The 84th annual Academy Awards took place on February 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Here is what this Academy Award winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.
Best Supporting Actress
Obviously, you must be so thrilled with this win. There were deleted scenes from “The Help,” and there was one scene where your Minny Jackson character was at the bus stop and she was obviously beat up. Are you disappointed that perhaps the film didn’t include that more tragic ending for your character?
Well, I think that’s all in your perception. No, I’m not disappointed that that scene was deleted. I think that we wanted to make the movie that Kathryn Stockett had envisioned when she wrote the book. I don’t think there’s anything light hearted about the civil rights movement, but somehow it makes it palatable when you see that type of strife. So if you can have a laugh every other 10 minutes while you watch the struggle then I have no problem with it. But no, I’m not disappointed with any aspect of the film.
What are your plans now?
Tonight, I am going to find my cast mates … I’m actually going to have a quarter of a glass of champagne and hang out. And I think we all start projects within the next couple of days. But I’m just going to live in this moment because it’s never happened — and Lord knows, it may never happen again.
In your acceptance speech, you thanked your cast mates in “The Help” for how they helped you to transform into your character. Can you explain how they helped you to do that?
It’s very rare that you have the type of ensemble that we had. You know, you don’t get all the Academy Award nominee/winners [such as] Cecily Tyson, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Viola Davis coming together to do a project. And then you have the collaboration of Academy Award nominees behind the scenes.
We just left our egos at the door and worked together as one beautiful unit from Emma [Stone], Viola, Bryce [Dallas Howard], Allison Janney. I mean, it was an award-winning cast. So to be a part of that and to just sort of dissolve into the world that we were representing is something that we’re supposed to do as actors but it was rare that we did it without judgment with each other.
You originally spoke about overcoming fear in playing your role in “The Help.” What would you say to a young man or woman about to start in the Army and overcoming their fears?
I haven’t really overcome mine. I’m scared to death right now. You know, I don’t take what men and women in uniform do lightly. You guys provide us with the freedoms and the protection that we as citizens sometimes take for granted, so I don’t know that I’m the person that can say because I I’ve not served in that capacity. What I will say is I think I guess I’m reminded of Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” That’s what you guys do for us every day.
Would you sum up this awards season and tell us about the love affair you had with “The Help”?
The word I want to use I can’t, it’s a word in the well, I want to say fan-effing-tastic. But we’ll just leave the effing out. Fantastic. It is it is humbling. It is the love affair I’ve had with ‘The Help” I am I’m a benefactor of all of the riches that the real life Minnys, Aibileens, Constantines, Skeeters, Celias, that they basically repeated. And so I’m very humble because I get to stand here and accept this award, and I haven’t really done anything. So I don’t know. That’s a tough question to answer. Sorry.
The L.A. Times recently put an article out that showed that after about six months of research that the Academy was mostly white men. Something like 94 percent white, 77 percent male, and mostly over the age of median age of 62. I was wondering what your thoughts were about that?
I don’t really have any thoughts about it. It’s not something that I’ve thought about. I wish I could be more eloquent, elegant in answering that question. But it’s just I don’t know.
What your thoughts if there’s a way for the Academy to be more proactively work toward …
I can’t tell the Academy what to do, honey. They just gave me an Oscar. I just hope they continue to do what they do. I just am not the person to ask that question. I really don’t know. I have no wisdom there. I’m sorry.
I didn’t mean to cut you off … I just knew where we were going, and I didn’t want to get on that bus. No pun intended.
You said in your speech that Steven Spielberg changed your life. Can you elaborate?
Steven Spielberg is a luminary. And as far as I can remember in filmmaking, he, in every decade of my life, has been creating brilliance and he has this little studio called DreamWorks that could have put any zaftig actress with acting chops in my role, but he allowed my dear friend [“The Help” director/screenwriter/executive producer] Tate Taylor to cast me — pretty much unknown to most of you — in that role when there were so many others that could have been could have been chosen.
And that’s the sign of a true filmmaker to allow a true filmmaker to do what he does. So he and [DreamWorks Studios co-chairman/CEO] Stacey Snider changed my professional life, and getting the opportunity to play this role changed life personally as well.
Tate Taylor was your date for the Oscars, right?
Well, absolutely. But now I have a different date.
When you were walking up those stairs to accept your Academy Award, and by the time you got up there, a heartfelt standing ovation was given to you. What were you feeling at that moment and what would you say to any young girl who would aspire to be in your shoes tonight?
Get a great designer because you don’t know if you’re going to be on TV or not. And really and truly, I was just trying not to fall down because I had an incident where I fell at an awards show. This is one of those evenings in my life that I’ll never forget.
I hope it’s the hallmark of more for young aspiring actresses of color — and by “color,” I don’t mean just African-American. I mean Indian, Native-American, Latin-American, Asian-American. I hope that in some way that I can be some sort of beacon of hope, especially because I am not the typical Hollywood beauty. You guys are supposed to go, “Oh, no, you are.” There’s crickets, guys, work with me here. Work with me.
No, I don’t know. I just think that you have to believe in yourself and you have to work very hard. You can’t ever think that you’re the best thing since sliced bread because I promise you, there are going to be Viola Davises and Jessica Chastains and Emma Stones who are the best thing since sliced bread. So take it seriously, but don’t take it too seriously.
The outpouring of emotion tonight for you and for “The Help” has been overwhelming, especially considering that you’re a relative newcomer.
Well, it depends on who you ask. Fifteen years [as an actress], I’m a newcomer. OK, I’ll take it.
Can you explain why you think that room responded the way that they did tonight to your name being called?
You know what, it would be presumptuous. I really don’t know. Maybe it was that they responded to the message of “The Help.” I honestly don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that. I I don’t know. I’m sorry.
In your wildest dreams, what is the one role that you want to play?
I don’t have one role that I want to play. I guess … I want to be a producer. I want to be an activist. I want to be proactive in bringing about work for men, women, boys, girls, everybody who is good at what they do and deserve a shot at it.
So I think my role, I want to have a presence both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. So I can’t say on one particular thing, so I’ll just name them all. I’ll be the jack of all trades and hopefully decent at one of them.
For more info:
“The Help” website
Academy Awards website
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