Octavia Spencer Talks Playing Madam C.J. Walker: ‘It’s Daunting’

by Yah Yah
Voiced by Amazon Polly

Hollywood actress Octavia Spencer stars Madam C.J. Walker, the trailblazing African American haircare entrepreneur who also made history as America’s first female self-made millionaire.

The original Netflix series, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, is inspired by a book titled On Her Own Ground written by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles.

The series debuted on Netflix Friday.

Spencer takes pride in playing such an inspirational Black figure.

“I had known of Madam C.J. all my life. I think for people who don’t know her legacy, it’s going to be shocking to hear that she was the first female self-made millionaire in our country, and she was a Black woman whose family members were slaves. In fact, she was the first in her family who was not born a slave,” Spencer told Allure magazine.

Walker invented a line of African American hair products after suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss. To promote her products, she traveled around the country giving lecture-demonstrations. Soon after, she established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories.

Spencer describes playing the role of Walker as daunting.

“Of course, it’s daunting to play her because in the Black community, we look up to her. But it’s daunting any time you have to tell the story of someone’s real life — you don’t want to make a mistake,” she shared with the publication. “At the same time, I’m excited that I get to tell her story and the story of what she meant to me. She was one of the people that my mom used as a standard-bearer for us, to teach us that anything that we ever dreamed for ourselves could happen.”

The four-part limited series also stars Blair Underwood as her husband C.J. Walker, Tiffany Haddish as her daughter Leila, Carmen Ejogo as Walker’s business rival Addie Monroe, Garrett Morris as Walker’s father-in-law, Kevin Carroll as her longtime lawyer Ransom and Bill Bellamy as Ransom’s cousin Sweetness.

The series is available to watch on Netflix. You can check out the trailer below.

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