This Black History Month took us deeper into the worlds of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X with the Nat Geo series Genius: MLK/X. But no retelling of the iconic Civil Rights leaders’ lives would be complete without sharing the stories of their wives, Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King.

United by tragedy, the assassinations of their husbands in the 1960s brought them together, and they were bound by their similar reasons for loving these men. Genius actresses Jayme Lawson and Weruche Opia gained insight into the women’s connection to their husbands and the friendship they formed with each other while starring in the project.

“Both of these women had their grounding in their faiths. They relied on that to help them to choose to stick by their men, to want still to fight and to hold space for their partners,” says Lawson who plays Shabazz in the series.

Opia, who plays Scott King, adds, “Wanting to be part of the movement, I don't think was secondary to the men's desire. [Correta and Betty] were equally after the same things, and those partnerships fueled each other to keep pushing. I don't think these great men could have been who they were without the women beside them.”

The actresses also had the opportunity to discover more about the women themselves, like Scott King’s studies in Boston as an opera singer. “She was a soprano, and it was such a big part of her life,” Opia shares.

Lawson was intrigued by the fact that Shabazz left Malcolm X several times. “After every child that she had, Betty ran away with the children…It evokes a lot of questions: what does she feel overwhelmed by,” the actress theorizes. 

It’s not the most flattering trait of Shabazz’s life, but it helped give Lawson insight into the woman she was portraying. “We know her to be this woman of great stature and quiet power, but seeing those cracks and frailties was so crucial to understanding how Betty earned the power and strength that she does later on in life.”

See more about these incredible women in Genuis: MLK/X, now playing on Hulu.