Netflix’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ tweaks the play to empower its Black characters

When adapting the works of celebrated playwright August Wilson, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone as studied in the subject as Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

Throughout his 45-year career, Santiago-Hudson has either produced, directed, or acted in all of Wilson’s plays, which has earned him a Tony nomination (Best Direction of a Play for 2017’s production of Jitney) and a win (Best Featured Actor in a Play for 1996’s Seven Guitars). To boot, Santiago-Hudson was also fortunate to call Wilson a friend for more than two decades before the playwright died in 2005.

“Many people feel that I’m one of the preeminent interpreters of his work,” Santiago-Hudson says. “Through our extraordinary conversations, I understood his philosophies and the way that he thought and things that were important to him.”

So it’s little surprise Santiago-Hudson was tapped to adapt Wilson’s 1984 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom into a screenplay.


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