In fact, the four-time Oscar nominee and one-time winner said it “feels right” that Chadwick has nabbed so many accolades for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. “It’s like I said before, he was authenticity on steroids,” she shared. “You know, sometimes, people honor people who actually were not really nice or really the persona did not match the real person. This—it matches the person.”
As she continued, Viola noted that the Black Panther actor “did not mistake his presence for the event.”
After calling Chadwick an “artist,” she added, “He absolutely honored the work. And a lot people went into this business because they wanted to be famous actors. They don’t want to be actors; they want to be famous actors. He entered it because he just wanted to be an artist.”
This was certainly high praise from Viola, who transformed herself physically to tackle her Ma Rainey role. Earlier in the interview, Viola’s husband Julius Tennon applauded his wife’s physical dedication to the part.
“It was really the teeth,” he recalled. “The choice of putting the gold teeth in, it was amazing, and it completed the transformation.”
Viola herself acknowledged that accurately portraying Ma Rainey was important to her. She explained, “The approach to that is the approach that every actor has to have to it. You have to honor the person. They said she was a certain size, they said that she had a mouth full of gold, they said she looked a certain way, she had horsehair wigs. So, guess what? I had gold teeth, I had horsehair wigs and I was a certain size.”
Per the celebrated actress, she didn’t want to “change her in any way” as to not water down the portrayal of the blues legend.
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