Octavia Spencer is Back in the Oscar Hunt
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
Octavia Spencer almost passed on one of the most acclaimed movies of the year so far – “Fruitvale Station.”
The film tells the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man fatally shot by a white police officer in an Oakland, Calif., train station early on New Year’s Day, 2009. The officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months in prison.
Video of the shooting circulated widely on social networks, and a snippet of it shows in “Fruitvale’s” opening minutes. It’s that footage that made Spencer initially decline the pivotal role as Grant’s mother.
“In seeing the video, I said the only thing that I could offer this role is anger. And I think this situation requires much more than that because it already has a potential to be explosive,” said Spencer.
But she read the script – which chronicles Grant’s last day – and was moved.
“It restored Oscar’s humanity in a way that the trial, and all of the recriminations around it, had basically taken from him,” Spencer said in an interview at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “So I wanted to be a part of it for my nephews … all the young men of color whose lives sometimes feel more expendable in a way. … They’re so many reasons.”
“Fruitvale” is also generating early Oscar buzz.
It was Spencer’s first high-profile role since her Academy Award-winning turn as a feisty maid in the racial dramedy “The Help.”
“Fruitvale Station,” which stars Michael B. Jordan as Grant and was helmed by first-time director Ryan Coogler, won the Grand Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as “Prize of the Future” at Cannes.