Boseman was battling cancer while making the movie, an adaptation of the 1982 August Wilson play set in a Chicago music studio in the 1920s.
Speaking in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Tony-winning director George C. Wolfe said that Boseman became overwhelmed during a scene between his character, the trumpeter Levee, and Colman Domingo’s character, Cutler.
Watch: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom trailer
During the scene, Levee questions and challenges Cutler’s faith.
“We were doing it in a very casual way, and I assumed that when Levee got to the big speech that Chadwick was going to stop. But he didn’t stop. He kept going, and Levee took over — it was raw and explosive,” said Wolfe.
“Afterwards, Chadwick just started to sob, and Colman hugged him, and then Chadwick’s girlfriend basically picked him up.”
Boseman was in a relationship with Simone Ledward, whom he later married in a low-key ceremony.
The Black Panther star had been secretly battling colon cancer since 2016, and filmed Ma Rainey in the summer of 2019.
He died on Aug. 28, 2020. He was just 43.
The movie, which also stars Viola Davis, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne and Jeremy Shamos, has been hailed by critics.
“Boseman, evincing the same integrity he clung to his entire career, refuses to soft-pedal the destination. He imparts to this seething, shattered man the gift of a broken soul, riven by anger and trauma, and makes him all the more human for it. His final moments of screen time are among his darkest, and also his finest,” read a review in the Los Angeles Times.
The movie will be released on Netflix on Dec. 18.
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