Q&A

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by AL­LEY PASCOE

Os­car-nom­i­nee Oc­tavia Spencer.

There has been a lot of dis­cus­sion in Aus­tralia about “black­face”. There was even an ar­ti­cle in The New York Times about how it’s still not ta­boo in this coun­try. Where do you stand on the is­sue? It’s all about the spirit of why some­thing is be­ing done. Any type of fin­ger-point­ing makes it hard for the of­fender to see how he or she is of­fend­ing. I think it’s im­por­tant how you ap­proach cor­rect­ing [those] sit­u­a­tions. If it’s al­ways met with out­rage and not com­pas­sion, you’re just [be­ing] ac­cusatory. You have just been nom­i­nated for an Os­car – last year’s Academy Awards were crit­i­cised for a lack of di­ver­sity. Oth­ers ar­gued against nom­i­nat­ing peo­ple for the sake of to­kenism. What’s your view? I think the de­bate is mis­placed. The Os­cars are at the end of the cre­ative process. It’s how films are sold, bought and green­lit that should be un­der that mi­cro­scope. They have to green­light more films with di­verse casts, and di­ver­sity isn’t just black; it’s African-amer­i­can, Latin Amer­i­can, Asian, trans­gen­der, and peo­ple with spe­cial needs. If you look at a film and it doesn’t re­flect what you see in your ev­ery­day life, some­thing’s wrong. And if what you see in your ev­ery­day life is ho­mo­ge­neous, then some­thing’s wrong. You fa­mously wrapped up your own ac­cep­tance speech early when you won best sup­port­ing ac­tress in 2012 for The Help. What do you re­mem­ber about that? The only thing I re­mem­ber is it felt in­ter­minable. From the time they ripped open that en­ve­lope, it felt like it took for­ever. I re­mem­ber not be­ing able to move when I heard my name. Ev­ery­thing else is a blur. Your new film, Hid­den Fig­ures, is based on the true story of three African-amer­i­can women who worked at NASA. Did you have to brush up on your math skills? I’m so grate­ful that I didn’t; I hated cal­cu­lus. But when you’re get­ting inside the spirit of an­other per­son, you have to try to think like them. [My char­ac­ter] was taught at a very young age how to dis­as­sem­ble and re­assem­ble a car. She could fix any­thing. [Dur­ing film­ing] it was so hot, they brought me this box fan that had to be assem­bled. Nor­mally I would just send it off to the pro­duc­tion of­fice to put to­gether, but I tried to do it my­self, with only a lit­tle but­ter knife. It started fail­ing in the first week – it was ter­ri­ble. But I felt proud that I actually did that. What are you go­ing to do dif­fer­ently when you win the Os­car for Hid­den Fig­ures? From your mouth to God’s ears! Right now, we’re just re­ally want­ing it to be a suc­cess­ful movie, more so for the women, for the girls who are in­clined to be in the STEM [science, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math] pro­grams. Now you’re a mas­sive Hol­ly­wood star, is it eas­ier or harder to date? [Laughs] Well, I am not a mas­sive Hol­ly­wood star – thank God – be­cause it would be harder to breathe, let alone date. I think the more vis­i­ble you are, the harder it is to al­low your­self in­ti­macy un­til you re­ally get to know some­one. But you know, you gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find that prince, and these days I’m too old for a prince… I need a king! Hid­den Fig­ures is in cine­mas on Fe­bru­ary 16.

``they have to green­light films with more di­ver­sity´´

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