Chadwick Boseman was a man of many talents. The late actor portrayed plenty of different characters during his career, from Marvel superhero T’Challa in Black Panther to Jackie Robinson in 42. But since his last-ever movie was released on Netflix on Dec. 18, fans are wondering if Chadwick Boseman learned trumpet for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, because his character’s skills are seriously impressive.
The historical musical unfolds over the course of a 1927 Chicago recording session, as tensions grow between legendary blues singer Ma Rainey (played by Viola Davis) and her band. A lot of the drama is spurred by Boseman’s character Levee, an ambitious trumpeteer looking to make a name for himself in the music industry.
Levee has formidable musical talent, which is even more impressive given that Boseman actually learned the instrument for the film. According to Boseman’s costar, Colman Domingo (Euphoria), Boseman’s work inspired the rest of the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom actors to master their characters’ crafts, too.
"He truly learned to play. I think everyone was like, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re doing, Chad? Okay, now I’m gonna learn too," Domingo noted in a behind-the-scenes featurette from Netflix’s Strong Black Lead Twitter account.
"I love that [Chadwick’s] like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna challenge you. We’re gonna challenge each other,’" the actor continued.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star Glynn Turman added that Boseman’s dedication to learning the trumpet also inspired the cast to practice more.
"We were all staying in the same hotel. It started sounding like, you know, a music school," Turman said. "You get off the elevator and you could hear Chadwick, you know, working on it. Made you say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to practice right now, but I better get to start practicing.’"
The Netflix movie is now dedicated to the late actor, who is receiving awards buzz for his performance. In fact, even though Boseman is no longer alive, there’s a good chance the actor could win a posthumous Oscar for his unforgettable work as Levee when the 93rd Academy Awards take place in April 2021.
Regardless of whether Boseman is recognized by the Academy for his performance, fans can take comfort in knowing this once-in-a-lifetime actor had a once-in-a-lifetime final role.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is on Netflix now.
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