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Blair Underwood talks working with Octavia Spencer and being intentional about his acting career


ABC/Paula LoboBlair Underwood stars opposite Octavia Spencer in the four-episode series Netflix’s Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.  He told BET he got the call to star in the series as he was wrapping a Broadway run in A Soldier’s Play, and was attracted to the story of America’s first female self-made millionaire in part because it was a chance to work with star Octavia Spencer, whom he’s known for more than 20 years.

“She’s always funny!” Underwood told BET. “Well, imagine her, Tiffany HaddishGarrett Morris and Bill Bellamy. I couldn’t keep a straight face the whole time.”

Underwood plays Walker’s husband, Charles Joseph “CJ” Walker. He’s super supportive, helping his wife — who transformed black hair care in the 20th century — build her company right from their home kitchen until his ego and her company become too big to coexist together.

Since his debut in 1985’s Krush Groove, Underwood has been “intentional” about his career moves.

“I have to say it’s one of the reasons we’re sitting here talking 35 years later, that there is a sense of longevity because I’ve been intentional from day one,” he says, adding that it comes “from being in a military family,” referring to his dad, who was a retired Army colonel. 

“I only say that to say I grew up with a very strong sense that how you represent yourself carries a lot of weight,” Underwood goes on.  “So, I’ve never taken frivolous parts.  I mean, I do stuff for fun sometimes, but if it’s gonna downgrade the race, or myself, it’s not interesting to me.” 

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker is streaming now on Netflix.

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