Anything Viola Davis related, whatever genre it may be, I’m there for it. She’s one of my favorite actresses to ever grace the screens of film and television and it’s practically impossible to not have her listed as a household name.
To all my fellow actors and actresses who are completely in love with the entertainment industry or those who just enjoy keeping up with their favorite stars, please follow @strongblacklead on Twitter and Instagram! This page is devoted to production news about Black stars on Netflix and in Hollywood. It also shows exclusive interviews from numerous A-listers, such as Davis herself.
Not too long ago I became aware that Davis was starring as Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom because of the @strongblacklead Twitter page. She gave an interview on what it meant to play the role of this iconic Blues singer and what she said really sparked my interest in watching the Netflix debut that has Denzel Washington as a producer. Davis stated, “She knew her worth. She knew how to negotiate her worth. She was unapologetic about it.” Every role that Davis takes on serves purpose and is extraordinary in it’s own way, so I knew the level of serve she was going to bring to the screen would be unmatched, as usual.
“White folks don’t understand about the blues,” said the pioneering singer Ma Rainey, as imagined by August Wilson and incarnated by Davis. “They hear it come out, but they don’t know how it got there. They don’t understand that that’s life’s way of talking.” Ma Rainey is known as the “Mother of Blues” and when you hear her voice, that very quote becomes true.
Based on August Wilson’s 1984 play about a recording session in Chicago during the 1920’s, we see the height of racism for talented Black musicians making their way in America. It’s disheartening to hear the stories of assault, humiliation, and lynching that Ma’s band members shared between one another during rehearsals. However, a lesson that I will take from Ma Rainey and definitely apply for my own career is to never settle for anything less than what I deserve. To know exactly how much I am worth and to never lose sight of that, despite any manipulations from higher powers that try to make it seem like you need them. Also noted is to not be cocky or unprofessional, but to always be aware of respect.
A heartfelt moment in this movie is watching Chadwick Boseman grace the screen in his last film before his untimely death last August. Boseman was just 43 when he passed. The lines in the movie that he delivers to God will leave you in awe, especially after knowing what he was going through on a personal level. His presence and talent are never more felt as they are in his role as Levee alongside Davis. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is a powerful piece of Black art and history that shouldn’t be missed.
If you’ve already seen the film, make sure to leave your reaction below!
By Kori Barnes, Junior, UNLV