'Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker' star Zahra Bentham says working with legends was 'unreal'
Bentham said Octavia Spencer was like a warm mother figure on the sets
Spoilers for 'Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker'
Netflix's ‘Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker’ boasts an impressive cast with Octavia Spencer starring in the titular role of Sarah Breedlove aka Madam CJ Walker and Blair Underwood as her husband CJ Walker. Among the incredible cast members is Zahra Bentham who plays the role of Nettie Ransom in the series that brings the story of America’s first female self-made millionaire.
In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Bentham spoke about her role and what viewers should look forward to the most. "I play a woman by the name of Nettie Ransom. Nettie is highly educated, intelligent, very sweet, and very proper wife of Ransom (Kevin Carroll). She is a member of the Indiana Coloured Women's Club where she helps Sarah Breedlove aka Madam CJ Walker with her business. I don't want to give away too much but I will say this, look out for some drama between the women who are part of the Indiana Colored Women's Club and the community of women who didn't think she had the right face to be a successful hair care business owner," detailed Bentham.
While the series focuses on the pride of hair culture among African American women, it also focuses on the confidence women have when it comes to furthering their own agenda as successful businesswomen. Madam Walker braved post-slavery biases of both gender and race and advocated for change revolutionizing a dynasty of hair care that pushed women's perception of beauty.
Bentham went on to say: "Being a Black Woman she [Madam CJ Walker] understood the struggles of up keeping black hair during that time. She suffered from a scalp ailment that resulted in losing her hair so she understood what she needed to do not only for herself but for other women as well. She not only understood hair but impacted the civil rights movements also. She was involved in rallies, gave many speeches and protested frequently. She was the definition of what it meant to stand up, fight, take up space for Black Woman and her community. She never stopped. And that's why she is Madam CJ Walker."
Being associated with a project that holds dear to many women around the world, Bentham felt that it was "UNREAL."
"To be a part of a cast that I've grown up watching is surreal. It's weird. I think as actors, we get into the mindset of the 'hustle' to try and land a big film or series and sometimes we forget to just take a second and breathe when you do get that booking. All I can say is I feel blessed. Everything happens for a reason. Timing is everything. I thank God for his continuous blessings in my life," she gushed.
With legends like Octavia Spencer on board along with Tiffany Haddish, Bentham said, "Octavia Spencer. That woman is the definition of hard work," while she called Haddish "an energized bunny."
Praising Spencer, Bentham continued, "She’s everything I thought she’d be. Super real, down to earth, focused as I mentioned, and almost like a warm motherly figure. If I could carry one thing into future projects from working with Octavia and the rest of my bomb ass castmates would be to always be you, stay true, stay real no matter how your circumstances change or how famous you can get."
She continued to reveal what she learned from Haddish, "One thing I've learned from her is finding the comedy in everything. Looking on the bright side of things. She's great at that. I did a lot of observing. I admire her hustle as a black woman in this industry. And specifically a comedian. She's hustling to do big and great things in her career in the hopes of inspiring other young black girls and women to do it like she did and better. I feel honored to have worked with both Tiffany and Octavia. It was a serious blessing to be a part of this, working with people who I genuinely looked up to and aspire to be."
Bentham has a film that's going around the film festival circuit right now called 'Queen of the Morning Calm' where she plays the role of Tammi, a sex worker. "The film touches on real emotions and realities of sex workers, abuse and drugs. It a film that you can probably walk away from with it being In your thoughts," revealed Bentham.
All four parts of 'Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker' is currently streaming on Netflix.