Denzel Washington is producing the film and it’s a project he has long spoke about in development to Deadline with the original plan for nine of Wilson’s plays to be movies on HBO. That deal was moved over to Netflix.
Viola Davis, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her work in Washington’s adaptation of Wilson’s Fences, will star in Ma Rainey along with Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts. The project reteams Davis and Washington on their third Wilson endeavor after starring in both the 2010 Broadway revival of Fences and the 2016 film version, which he directed and also earned three Oscar noms. Davis and Washington both won Tony Awards for their roles.
Production starts next month in Pittsburgh.
Multiple Tony and DGA award winning director George C. Wolfe will helm Ma Rainey with Todd Black and Dany Wolf producing alongside Washington. Ruben Santiago-Hudson is adapt Wilson’s play for Netflix. Constanza Romero will serve as EP. Oscar winning Ann Roth is set as the costume designer with Branford Marsalis composing.
Ma Rainey follows the “Queen of the Blues,” as she makes a record in a studio in Chicago, 1927, tensions boil between her, her white agent and producer, and bandmates.
As Washington told Deadline co-Editor-in-Chief Mike Fleming, Jr. back in 2017, it was always his plan to produce the Wilson canon, not direct or star. Ma Rainey was always planned to be the next feature adaptation after Paramount’s Fences which made over $64M at the global box office.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom opened at Broadway’s Cort Theatre in October 1984, playing 276 performances before closing in June 1985. Featuring direction by Lloyd Richards, the play cast Theresa Merritt in the title role. The remainder of the company featured John Carpenter, Lou Criscuolo, Scott Davenport-Richards, Charles S. Dutton, Leonard Jackson, Robert Judd, Christopher Loomis, Aleta Mitchell, and Joe Senaca. Nominated for a Tony Award, Ma Rainey‘s won the 1984 New York Drama Critics Circle Award. The play was revived in February 2003 starring Whoopi Goldberg and Charles S. Dutton.
Wolfe is represented by CAA and Paul Hastings. Davis is represented by CAA, Lasher Group and Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler & Feldman Inc. Boseman is repped by Greene & Associates, Management 360, Viewpoint and Ziffren Brittenham. Domingo is repped by The Gersh Agency