Like the other arts singing and writing, acting is another potent art. But unlike the other listed mediums, the universal language of acting is an art that connects a chain of raw emotions and visualization into storytelling.
“I wanted to be a part of this and tell her amazing story,” Zahra told me during our chat a few weeks prior to having concluded filming Self Made with Netflix. The series is based on the biography On Her Own Ground, written by A’Lelia Bundles. Canadian actress Zahra Bentham is starring alongside Hollywood hard hitters Octavia Spencer, Blair Underwood, Garrett Morris, Tiffany Haddish, Bill Bellamy and Kevin Carrol in Nexflix’s highly anticipated series Self Made. The series tells the story of entrepreneur, social activist and multi-millionaire Madame C.J. Walker. Considered to be the wealthiest Black-American woman at the peak of the 20th century, Madame C.J. Walker created her empire by marketing a successful line of cosmetic and hair-care products for African American women.
It seems that a best friend can be found in the story of all (or most) legends. Zahra plays Nettie, an early supporter and friend of Madame C.J. Walker.
“I’m play a character by the name of Nettie Ransom,” Zahra told me.
“She was a close friend of Madame C.J. Walker. They met at the Indiana Colored Women’s Club. That was a place back then for women of color to come and support each other. Madame Walker came to me (Nettie) trying to find funding to start her business. Funny enough a lot of people in the club didn’t support her.”
Working with the cast of Self Made on Netflix could be called somewhat of a breakthrough for Zahra. She recanted her time on set, and her experience with some of the cast members with whom she took part in telling the story of Madame C.J. Walker.
“I was able to meet everyone prior to filming, except Octavia. But working with her, she was everything I pretty much imagined she’d be. Serious about her craft, loving and all that.
Off-set Tiffany (Haddish) was everything you see on screen. That’s truly how she is. I call her the energizer bunny because she doesn’t stop. She’s so hilarious. I felt blessed to work with them all.”
For Zahra, believability is as essential to acting as storytelling. Costumes and make-up are indispensable in her process in creating a believable and memorable character.
“The thing about me that I take very seriously when prepping for a role is really breaking down the character. The process of hair and make-up make a difference. What kind of clothes do they wear? What do they sound like? When I read about the role, I really wanted to be a part of telling the story. Not a lot of people know about Madame C.J. Walker, what she’s about and what she brought into the world. This helped put some things into perspective as an actress in this industry and as a woman of color. I claimed it. This was something that I wanted.”
Self Made, the story of Madame C.J. Walker can be seen on Netflix, as is set to premiere on March 20th.