Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

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100 years ago, Madam C. J. Walker was the richest, self made woman in America. She battled both racism and sexism in a post abolition world. She created an empire of hair care products for black women, and she also employed an empowered thousands of black women across the country. Her story is the subject of a Netflix series called Self Made. Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker. The show stars Octavia Spencer as Thie, tenacious businesswoman, and Blair Underwood plays her husband. You see him struggle to live in the shadows of his wife's massive achievements. You might know Blair from L. A law dear white people or sex in the city. He also starred in the Broadway production of a Soldier's play. I talked to Blair right around the time. The play had to shut down early because of covert 19 back in mid March, and I started off by asking him why Madam C. J. Walker story is so important. She accomplished something that was just a monumental An extraordinary at the turn of the century in the late 18 hundreds and building this hair care empire Ah, woman. An African American woman, um, during that period of time to to earn that kind of money she did, And as you as you said, she employed and empowered thousands of African American women all over the world, So she was really you know, before Mary Kay or Avon or M Way she was creating distributors. People could have their own businesses and be their own business people at the time, So it was really extraordinary. It was amazing what she created, especially given the times in which she did it. Yeah, the early 19 hundreds. Incredible. So let's take a listen to a clip from the new Netflix series Self. This is you. Yeah, This is you and Octavia Spencer as husband and wife. New hotel downtown. The iron figure you will meet wouldn't go down. There could be a bell half you could do laundry. You don't just plant a seed and expect fruit the next day. Color women here. Just gotta get used to that idea. Somebody was doing ahead as all you know. I always love you big ideas, but I'm not going back to long enough. Now. Wait a minute. No way. Don't all made sacrifices You won't do was best for this family. Yeah, so there's definitely some tension. Attention that we hear that Cliff. How would you describe the relationship between your character CJ Walker and his wife, Madam C. J. Walker. Oh, loving but strained. I say, loving first, because I think that's the most important thing to know about. These two people is that they have great had great admiration for each other and affection. They came together and fell in love before she became successful before she became Madam C. J. Walker. Her name was Sarah. Breedlove. And my character's name is Charles Joseph Walker. So she's known in relationship to him. Mrs. CJ Welcome, Madam C. J. Walker, Um and then when she because of because for intellect and her driving her tenacity and her persistence. She as the brand became more famous, and she built. She was the driving force behind the empire that she built. And it was ah, a lot for him to swallow in tow handle into process on a day to day basis and There's alcoholism involved, and there was a womanising involved. And you know he himself was a man of his times on did not want to be defined by the woman in his life, no matter how much he loved her. It was very hard for him to just find his equilibrium in the midst of all of that. Yeah, and to figure out how to play second fiddle and still, I guess, maintain his masculinity or maintain the image of masculinity at that at that time, that's right and still feel of worth in a value. How did you get yourself into into that head space? That sounds like a really intense head space to get into. Well, you got nothing with acting you just Ah, In the simplest terms, we we played from people and we believe it A cz long as you believe more specifically that that you want this woman to win this woman that you're in love with that you want her to when you want her to succeed. And if you live in that space, and then all these other dynamics coming to play her becoming more successful, who are becoming more famous for becoming more well known, and then her ideas are the ones that really work more than your own. And then you you feel less diminished. But if it's rooted in the fact that you bonded and you came together as a team because of the respect and admiration and love for each other. Everything else kind of falls into place. You've been married yourself for 25 years. Did you draw on any of your own experiences in figuring out the power dynamics of a partnership for this role? Uh, yeah, I think you know you draw them everything you've got, because I was sorry. I should be more specific. I guess I'm wondering like you're a famous person, and I'm wondering if there's anything for you not even in terms of like gender roles. But just just just what it is to be a person who is in the limelight and and also trying to make sure that they're there. Partner comes along. With them and shines just as brightly. Wow, you know, Tommy, That's that's really great question. I I do think what What I've learned is that it's important to make. I find everybody around. You feel of value, but you're asking specifically in relationships. But I think that's important, too. You know that your spouse in that marriage or relationship that has a kind of dynamic Where one person maybe more known to the public. And it's more public facing that that person is aware Of how your mate might feel. My my wife doesn't care doesn't look for it, which is great, So it's a part of its part in parts of what I do as a professional is part of my profession. So there's no conflict in that respect, but But there is a sense of you know that it's important that she knows that she is valued in her world and heard her desires and her passions. And I think that's true for any relationship, so I definitely you know. Use that and this character just understanding that

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