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'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' cast remember Chadwick Boseman

The cast of Netflix's "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" opened up to TODAY's Craig Melvin about the late actor's final performance.
/ Source: TODAY

Chadwick Boseman’s final film role left a lasting impression on his co-stars.

Boseman, who died in August of colon cancer at the age of 43, stars in the new Netflix film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which follows blues singer Ma Rainey, played by Viola Davis, and her band in 1920s Chicago.

Boseman, center, portrayed trumpeter Levee in Netflix's "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" — his last film before his death.David Lee / Netflix

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The late "Black Panther" star portrays Levee, a trumpeter in the band.

“Chadwick was playing all the time, going hard in his hands at every moment,” co-star Glynn Turman said, when he and castmates Colman Domingo and Michael Potts joined the film’s director, George C. Wolfe, in a conversation with TODAY’s Craig Melvin that aired Friday.

Chadwick Boseman, left, joined Dusan Brown, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Viola Davis and Glynn Turman in the adaption of the 1984 play written by August Wilson, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."David Lee / Netflix

“You know, when you heard ‘cut,’ you'd still hear Chadwick,” Turman added.

One scene focuses on a debate between Levee and Cutler (Domingo) as they spar over religion and betrayal.

“Well, I won't give so much away, but basically it is an argument about faith, and about God's will and why do terrible things happen to good people,” Domingo said.

“And in that scene, I think there were some cracks, and it touched us all dearly — Glynn, Michael and I. Chadwick, we didn't know his struggle, but I feel that there was something on the verge there, and it broke through. But it needed also these other three Black men with him to help him with that.”

Boseman remained silent about his cancer diagnosis, astonishing the cast when they think about how he managed to shoot the movie.

“When I tell you, not one person saw it,” Domingo said.

“The man, we all say he always demanded, ‘George, can I get one more? Can I get one more?’ Always wanted to do another take, another take. He was a consummate professional,” he added.

“And he was having a good time,” Potts said. “And that was, I mean, you had all the superhuman strength, but you had someone who was truly enjoying the process of doing this and being here. It was incredibly important to him.”

The movie, an adaptation of the 1984 play of the same name written by Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson, may take place nearly a century ago, but it’s a story applicable to modern-day America, given the subject matter of race, ambition and how it all connects to the struggle to achieve the American dream.

“That's attributed to August Wilson and his foresight as a playwright and a human being,” Turman said. “All the questions that he asked, ‘What are we going to do as a people, as a Black people? Where is the Black man today?’ Those are those are the nucleuses of our universe right now."

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" is available to stream on Netflix beginning Friday.

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