The movie, which Chadwick filmed before his death from colon cancer in August (2020), debuts on Netflix in December – and bosses at the streaming service released a powerful early glimpse of the star alongside Viola Davis, who plays pioneering blues bandleader Ma Rainey.
Scenes of the actor playing her ambitious trumpeter Levee show him threatening to start his own group and saying: “I’m gonna get me a band and make me some records. I knows how to play real music, not this jug band s**t. I know what I’m doing. Go on and fire me. I don’t care.
Set in 1920s Chicago, the film follows Ma Rainey’s attempts to keep control of her music and earnings in a battle with white record executives she believes are using her.
Viola has told Entertainment Weekly about the conflict between her and Chadwick’s characters – and how they represent different ages of music – with Levee moving towards jazz.
“Levee represents everything that is antithetical towards her belief system,” she said. “He is representative of a new phase of music that will render her extinct. He is unruly and undisciplined.”
Chadwick kept his cancer battle a secret and kept working long into his illness – also starring in Spike Lee’s recent Vietnam War movie Da 5 Bloods.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is based on the play of the same name by August Wilson, and produced by Denzel Washington, is on Netflix from December 18th.