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Netflix Delays Preview Of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Following Chadwick Boseman's Death

Following the death of award-winning actor and Marvel star Chadwick Boseman, Netflix has postponed a virtual preview of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, one of Boseman's last on-screen roles. 

The streamer had originally scheduled the promotional event for the Denzel Washington-produced drama, based on one of ten Century Cycle plays by Pulitzer Prize-winning Black playwright August Wilson, for Monday, August 31, 2020. Boseman co-stars in the film, directed by George C. Wolfe (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), alongside actress Viola Davis, who plays the leading role of Ma Rainey. While both Wolfe and Davis were expected to participate in the virtual celebration of the movie and life of the playwright, Boseman wasn't scheduled to appear during the preview and Q&A event. 

Set in 1920s Chicago, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is centered around a recording session for blues legend Rainey and her band, where tensions arise not only between the bandmates, but also between the Black musicians and exploitative white producers as the session fails to stay on schedule. Boseman plays Levee, a younger, talented trumpeter who doubles as a bitter, hot-headed dreamer who has his sights equally set on his own career and on Rainey's girlfriend. Along with Davis, Boseman's other Ma Rainey co-stars also include Glynn Turman and Michael Potts. Boseman's family confirmed to Variety that he had completed filming on the project prior to his passing.

"We are heartbroken over today's news of the passing of Chadwick Boseman, a 'true fighter' as his family called him in their poignant tribute," Netflix told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement. "This is an incredible loss. We are canceling Monday's preview event of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Please join us in sending your thoughts to his family and loved ones."

Boseman, 43, passed on Friday, August 28, 2020 of colon cancer following a 2016 diagnosis and four years of treatment, which he had kept private and out of the public eye. 

Netflix and the Ma Rainey's Black Bottom team grieve Chadwick Boseman's passing and celebrate his work

Boseman's storied career saw him regularly embody Black heroes both real and fictional, including legends like footballer Floyd Little in The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, baseball icon Jackie Robinson in 42, and legendary musician James Brown in Get on Up. However, his most significant on-screen role may have been as the beloved T'Challa, King of Wakanda and superhero Black Panther, in the first Marvel film with a predominantly Black cast.

According to Variety, following the news of his passing, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos called the Ma Rainey star "a superhero on screen and in life" in a statement. "It's impossible to imagine working at the level he has while valiantly battling his illness," said Sarandos. "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." 

Washington, the film's producer, offered up his own statement, praising Boseman's work across his nearly two-decade-long career: "He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career." 

Like much of Hollywood and Marvel Cinematic Universe talent, Ma Rainey star Davis took to Twitter to express her grief and love for her co-star and a career cut short. She wrote, "Chadwick..... no words to express my devastation of losing you. Your talent, your spirit, your heart, your authenticity........ It was an honor working beside you, getting to know you.... Rest well prince... May flights of angels sing thee to thy heavenly rest."

While the Ma Rainey's Black Bottom preview is delayed, there's currently no news on whether Boseman's death will impact the release of the Netflix adaptation, which was scheduled to drop sometime later this year.