British-Nigerian actress Carmen Ejogo joins the cast of Netflix series about America’s first black millionaire
BY JEAN DeCOLLI
An upcoming limited Netflix four-part series titled Madam C.J. Walker, which tells the life story of America’s first black millionaire Sarah Breedlove (1867-1919), will cast British-Nigerian actress Carmen Ejogo alongside Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer and others including Tiffany Haddish, Blair Underwood, and Kevin Carroll.
The mini series, scheduled to premiere on the streaming platform in 2020, chronicles the life story of Sarah Breedlove, born on 23 December 1867 in Louisiana, who later became known as Madam C.J. Walker when she founded her successful cosmetics company, The Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, in Indianopolis, Indiana in 1910.
Madam C.J. Walker was a prominent African American entrepreneur, a philanthropist and political and social activist believed to be the most successful African American business mogul of the early twentieth century. The nation’s first (self-made) millionaire.
The series, based on the book “On Her Own Ground,” by A’Lelia Bundle, former ABC News Executive and Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, is an account of Walker’s struggle to survive troubled marriages, business challenges and other woes that life threw at her.
Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer, who will take on the role of Madam C.J. Walker, is one of the series’ executives.
Just a week ago, British-Nigerian actress Carmen Ejogo joined the cast in the role of Addie, a rival of Madam C.J. Walker. A good-looking woman (no wonder she is played by Carmen Ejogo), Addie used her good looks, good business instincts and social standing to carve herself an enviable spot in the hair care business as well.
Movie fans and critics can’t wait to see how Ejogo will “square off” against the talented Octavia Spencer.
For anyone who is familiar with movies, it’s no secret Ejogo, who has illustrated herself in numerous films including (for the purpose of this article) Boycott and Selma, is a reservoir of talents.
She played Coretta Scott King, the late wife of the legendary civil rights icon and Nobel Peace laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Boycott,” a 2001 HBO movie about the 1955 bus boycotts. This is an artful dramatization of the chain of historical events set in motion by a black activist, Rosa Parks, who shocked the world by refusing to take the back seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Then, in 2014, she broke a tradition and played the same character again in Selma, a film based on the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery.
Beyond her impressive acting skills, these roles also cast Ejogo, 45, in a historical role as the powerful woman who provided the strongest support the iconic civil rights leader leaned on during the historical but very dangerous times.
As they await the upcoming series already in the works, some in the African American community see it as an expression of “black power.” They point to the historical depiction of a pioneer in the hair care business in America and a self-made millionaire (C.J. Walker) being played by an (obviously black) award-winning actress (Octavia Spencer); and the casting of other black talented actors such as Tiffany Haddish, Blair Underwood, and Kevin Carroll. This enthusiasm is also fueled by the fact that the series is being produced by two African American icons: Octavia Spencer and NBA legend Lebron James.
CARMEN EJOGO AT A GLANCE
Carmen Elizabeth Ejogo was born in Kensington, London, England, to a Nigerian father and a Scottish mother. Her television career began in the early 1990s in the United Kingdom where she presented the children’s series Saturday Disney (1990). She later has had an acting career in the United States, appearing in Metro (1997) with Eddie Murphy, What’s the Worst that Could Happen (2001) with Martin Lawrence, and Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) with Kenneth Branagh. She starred as Thomas Jefferson’s slave concubine in the television drama Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (2000) as Sally Hemings and also as Sister Anderson in the remake version of the cult classic original film Sparkle (2012).