Four months after he died from colon cancer, Chadwick Boseman will light up the silver screen a final time.
In "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," set to stream on Netflix later this month, the late actor plays Levee, an ambitious, fast-talking trumpeter who accompanies singer Ma Rainey, the real-life "Mother of the Blues." Viola Davis, who stars in the film's titular role, told 60 Minutes Boseman's performance was "extraordinary."
"We were just watching a great artist absolutely give himself over to a role, which is what you do," Davis said. "You give yourself. You sacrifice yourself."
The film, which wrapped a year before Boseman died in August, is based on a play of the same name by August Wilson. Seven years ago, Boseman wrote about meeting Wilson, a playwright he clearly admired, whose words he called "poetry."
"The blood spilled by Wilson's quill made living words that have the power to inhabit the devoted actor and light a spark inside his breast so that inhalations taken for their utterance make the soul of the character blaze up and take shape in the actor's body and face when he/she exhales them in speech," Boseman wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2013.
According to Davis, this reverence for writing is exactly how Boseman approached his work, marking him as an artist — not simply an entertainer.
Davis went on to make a distinction between the two, saying that entertainers simply want to give people what they want, with the ultimate goal of making money. Entertainers, she said, are about themselves, while artists train their focus on the work.
"An artist is someone who's just committed to the craft of acting, the whole craft, even separate from how people are going to respond to it," Davis explained.
Audiences can react to Boseman's performance when "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" begins streaming on Netflix on December 18.