Despite being married for 19 years, Bill Bellamy has made a career out of embodying the fine, tall, dark-skinned, player-type in just about every movie we love.
Remember when he played the attractive-yet-scheming friend in Love Jones? Or when he got caught dating just about everyone in LA in How To Be A Player?
Bellamy, who’s now starring in Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, told ESSENCE he was very intentional in making sure he took roles that represented Black men, especially ones of the darker variety, in a way to be admired. If anyone does, the actor understands that “if you looked a certain way, life was a little easier for you.”
“Obviously you are aware of the color issue, but for me, I never let it bother me. I’m like, ‘I’m representing every Nubian brother known to man.’ I’ve always had that intention to represent that Black men can be fly, can be intelligent, can be able to do anything,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be sort of an example of the possibilities.”
In fact, colorism, or as he calls it “that whole light skin, brown skin thing,” is a theme explored in his Netflix film as Madam C.J. Walker, played by Octavia Spencer, doesn’t get a job selling Addie Monroe’s (Carmen Ejogo) hair products because she was simply too dark. It pushed her to launch her own brand of hair care products, eventually making her the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S.
“Addie made sure she let her know,” Bellamy quipped. “She was the first documented hater.”
Bellamy said representing onscreen is his “Madam C.J. Walker contribution, outside of my talent. It’s how I carry myself, how I dress or whatever. I’ve always wanted to be an example of what we are.”
The actor—whose family is from the South, but grew up in Newark, New Jersey—said he was gifted that sense of pride from his grandfather.
“My grandfather was very dignified, hardworking guy. He spent a lot of time with me when I was a kid and taught me all these things and he was just, to me, he was so fly, so cool,” Bellamy added. “I was like, ‘I got to be like my grandfather.'”
When women watch Self Made, the actor hopes that although they may be in self-isolation mode that they’re still motivated to make their own mark on the world.
“After you watch Self Made, if there’s any woman talking about she can’t be something, she’s just lazy. Madam C.J. Walker had no Wi-Fi, she had no Netflix, she just was on the dirt road out there getting it,” he added. “That’s what blows my mind every time I think about how women couldn’t even vote when she did this shit.”
Self Made, also starring Tiffany Haddish and Blair Underwood, is streaming on Netflix now.