Ma Rainey's Black Bottom with Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Today we’re launching a very special Script Apart awards season mini-series! Yes, it’s that time of year again: the Oscars and Baftas are around the corner, and to celebrate, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be chatting to writers behind some of the most astounding movies of the last 12 months – all of which would make worthy winners if you ask us.
First up we have Ruben Santiago-Hudson – writer of the superb Netflix drama, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Adapted from a play by the legendary August Wilson, Ruben’s screenplay transported audiences to a swelteringly hot 1920s Chicago, where across one eventful afternoon, blues pioneer Ma Rainey is scheduled to record new material. Things don’t go quite to plan, however, and as the temperature rises, so do tensions between Ma – played by Viola Davis – and ambitious but emotionally wounded young trumpet player, Levee (the late, great Chadwick Boseman in his final performance).
We spoke to Ruben to hear how he brought these two beautifully complex characters to life, delving into his close friendship with August Wilson, some curious differences between his early drafts and the final film, and the importance of acknowledging onscreen that the real-life Ma was a woman whose sexuality was fluid and whose generosity of spirit was strong. This is a spoiler discussion as you might have guessed, so if you haven’t already, you may want to check out Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, available now on Netflix, before listening.
Support for this episode comes from Arc Studio – the beautifully-designed screenwriting programme whose intuitive interface and host of innovative features helps you get the most out of your writing time – and Coverfly, who curate the best screenwriting talent-discovery programs into one place and connect emerging screenwriters with industry professionals who can bring their ideas to screen.*
*Script Apart is a podcast about the first-draft secrets behind great movies. Each episode, the screenwriter behind a beloved film shares with us their initial screenplay for that movie. We then talk through what changed, what didn’t and why on its journey to the big screen. All proceeds go to Black Minds Matter UK, the NHS Charities Covid-19 Appeal and the Film and TV Charity.
Script Apart is hosted by Al Horner and produced by Kamil Dymek, with music from Stefan Bindley-Taylor. You can follow Script Apart on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email us on email@example.com.