Octavia Spencer on Period Pieces: “I don’t come out of the time period; I stay in it”

Actress Octavia Spencer

“I listen to music of the time and I only deal with family and friends that are on the film” – Octavia Spencer on Filming Period Pieces

One of the most difficult things about a period piece is ensuring that you maintain accuracy with the time period — there are experts in audiences all over ready to pounce on anything that doesn’t appear to be authentic. For actress Octavia Spencer, it’s a matter of focus and concentration. She should know — she won an Oscar for her role in The Help, which was set in the 1960s. She revisited the 1960s again for Hidden Figures, in which she portrays a NASA pioneer who helped with the space program.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Spencer revealed her preparation for playing an African American woman in the Civil Rights Era. She explains, “It’s just difficult to shoot period movies when you’re a contemporary woman. History hasn’t been kind to black women, and at that time, we were just fighting to get our rights as citizens…. Playing in the ’60s, as a woman of modern times, is very difficult, at least for me. I always watch [civil rights documentary] Eyes on the Prize from beginning to end to understand the mental and physical moment in history. And so there won’t be any anachronisms, I don’t come out of the time period; I stay in it. I listen to music of the time and I only deal with family and friends that are on the film; I don’t go to the movies, and I don’t do anything that’s contemporary. I tend to isolate. I only come out of it when it’s time for me to wrap. It’s just a hard place to be, emotionally.”

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