Toronto actor Zahra Bentham will be starring alongside Tiffany Haddish and Octavia Spencer in highly anticipated new series Madam CJ. Walker, coming to Netflix next month. This is big.
The show tells the true story of African American entrepreneur Sarah Breedlove (AKA Madam C.J. Walker) who built a haircare empire that made her the first female self-made millionaire. Zahra will be playing the role of Nettie Ransom, who is pivotal in helping Breedlove realize her potential.
A killer cast, and a remarkable true story, Madam CJ. Walker is already receiving a ton of buzz. It’s exciting to see a local rising star on this exceptional team, and Zahra has earned the spot. Attending Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, Zahra began studying drama at a young age. Odd Squad, Save Me, Private Eyes, White Lie: her credits add up, but the big breakout role was when she landed the part of Jabrielle Crain in feature film Guidance, a comedy that captured audiences at TIFF in 2016.
Although only two months in, this year has already been a major one for Zahra: in January, audiences everywhere were introduced to her as Alana, a young girl with a hard past— determined to rise above her situation, in Netflix figure-skating drama Spinning Out, and press has already begun spilling out for Madam CJ Walker, which will premiere on March 20th.
Beyond her work on screen for television and film, Zahra has also collaborated with renowned producer Jordan Evans to create this compelling Black Lives Matter video
. We can’t wait to see how her career blows up once Madam CJ. Walker
hits the masses on Netflix.
What drew you to the role of Nettie Ransom?
Nettie is a highly educated, very sweet, intelligent, proper wife of ‘Ransom’ played by Kevin Carrol. She is a member of the Indiana Coloured Woman’s Club where she helps Sarah Breedlove, played by Octavia Spencer, start her business. Nettie really helps show the rest of the women in the club how valuable Sarah Breedlove is. A lot her community didn’t believe in her and it was very difficult for her to even get herself on her two feet with her business.
I found a lot of similarities in Nettie with myself, especially in her ability to be selfless in helping someone she believes in despite everyone disagreeing. It takes a lot for someone to go against the grain! The one thing that most surprised me is how much she actually went through before her company took off. I know you read stories about these amazing people who we idolize or model after and think how they got to their success was amazing—but to really go into the story and act it out was moving.
Who/what is commanding a lot of attention in your life lately?
Balance. Knowing when to set aside time for myself and not always kill myself with work has been challenging—I’m workin’ on it.
What have you learned about yourself in the past year?
Whatever I put my mind to I can accomplish. I gotta be my best cheerleader and friend.
What is a fun little-known fact about you?
My middle name means “..of many talents”.
What book/film/show have you connected with recently, and what about it appeals to you?
Book: Return To Love By Marianne Williamson. It’s raw, real and honest.
Film: Queen and Slim. The love story was touching.
Show: Mr. Robot. It makes you think—I loved it!
What’s the worst piece of career/life advice you’ve been given?
Wait for people to get you work (as in your agent or manager). Get up and create your own work. Create a life for yourself.
What is your motto at the moment?
No one cares. Get it done.
What artist/album are you listening to constantly these days?
I’ve recently been listening to James Blake again. Man he’s a legend.
What are the qualities you like least and most like about yourself?
Least: Give too many people chances
Most: The biggest, loving heart.
Rewind five years. What advice would you give yourself?
Believe in yourself, Zahra.
Who/what has had the biggest influence on your work?
Ou, good question. I’ve pulled from many different things but my art teachers in high school. I still hear them in my head. Thank you Anne Marriam and Honey Frid.
What childhood memory makes you laugh out loud?
I don’t remember the age but my eldest sister Jamila and I used to come home after school and watch BET countdown and sing to every song. Ah man, good memories.
What tip, technique or hack has made your life better in the past year?
Trust in your knowing.
What issue do you wish people took more seriously?
How important mental health is. We are all suffering from it. Go and get the help you need. There’s no need to be ashamed.
What outfit makes you feel the most you?
Currently: sweat pants, a pair of Jordan 1’s a big T shirt and probably a beanie hat. I’m back on my tomboy vibe.
Tell us about your collaboration with Jordan Evans for the BLM video. How did that come about, and what do you hope audiences take away from this project?
If some of you don’t know, Jordan is superhuman. He’s a diamond-selling Canadian record producer, songwriter and talent manager from Toronto. He’s worked with major recording artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, Drake, John Legend, Ellie Goulding, and Toronto’s very own Daniel Caesar. He also manages recording artists Charlotte Day Wilson, Daniel Caesar, and Sean Leon. Jordan and I go way back. Back to diaper days – no lie. My sister Aisha grew up with Jordan’s oldest sister Reisa from JK/SK and so we all grew up together, considering each other family. Back in 2016 when a lot of the ”documented” gun violence was happening, along with the #BlackLivesMatter movement I teamed up with award-winning director Karena Evans (who also happens to be Jordan’s youngest sister) to use my voice as a platform for awareness and change. Jordan gracefully blessed us with his abilities in producing the full piece. This was my first time working with Jordan on this level and hopefully not the last.
Goals for 2020?
Travel to Thailand and eat as much food as possible.
Book a leading role in a series or feature film
Move to Los Angeles, officially.