just doing any other film or play. We had to really bring all that we had.”
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, also starring Chadwick Boseman, premieres Friday on Netflix.
By Candice Williams
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