By Justina Bonilla
Among the extraordinary cast of actors of Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is Colman Domingo who plays Ma Rainey’s bandleader Cutler. He is dazzling in his supporting role.
Domingo, born in Philadelphia has been acting for over thirty years. He is an award-nominated and winning actor, director, writer, and producer, in film, television, and the theatre. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as the Director’s Guild of America. But his work extends beyond Hollywood. He is also a 2020 Julliard School Creative associate and is part of the Yale School of Drama faculty.
The stage is where Domingo honed his skills; in acting (The Wiz and Taming of the Shrew), writing (Dot), and directing (Single Black Female). Domingo’s impressive and diverse resume includes two revival plays Fences and Seven Guitars written by “The American Shakespeare” August Wilson, in which Domingo worked as actor and director, respectively. Another one of these plays, all part of Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle” of Broadway productions which highlight the African-American experience, is the 1985 Tony Award-winning Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, adapted for the screen by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom follows “The Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and her band during a Chicago recording session, on a hot day in 1927, where both heat and tempers rise. The lead musician of Ma Rainey’s band is trombone player Cutler, played by Domingo. Cutler is a seasoned musician, who like his other bandmates navigates his life as an African American in an industry that wants to profit off of their talent, without respecting the person behind it.
Each bandmate deals with the struggle of racial inequality differently, from Cutler’s calm and cooperative manner to Levee (Chadwick Boseman)’s excitable and rebellious demeanor. Even their clothes contrast, with Cutler in a well-coordinated suit, while Levee’s suit is mismatched country-boy-clean.
Domingo shines in his supporting role, as the anchor and peacemaker for the band, with the recording studio and within the band. He is a wise bandleader, who listens to concerns, while also giving honest wisdom, and maintaining order within the band.
In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, Domingo shared how “The team of Denzel Washington and George C. Wolfe chose me to be a part of Ma Rainey and believed that whatever I can bring to it, will help be a part of this magnificent film.”
As a film actor, Domingo has made a name for himself as an actor, in the popular AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, he is the only actor in the franchise to also direct. His film work extends beyond, working with some of the most notable film directors in multiple contemporary classics such as Selma (directed by Ava DuVernay), If Beale Street Could Talk (directed by Barry Jenkins), and Passing Strange (directed by Spike Lee).
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is already a theatre classic, its chance of becoming a film classic is almost a given with the powerful cast headed by Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Truman, Michael Potts and yes, indeed with the talent of Colman Domingo.
With the passion, respect for Wilson’s legacy, and artistic strength Domingo puts into Cutler, we see the potential for both critical acclaim and award recognition.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom premiers on Friday, Netflix December 18, 2020.
Domingo’s Official Site