Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is currently streaming on Netflix and is garnering all the love and praise for the late Black Panther movie star. In addition to Chadwick's performance, the movie has turned several heads after learning more about the exciting life of Ma Rainey and how Viola went up and beyond to portray one of the earliest African-American professional singers.
To portray Ma Rainey, Viola Davis gained a lot of weight. In one of her earlier interviews, she revealed that "the Blues singer was really big, close to 300 pounds. I got close to 200."
Ma Rainey inspired a generation of musicians for her music, but she was also famous for her unique hairstyle. To get the hairstyle right, the movie's hair department used the material provided to them to create a flawless impression of Ma Rainey's style.
"I had plastic everywhere. I boiled that wig several times to clean it," the hair department head of the movie, Mia Neal, said while adding that when she got her order of horsehair to work on Viola's wig, they found strands filled with dung and lice eggs, which she cleaned herself.
"I ended up building that wig, strand by strand. And every time I pulled those little hairs through, I had to scrape off the manure. It was a challenge, and that was the first time I had ever built a wig with horsehair," Mia Neal told Variety.
The hairstylist further revealed that they found the wigs at an Etsy seller from Europe. For Ma Rainey's look, they chose two wigs -- the show wig, which was made of horsehair, and the second wig that was made from European hair.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom:
The 2020 drama movie Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is based on August Wilson's acclaimed novel of the same name. The film features Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green -- trumpeter in Ma's band.
The movie follows the story of one afternoon when Ma Rainey gets involved with a heated discussion with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As everyone in her band awaits her return to the recording session, we encounter how Levee tries to start his own band.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is directed by George C. Wolfe and was theatrically released in select theaters on November 25, 2020, before beginning to stream on December 18 on Netflix.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom has come in the lines of Queen's Gambit as it became the most-watched item on the streaming giant over its opening weekend.
Ma Rainey's life as a singer:
Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, aka Ma Rainey, was one of the earliest African-American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of blues singers to professionally record. Ma Rainey began performing as a teenager and got recognition shortly after her marriage to Will "Pa" Rainey in 1904.
As a couple, both Will and Gertrude toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues.
Ma Rainey was not afraid to portray Black female sexuality, including presenting an idea of what a woman should be. In her lyrics, Ma Rainey described the Black female experience like few others reflecting a wide range of emotions and the troubles they face daily, including racism and classicism.
For her contribution as a singer as a voice for the underdog, Ma Rainey was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
It won't be wrong to say that the movie will always be remembered as Chadwick Boseman's last screen performance but the coming generation of actors will learn so much from Viola Davis' performance as Ma Rainey.