WATCH: We debate the power of dialogue with ’Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ director George C. Wolfe

December 18, 2020
Few stage directors have the pedigree of George C. Wolfe.

After years toiling in academia and off-Broadway, Wolfe won raves for his direction of the musical 'Jelly's Last Jam.' Two years later, he scored a Tony Award for directing the original production of 'Angels in America: Millennium Approaches,' one of the greatest works of American drama. He directed part two of the play, 'Perestroika' the following year. Wolfe picked up another Tony in 1996 for the musical 'Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk.' He then successfully transitioned to film direction with 'Lackawanna Blues' in 2004 and 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' in 2017.

Now Wolfe, an openly queer man, tackles one of the great queer artists of the 20th century in 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,' based on the August Wilson play. The movie has already won rave performances for its cast; in particular, its two leads: Oscar-winner Viola Davis, and the late Chadwick Boseman, who gives his final performance in the film

We sat down with Wolfe to discuss the transition from stage to screen, and how a director spots a great actor when he sees one. 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' arrives on Netflix December 18.

Video Editor: David Beerman