Oscar winner and recent nominee for her work in Hidden Figures, Octavia Spencer gets godly for her latest role in, The Shack.
Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, The Shack stars Sam Worthington as Mack Phililips, a father of three who has lost faith when a family tragedy hits. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to go to an abandoned shack. There he encounters three mysterious figures including God who goes by the name of Papa.
Octavia Spencer plays Papa, but initially she had to think the role through as her perceptions of God were based on her Southern Baptist upbringing. Her conventional image of God was that of a man. Since she had no frame of reference of a black woman as God, she approached it in a different way. Director Stuart Hazeldine suggested she read a few books on grief and religious theory to help her form the character. After much thought, she decided to play Papa as a parent, a mother who failed Mack as a child. Her image is that of a kindly neighbour Mack knew as a child.
Not surprisingly, some Christian leaders were upset at Octavia Spencer’s Role as God in The Shack, but it didn't deter the Oscar winning actress in any way.
Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California and host of the documentary Hollywood's War on God, told the Christian News Network: "Young’s pretentious caricature of God as a heavy set, cushy, non-judgmental, African American woman called ‘Papa’ (who resembles the New Agey Oprah Winfrey far more than the one true God revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ—Hebrews 1:1-3), and his depiction of the Holy Spirit as a frail Asian woman with the Hindu name, Sarayu, lends itself to a dangerous and false image of God and idolatry."
Spencer, who I recently spoke with in Los Angeles told me, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Yes, we all have our own image and thoughts on what God is and looks like, and this is just one other interpretation."
Octavia Spencer was nineteen when the acting bug bit. She started out as an intern on the set of The Long Walk Home, which starred Whoopi Goldberg. She made her film debut in A Time To Kill directed by Joel Schumacher and the rest is history.
Her breakthrough came in 2011, when she starred as Minny Jackson in, The Help for which she won an Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG. BAFTA and Critic's Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress. She had a critically acclaimed performance in the drama Fruitvale Station (2013), for which she received the National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actress.
More recently, Spencer has received acclaim for her work in the films Smashed, Snowpiercer, The Divergent Series:Insurgent and the Oscar winning animated feature, Zootopia.
This year she received an Academy Award, Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in the drama, Hidden Figures.
Spencer is also an acclaimed author having started a children's book series, publishing The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (2013) and The Sweetest Heist in History (2015).
This weekend Spencer will be hosting Saturday Night Live, which she says is a dream come true.
Look for The Shack in theatres on March 3rd.
Below is my interview with Octavia Spencer.