‘Ma’ Rainey Black Bottom’ director talks Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis with the Black Press

by Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

George C. Wolfe, a five-time Tony Award winner and one of the most celebrated American playwrights and directors of theater and film, joined the National Newspaper Publishers Association for a livestream interview to discuss the new movie, “Ma’ Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Based on the August Wilson play, the film was the last for the late Chadwick Boseman and contained an all-star cast led by Academy Award-winner Viola Davis and Reuben Santiago-Hudson. Produced by Academy-Award winner Denzel Washington, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” begins streaming on Netflix on December 18.

“There were no egos, everybody got along great, and it was a great experience,” said Wolfe, whose other works include “Lackawanna Blues,” “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and “The Iceman Cometh.”

He also noted that mainstream media reports of him having prior knowledge of Boseman’s failing health were false. “I knew when everyone else knew … things get taking out of context,” Wolfe declared.

He called working with Boseman a joy.

Wolfe first began directing plays at theatre workshops held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

In 1972, Wolfe enrolled in Kentucky State University but, after a year, transferred to Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater in 1976.

While at Pomona College, he directed “Up for Grabs,” chosen as Pacific Southern Regional’s winner at the American College Theater Festival.

In 1991, he was named artistic director and producer for the New York Shakespeare Festival.

In 1992, Wolfe produced and directed “Jelly’s Last Jam,” and, in 1993, his “Angels in America” won a Tony Award. He presented the musical, “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in da’ Funk,” in 1996, which used tap dancing to explore black history.

In 2004, Wolfe made his film directing debut with HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues,” which earned numerous awards, including the 2006 Directors Guild Award for Best Directorial Achievement.

In 2016, Wolfe produced “Shuffle Along,” a remake of the first Black musical on Broadway in 1921.

In 2018, Wolfe directed “The Iceman Cometh,” starring Denzel Washington.

“I’m ready to jump off the cliff into something else,” Wolfe exclaimed.

Click here to see the full interview.


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