Once a year it seems a performance comes across as more than the sum of good writing, strong direction and lucky timing. The performance appears to be rooted in the reality of the actor’s history; in essence they have lived much of what they are being asked to portray. Such is Octavia Spencer‘s portrait of Minny Jackson in The Help. She plays a maid who suffers through emotional and physical beatings like a native but not a naive veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement — Spencer grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and graduated with a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn. Perhaps it’s the combination of her education, Southern comfort and humor that have helped Spencer emerge as a Supporting Actress frontrunner for the Oscars even with such equally impressive co-stars as Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney and Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek. She spoke with AwardsLine contributor Craig Modderno about her experience with The Help, which is up for four Oscars including Best Picture.
AWARDSLINE: Many actors say they’re perfect for the role especially when they’re auditioning. Was your part in The Help a natural fit for you?
SPENCER: I don’t know. Basically it was physically, because I suspect Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, who I knew while she was writing the book, might have modeled the character after me. But there are a lot of other short and round black women in the South who also seem to not hesitate in speaking their minds. Even though I was friends with the author and other influential members of the production team, I still had to audition for the role. When I did, in the back of my mind, I thought I was hearing someone ask if Jennifer Hudson was available yet! (more…)