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4 Dec 2020

A Conversation with ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ co-stars Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman and Michael Potts

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December 4, 2020 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020): (L to R) Chadwick Boseman as Levee, Glynn Turman as Toldeo, Michael Potts as Slow Drag, Colman Domingo as Cutler.   (Cr. David Lee / Netflix)

By Kharisma McIlwaine

Adapted from stage play by the  brilliant playwright August Wilson, Netflix’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” has been the talk of the town since the release of the film was first announced. The buzz — and Oscar predictions surrounding this film — are happening with good reason. The excitement and pending accolades that are sure to come from this stellar cast and their mind-blowing performances are well deserved without question. The film stars Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, ‘“Mother of The Blues’,” the late, great Chadwick Boseman in his final role as Levee, Glynn Turman as Toledo, Colman Domingo as Cutler, Michael Potts as Slow Drag, Taylour Paige as Dussie Mae, Jeremy Shamos as Irvin and Dusan Brown as Sylvester. 

Directed by George C. Wolfe, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a period piece set in 1927 Chicago. The film takes audiences on quite a journey during one day of recording Ma Rainey’s latest project in the studio. I had the pleasure of speaking with Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts, who are playing the three members of Ma Rainey’s band, about their roles in the film.

KM: Hi I am Kharisma McIlwaine with The Philadelphia Sunday SUN.

All: Hello 

CD: West Philly over here.

KM: I know!

CD: You know I have to represent. You know Philly people always do that… they’re so annoyed with me. I’ve been doing that every time I talk to someone from Philly. (with a laugh)

MP: So tired of you… so tired of you (said with a laugh) 

CD: West Philly, what’s up?

KM: No one is prouder than anybody that’s from Philly… it’s just a thing!

KM: Well, gentlemen, I absolutely love this movie so much. The caliber of talent in this film is just phenomenal, so I’m grateful to be here and I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to see all of you perform –it was incredible.

All: Thank you.

KM: One of the things that I love about this film is the camaraderie that you feel from the second wesee you gentlemen together onscreen. My first question is for Colman. One scene in particular that was really jarring, but extremely moving, was the scene where you guys are all teasing Levee about him pandering to the white man and how that then transforms into him telling the story about what happened to his family. I was just wondering — for you, what was it like to be in that scene and in that moment?

CD: Well, that scene especially the way George directed it, we are all taking the piss out of one another. We’re acting the way a band does. No one is taking anything too deep, you know it’s like ‘yo I’m just playing with you’… but as we know on any given day you never know what a person is carrying and I think that’s what August Wilson is showing in this scene in particular. You never know, you push and you may have been able to tell that joke yesterday, but today is a different day and you never know what they’re walking in with, or what their stakes are or what touches that wound that you have. So that wound just comes out of Chadwick’s Levee so passionately and he’s telling that story as George kept saying as well. When any one of us tells a story, you’re telling someone else’s pain as well…  because you’re revealing that and you’re saying this is my pain that I carry. He says, ‘you don’t know what I carry, you don’t know anything about me… so let me tell you.’ So, we all hold space for that, we all hold space for that pain because we didn’t know that it was there. And now, we have a choice with how we deal with that person in the future. It was beautiful, especially with these guys.

KM: So beautiful, and so many different levels of emotion there. Glynn, one of the other scenes that I really loved in the film was when you were talking about how we as a people have to do more together, that we can’t just have a good time. Thinking about the fact that this was a period piece and then looking at the state of our country now, what would you say just in terms of that whole dichotomy — thinking back to saying what we need to do to progress as a people and looking at where we are now?

GT: Well, because of today — and thanks largely in part to Philly and Pennsylvania — I’m encouraged, because it’s a perfect example of what he was talking about. We have to come together, each person has got to do his part, and each person in this time did do their part enough to give us some breathing room and give us a glimmer of hope again. You know, as we went to the polls as individuals, but collectively became big enough to handle the situation at hand. That’s what he was talking about — that’s exactly what August was talking about and so it’s an encouraging time for me. I look forward to the future that’s coming. It’s not as bleak as it was and this is what my character was speaking of. 

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” will be available to stream on Netflix on Friday, December 18, 2020. Do not miss out on this incredible film!

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The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff