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Netflix delays preview of Chadwick Boseman movie ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’

Chadwick Boseman stars in the upcoming Netflix movie "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
Chadwick Boseman stars in the upcoming Netflix movie “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
(Jordan Strauss / Invision/Associated Press)

Netflix delayed a virtual preview of Chadwick Boseman’s last movie, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” about the 1920s legendary blues singer, while reiterating plans to release the film later this year.

Following the death this week of the 43-year-old actor, who inspired a generation as Marvel’s “Black Panther,” the Los Gatos-based streaming company told those who had planned to attend that it was cancelling Monday’s preview event. “Please join us in sending your thoughts to his family and loved ones,” the company said. No date has been set for the movie’s release.

“Chadwick was a superhero on screen and in life, and it’s impossible to imagine working at the level he has while valiantly battling his illness,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-chief executive and chief content officer in a statement. “His legacy as a person and an artist will inspire millions. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time.”

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The movie features Viola Davis in the lead as the so-called Mother of Blues in the feature adaptation of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The story is told over a tense afternoon recording session in Chicago as a band of musicians awaits the singer. The film depicts Ma’s battle for control with her white manager and producer over her music. Boseman plays the ambitious trumpeter Levee who spurs the other musicians to share stories that will change the course of their lives. The movie is directed by George C. Wolfe and produced by Denzel Washington and Todd Black.

Co-stars paid tribute, including Davis and Colman Domingo. “Knowing him on the journey of Ma was a true gift,” Domingo said via Instagram.

In news that shocked the industry and his fans, Boseman had privately waged a four-year battle with colon cancer, according to a statement posted from his official Twitter account Friday. He was first diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in 2016, the same year he made his debut as comics superhero King T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther, in “Captain America: Civil War.”

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“Ma Rainey” will be Boseman’s last feature film. He had been set to star in and produce the samurai action movie “Yasuke,” set in 16th century Japan, for his own production company Xception Content. He was also slated to reprise his Marvel role in “Black Panther 2,” which has not started production.

Tributes poured in after the announcement of Boseman’s death, not only to commemorate the impact of his roles, but also his continued social activism despite his illness. “To use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain — what a use of his years,” President Obama said in a tweet.

Earlier this year, Boseman earned rave reviews in Spike Lee’s Netflix movie “Da 5 Bloods” as “Stormin’” Norman Earl Holloway, the fiery lost leader of a squad of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War. Lee paid tribute to the actor on Instagram.

WarnerMedia network TBS announced it would be screening “Black Panther” Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/PT and Sunday, 8 p.m. ET/PT.


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