Will Octavia Spencer Get “The Help” She Needs For Oscar?
I remember meeting actress Octavia Spencer last August in Las Vegas when “The Help” first opened in theatres and award season talk was a mere buzzing in the background. Now six months later the Montgomery, Alabama native has won numerous accolades for her portrayal of Minnie including a Golden Globe Award, A BAFTA, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role and she will find out on Sunday if she’ll be taking home an Oscar for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
During the summer Spencer was content just to enjoy the moment commenting that, “I feel like Cinderella at the ball. If my coach should turn into a pumpkin, I did get to wear those slippers for a minute, so I’m really happy for this moment.” Well, Octavia is still at the ball and tomorrow night her coach will be pulling up at the Kodak Theatre for what is sure to be one of the biggest nights of her career and a milestone in her journey with “The Help”. Based on Kathryn Stockett’s best selling book, Spencer was a natural choice for the part of Minnie. In fact she has known the film’s producer, director and writer Tate Taylor and producer Brunson Greene for over 17 years as is also well acquainted with Stockett.
During our interview Spencer shared that in many ways she was the role model for the character adding her own details to the outline that Kathryn wrote and Tate later adapted. “She is the best character I’ve ever had the opportunity to play cause she’s so complex, but was a great group of people too because I think we all played off each other well,” Octavia said adding that she met Kathryn when she was developing the characters. The author had chosen to use the voice of her own childhood caregiver to inspire the role of Aibileen and then wanted to create a deliberate contrast to her with Minnie. Rather than make her a regal, poised and stoic sage she gave Minnie the personality of a short, feisty spitfire. “I’ll take the short, stocky for sure cause obviously I’m a little voluptuous,” Octavia said with a smile. She also admitted that one trait she doesn’t share with Minnie is her character’s skills in the kitchen. “She didn’t get that from me”, the actress conceded.
During filming all the actors became very close and ever since Octavia and Viola Davis seldom go more than a couple of days without talking or communicating by text or email. “There was so much love on the set and it was so supportive. Personally, I was grumpier than I usually am being in Minnie’s mindset. I guess I’m a method actor. That was challenging, but we had so much camaraderie on the set. Some of the aspects of the film that fascinated Spencer were the various ways in which the different women in the film learned to survive. She spoke about how they were forced to wear masks of a sort and be silent or silence themselves and that with Minnie “she wears I’m brave. I speak for myself. She’s very gruff. She wears that mask, but you can tell by the bruises that she’s a survivor.” Spencer believes that in contrast Aibileen’s bruises are internal and that Skeeter survived in a strange way because she only received love and nurturing from her caregivers. “There are so many survivors in this story that I think it’s a good piece of material for young women to see, for people to see who feel like outsiders. Whether gay, straight, whatever hurdle you are personally struggling through or with, I think this movie speaks to that. It’s about courage and summoning that internal voice.”
Octavia feels that “The Help” offers a perfect balance of pathos and humor, which is one of its strongest features. “I think it is perfectly balanced with how we deal with things in life. There are the ugly parts of life and then the beautiful parts. We kind of give you all of that within that two hour period I think.”
Now we’ll see if Oscar gives Octavia a gold statuette to take home for being part of this beautiful film. Aside from meeting this multi-talented lady and discovering what a down to earth and sensitive woman she is, I have another reason for cheering her on. As many of you may know, I’m not longer the marketing consultant for “More to Live For”, but have become the VP of Marketing and Promotions for Jeff Grinstein Entertainment’s “Curvy Fashion Show” (www.curvyfashionshow.com), which will be coming to New York City in September, 2012 during Fashion Week. Watching Ms. Spencer walk the Red Carpet a number of times during this awards season with beautiful gowns draping her voluptuous figure has been very encouraging for those of us in the curvy community so I can’t wait to see who she’ll be wearing on Sunday!