HOLR chats with Canadian actress Karen Glave to see how she’s coping in quarantine, and to gain insight into her new Netflix mini-series “Self-Made”, Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J Walker”
Can you tell us about your Character, Peggie?
Peggie Prosser is the sister of C.J Walker, Charles J. Walker, played by Blaire Underwood, sister in law to Sarah, played by Octavia. She’s there as family emotional support and a true believer in what Madame C.J. was trying to achieve.
What initially drew you to this role?
Well number 1, working with Octavia for sure, I’ve always admired her work, and I have been in my head thinking, “ I want to work on a story about black people, and I feel like then it just sort of manifested for me. The story, which I knew growing up, most of us heard about Madame C.J. Walker growing up. A lot of white people didn’t even know about her, and the fact that she’s the first female self-made millionaire, is huge! Especially at that time which is like the early 1900s, that’s saying a lot especially about an African American woman. It’s inspiring, and the fact that it’s a production that is pretty much female-run, not only in front of the camera but behind, it is incredible just looking around thinking ‘this is amazing’.
She’s very inspiring, what I like hearing too is not only people from my background, my culture being inspired by her, but other people too. This is a far-reaching story; it’s not just for the black community. Everybody can be inspired by this, and that’s the feed that I’ve been getting, which I appreciate.
What message are you hoping fans get from your new show Self -Made?
The ultimate goal is to empower black women, but all women too and that you can make things happen! And for young black women, younger generations, some who might not have known about her. Use this time right now that we have in this self-contemplation, isolation, what can I maybe create, what do I have on the back burner that I wanted to create to put forth. Use this time to brainstorm and empower young black women to follow their dreams. The idea if things fail you have to give it up, but she went through so many hardships but she got right back up and became a huge success.
Still, people don’t know about the story, that’s the thing so that’s why I want to see more and more stories coming, being filmed. So many other amazing creators and important black people we haven’t heard about them.
This again was majority female, from the directors, executive producers, and the writers; it’s a very female-driven heavy production, which is amazing.
What first inspired you to become an actress?
I think it’s something I knew when I was 7 years old. I remember telling my parents, we were at the kitchen table, I think my dad was talking about homework and mom was cooking on the stove and I remember them saying “what do you want to do when you grow up” and I just knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to be an actor. Back then I didn’t say actor we said “ I wanted to be a movie star!” and my dad was just like “oh haha” and my mom was like “oh! Don’t be silly” because back then they couldn’t imagine that and being again, a black family, they couldn’t see that as something as security for me. Suddenly I had a drive in me that never stopped me, and that’s another thing why I relate to this. You can have your ups, your downs, your knocks, and not having anyone support you, or that you’re afraid to, if you just stick to your gut and believe in yourself, you can accomplish things.
What are some of the challenges you’re faced with within this career path?
Honestly, being a black actress, it’s was always going to be tougher and I knew that. I see my Caucasian actors friends, male or female, more auditions cast for them or they’re booking more. So I mean things have changed, I graduated from theatre school in ’94, and things are different even now, but the challenge is there have not been enough of the roles out there, especially for black females, but also note that my black male friends will audition more because there’s more work for them then there is still left.
So there is work for us in stories that reflect us, and that value us rather than playing the ‘friend’ or ‘best friend’ or the ‘doctor with no name’, because (two words re-heard) characters that reflect what we can do.
What changes do you think still need to happen in the industry?
Our stories need to be told, and not just our stories but the idea that unless it’s a black African American character that you can’t hire us, it doesn’t have to be outlined that the character has to be black, it can be any character in the story. The writers, directors and producers and thought processes have to be there more to realize we can consider other roles, but also our stories have to be told. They knew before that people wouldn’t want to watch stories of us, has been proven wrong. First was Black Panther, and now it’s the top streaming on Netflix ‘Self-Made’, so people do want to view our story.
From the first table read and everything, you could get the energy, the vibe that we’re doing something special with a story that we’ve been told. And to look around and seeing Blaire Underwood as my brother and Garrett Morris playing my father, I was like “yeah this is great”.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for your young actors starting?
I’m a firm believer in training, working on the skill. I do believe also there is the idea of natural talent for sure, because also I come from the school where you get trained in a certain way, whether or not you’ve been to actual college, a private studio, private coaching, because that’s important, have that foundation, they can’t take that away from you. And also just keep going. This is a professional you hear ‘no’ more than you hear ‘yes’, the amount of times you get ‘no’ at an audition as opposed to ‘yes’ is going to be higher. And you have to have a strong belief and faith in the work that you do if you have that strong foundation they can’t take that away from you. You have to have that perseverance that drives. That’s exactly what with Madame C.J. Walker if she quit with all the ‘no’s’ she got, we wouldn’t have these stories to talk about, right? Keep believing in yourself, work hard, have that foundation, and keep going. Have that drive, that ambition, and they can’t take that away from you.
With everyone currently urged to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic, what has been your favorite thing to do in quarantine?
I have been watching more Netflix and Amazon. Skyping or ‘Whatsapping’ with your family is good too. I have been catching up with a little more watching of shows, that’s been my goal. Also, I think I’m going to make a goal for myself that I can achieve with how to create some sort of indoor work out system. I don’t get to go to the gym and that’s kind of hard for me, so I have to challenge myself and maybe by the time this isolation thing is over be able to do 30 authentic push-ups beautifully, I don’t’ know. I’m the kind of person who took regular time to myself, that’s just who I am anyway, so right now it’s not bothering me as much as other people. I love hanging with my friends and family but I need time to be content, you know when you’re around a bunch of people a lot, especially on set, I always like the times I have to myself anyways. So, more watching Netflix, Amazon, there are some books I want to get to, want to get my mind to go down and get my meditation going.
Look at your bookshelf; how many books have you bought that you haven’t had time for. If you have access to your own outdoors, the weather getting better you can stay on the balcony and read a book, or talk to each other.
It’s so bizarre to me when I see the young ones so on their phone, a game, a laptop or something. My sister lives in Amsterdam, I talk to her regularly over WhatsApp, a bunch of talks you know. We have the social distancing we’re doing but we can still skype, pick up a phone, talk and communicate.
I think I want a list of things I want to achieve by the time social distancing is over; how many books I would have read, what business plan can I accomplish, how can I make the most of my living room and make it into my home gym, or something like that.
What other projects do you have coming out over the next year?
Yes, I’ll be in the next season of American Gods, I play Aye, an Orisha, and that’s pretty much all I can say. Fall time is the schedule for release right now.
What’s your mantra?
My mantra is to trust my path, have faith. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, things happen because you’re on the right path, just trust the path. Some people, their things happen right out of theatre school or with their first gig, and some of us have a long journey along the journey. My path is my path, I trust my path.