Netflix has assembled an impressive cast for ‘Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker’.
The new four-part drama is led by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer who stars in the title role as “America’s first female self-made millionaire”. Here are the cast and characters you’ll see on screen…
Octavia Spencer plays Sarah Breedlove – aka Madam CJ Walker
Who is Sarah Breedlove? Also known as Madam C.J. Walker after her marriage, Sarah Breedlove was an African-American entrepreneur and activist who built a business around hair care products and cosmetics for black women in the early 20th century. As Netflix puts it, “Against all odds, Walker overcame post-slavery racial and gender biases, personal betrayals, and business rivalries to build a ground-breaking brand that revolutionised black haircare, as she simultaneously fought for social change.”
What else has Octavia Spencer been in? The actress won an Oscar for her supporting role in 2011’s The Help, and was nominated for both Hidden Figures (2016) and The Shape of Water (2017). Her other film credits include Gifted, Onward (as the voice of The Manticore), Dolittle, The Shack, Bad Santa 2, Allegiant, and Fruitvale Station. On the small screen, we’ve seen her in Truth Be Told, Mom, Red Band Society, and episodes of Black-ish and 30 Rock.
Blair Underwood plays CJ Walker
Who is CJ? Sarah Breedlove married Charles Joseph Walker in 1906. CJ was a newspaper advertising salesman.
What else has Blair Underwood been in? The Golden Globe-nominated actor has recently starred as Moses Brown in Dear White People, and Netflix’s When They See Us as Bobby Burns. You may also have seen him in The After Party, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (as Andrew Garner), Quantico, Ironside, The Event, The New Adventures of Old Christine, or Dirty Sexy Money.
Tiffany Haddish plays Lelia
Who is Lelia? Sarah’s daughter, also known as A’Lelia. Sarah had married her first husband Moses when she was just 14 in order to escape an abusive home, and she gave birth to Lelia in 1885; Moses died when their child was two. Lelia later took her stepfather’s name, Walker, and in 1919 she became president of her mother’s business the Walker Company. She also attended Knoxville College, and was deeply involved in the arts – with a love of classical music and opera and African American music.
Lelia Walker married and divorced three times. She had one adopted daughter, “Mae Walker”, who joined the family in 1912 when she was a teenager.
What else has Tiffany Haddish been in? The Emmy-winning actress starred as Dina in the comedy film Girls Trip, Nekeisha Williams in The Carmichael Show, and Hi-C in Keanu. She is the voice of Tuca in the series Tuca & Bertie, Daisy in The Secret Life of Pets 2, and Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi in The Lego Movie 2. Aside from her acting work, Tiffany Haddish is also a stand-up comedian and has previously hosted Saturday Night Live.
Carmen Ejogo plays Addie Munroe
Who is Addie Munroe? In the Netflix drama, she’s the main antagonist: a former ‘friend’ of Sarah Breedlove, turned business rival. Carmen Ejogo describes her as an “entrepreneur and hustler”.
What else has Carmen Ejogo been in? The British actress starred as Amelia Reardon in the 2019 series of True Detective, and is also known for her big-screen roles as civil rights activist (and MLK’s wife) Coretta Scott King in Boycott (2001) and Selma (2014), and Seraphina Picquery in the Fantastic Beasts movies. Her other credits include Alien: Covenant, It Comes at Night, The Girlfriend Experience, Zero Hour, Away We Go, and The Avengers.
Garrett Morris plays Cleophus
Who is Cleophus? Sarah’s father-in-law, and CJ’s dad. Cleophus is a former slave who was freed after the American Civil War.
What else has Garrett Morris been in? The actor, who is 83 years old as of March 2020, was part of the original cast of long-running sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live back in 1975 and has now racked up more than 100 screen credits. He is also known for starring as Uncle Junior in The Jamie Foxx Show, and Earl Washington in 2 Broke Girls. Recent roles have included Lloyd in This Is Us, Arnold in Grand-Daddy Day Care, and Hector in Scandal.
Mouna Traoré plays Esther
Who is Esther? We meet Esther in episode one when she joins the Walker Company, offering her services as a hairdresser and whatever else is required.
What else has Mouna Traoré been in? The Canadian actress has recently played Ruby Goodchild in American Gods, Iris Loramer in Condor, and Rebecca James in Murdoch Mysteries. She was Vanessa Hastings in the 2018 series In Contempt, and voiced several characters in Assassin’s Creed: Origins.
J Alphonse Nicholson plays John Robinson
Who is John Robinson? Leila’s husband, and Madam CJ Walker’s son-in-law. The two separated in 1911 after a fairly brief marriage, and officially divorced in 1914.
What else has J Alphonse Nicholson been in? His on-screen credits include Tales, Perfectly Single, Just Mercy, and Shots Fired. J Alphonse Nicholson is also known for his stage work, including his role in A Soldier’s Play on Broadway.
Kevin Carroll plays Ransom
Who is Ransom? He’s described as Madam CJ Walker’s “longtime lawyer”.
What else has Kevin Carroll been in? He is perhaps best-known for playing John Murphy in The Leftovers, or for playing Sinnerman in Lucifer. The actor’s other credits include Alton Saint in Snowfall, James in Blindspotting, Dr Alan Wilson in Sacred Lies, and Deputy Chief Nick Turner in The Catch.
Bill Bellamy plays Sweetness
Who is Sweetness? Ransom’s cousin.
What else has Bill Bellamy been in? As a comedian, he’s appeared on Def Comedy Jam, Funny You Should Ask, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and a ton of other shows. As an actor, he played Kev’yn in the TV series Insecure, FBI Agent Sanders in Kindergarten Cop 2, and Councilman Powell in Hot in Cleveland.