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Octavia Spencer aims to bring hope in times of darkness: ‘It’s the task I’m charged with’

Octavia Spencer, the Oscar-winning star of films such as Snowpiercer and Hidden Figures, says she feels it is her purpose to bring light and hope through her work.

As one of the most versatile actors currently working in Hollywood, Spencer said her aim is to make people reflect back on their lives.

“It is the task that I am charged with. The fact that I’ve found success in this business and I’m getting to do what I love to do, I hope that I bring entertainment. I hope that I bring or allow people respites from whatever they’re experiencing in their lives,” the actor told PTI in a Zoom interview from Los Angeles.

“Sometimes with art, we can influence lives and I hope that some of the characters that I get to play will cause us to think about how we navigate out in the real world. How we go through life and how we treat people, what their experience may or may not be,” she added.

Spencer said the name of her production banner Orit Entertainment means light and this is what she wants to spread in the world.

“My production company’s name means light and that’s what we want to bring in the world, even though a lot of the things going on have a lot of darkness. But what we hope that you find is that light in the darkness because right now the world is a dark place.

“So in order to shine that, we also have to try to bring true accounts of what we’re seeing in the world so that you, the viewer, can say, ‘wow, this was crazy’ or ‘I really liked that’,” she added.

The 51-year-old actor has proved her mettle with critically-acclaimed performances in movies such as The Help, for which she won an Oscar for best supporting actress in 2012, as well as Fruitvale Station, Snowpiercer and Gifted.

Spencer currently stars in Amazon movie Encounter, directed by Michael Pearce and co-starring Oscar nominee Riz Ahmed.

The film is about Malik Khan (Ahmed), a decorated Marine, who goes on a rescue mission to save his two young sons from a mysterious threat.

Spencer features in the movie as Hattie, a parole officer trying to help Ahmed’s character.

The actor said she found the project to be quite interesting as it mirrors the reality of the pandemic-hit world in a fictional format.

“I love psychological thrillers, mysteries and sci-fi. This movie had all of those elements. The fact that we were dealing with the pandemic and germs and watching Riz’s character go through his perception of the alien invasion and what that meant for him, I totally understood.

“And I think it’s important for people to see that sometimes the things that we experience and the way we experience are not necessarily similar to what someone sitting right next to you is experiencing. It might not be how they perceive things and their reality.”

Asked about her approach to her characters and how she is able to showcase their struggles and complexities, Spencer said research is a key aspect of preparation.

“I remember when I was working as a waitress in a restaurant, you had to sometimes go back and help cook fries or something. So they train you and you have to learn to do everything that job requires.

“So every time I play a character, if it’s a waitress, I do have experience there, but if it’s something that I have no experience in, I first have to do the research to figure out how they do their jobs and what makes them tick.”

The other part of preparing for a role is to give memories to the character, so that it does not appear superficial, the actor added.

“I make sure that I create memories for that character, because otherwise you can tell in a performance if a person is playing very surface because they have no memory. It’s like being a person with amnesia.

“If you sit back now and think about the things that you did yesterday, you have memories. I try to create very key memories for my character. They’re my secrets, but we all have secrets in life and those are the things that influence your decisions in life. So I just give my characters all of that background so that when I play them, we give them a semblance of being real people.”

Encounter, which also features Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada, will start streaming on Prime Video from Friday.

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