Mary J. Blige said co-starring in Lifetime’s “Betty & Coretta,” gave her the opportunity to learn more about the wives behind the men who helped shape this nation.
The TV movie, premiering Saturday at 8 p.m. EST, focuses on the friendship that blossomed between Coretta Scott King, played by Angela Bassett, and Betty Shabazz, portrayed by Mary, in the aftermath of their husbands’ assassinations.
“I wasn’t familiar with Betty Shabazz,” admitted Mary who speculated about why the ladies’ contributions aren’t adequately recorded in history books.
“They didn’t get [recognition] because, just like a lot of women who are involved with powerful men, they never get a chance to speak because the men are so powerful. They never get a chance to speak from their perspectives,” said Mary.
“They stand behind powerful men, and if they don’t step out, like a Hilary Clinton, they never get heard,” she said pointing out that Betty and Coretta are now being heard.
“Now, they’ll get the respect that they deserve,” she said. “They’re getting it now.”
While Mary has starred in a number of films, “Betty & Coretta” marks the first time that the R&B singer has stepped into the role of a historical figure.
For Mary, that carried more responsibility than simply portraying a fictional character.
“It was different because I was trying to make sure that I didn’t do anything that would disrespect the characters,” said Mary. “Even while I’m trying to add in my whole life to draw inspiration from, I still had to nail everything that this woman was, so her family can be happy and believe it and not be upset when they saw it.”
See photos of Angela, Mary, Malik Yoba, Ruby Dee and more below.
—Tracy L. Scott