Everything We Know About Octavia Spencer's Madam C. J. Walker Netflix Show

Savannah Walsh
Photo credit: Amanda Matlovich/Netflix

From ELLE

The trailblazing story of beauty pioneer Madam C.J. Walker is coming to Netflix. Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker will chronicle the life of America's first female self-made millionaire and titular haircare entrepreneur, with Octavia Spencer in the lead role. The limited series will drop March 20, so here's everything you need to know about the inspiring story.

The limited series has a premiere date.

In early January, Netflix announced that the four-part series would debut on Friday, March 20. The production was first reported by Deadline in November 2016 with Oscar winner Spencer attached as star and producer. By July 2018, Deadline confirmed Netflix had green-lit the project as a series.

Photo credit: David Lee/Netflix

It's based off a book written by Walker's great-great-grandaughter.

The series is inspired by the 2002 book On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker by Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles. It tells the story of Sarah Breedlove, known as Madam C.J. Walker, who entered the haircare industry when few products served the needs of black women. According to the New York Times, around 1906, Walker began developing her own products to do just that, including hair straighteners, growth elixrs, and shampoos.

Walker overcame insurmountable odds—she was born to two former enslaved people, married at 14, and widowed by 20—to become the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. Prior to her success, she spent years washing clothes for $1.50 a day. “As I bent over the washboard and looked at my arms buried in soapsuds, I said to myself: ‘What are you going to do when you grow old and your back gets stiff? Who is going to take care of your little girl?’” she said in an interview with The New York Times in 1917.

Before her death in 1919, she built a beauty empire and donated to organizations including the N.A.A.C.P., the Tuskegee Institute, churches and Y.M.C.A.s, per the Times. Walker also devoted her influence to social activism surrounding inequality and violence towards African Americans.

Photo credit: Amanda Matlovich/Netflix

An all-star team is involved in the series.

In August, Deadline announced a standout cast for the project. Blair Underwood (When They See Us) will play Walker's husband, Charles James Walker; Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip) will play her daughter Lelia; Carmen Ejogo (Selma) is Walker’s business rival, Addie Munroe; Garrett Morris (SNL) is Walker’s father-in-law, Cleophus; Kevin Carroll (The Leftovers) will play her longtime lawyer, Freeman Ransom; and Bill Bellamy (Insecure) will play Ransom’s cousin Sweetness.

SpringHill Entertainment and Wonder Street will produce the series in association with Warner Bros. Television. Spencer is listed as a producer alongside LeBron James, Janine Sherman Barrois, Elle Johnson, Maverick Carter, Mark Holder, Christine Holder, Kasi Lemmons, and Jamal Henderson. Lemmons (Harriet) and DeMane Davis (How to Get Away With Murder) will direct the series. Johnson (Bosch) and Sherman Barrois (Claws) serve as co-showrunners with Nicole Jefferson Asher (Love Beats Rhymes) as writer and co-executive producer.

Photo credit: Amanda Matlovich/Netflix

LeBron James supported Octavia Spencer's pay negotiations.

During a Sundance Film Festival panel titled "Women Breaking Barriers," Spencer spoke about the fight for equal pay as a woman in Hollywood. "I have to say, when I was negotiating my deal for Madam C.J., LeBron James had to intervene," Spencer said, via IndieWire. "So we need all our male counterparts to be in the fight with us."

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