Oscar winner Octavia Spencer part of dream cast in ‘Gifted’

When you’re an Oscar winner, no one expects you to show up on the set most every day – even when you’re not working – but that’s what Octavia Spencer did on “Gifted” where she co-stars with an impressive cast led by Chris Evans, Grace McKenna, Jenny Slate and Lindsay Duncan.

“Gifted” is directed by Marc Webb, known for his dreamy romantic hit “500 Days of Summer.” In “Gifted,” Webb once again gives another heartfelt movie about a single man raising his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. But Mary is a brilliant child prodigy and Frank’s intention that she lead a normal life are thwarted when the seven-year-old’s command of mathematics comes to the attention of his formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan)—a wealthy Bostonian whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Mary and Frank. As family tensions and disconnections flare, uncle and niece find support in Roberta (Octavia Spencer), their protective landlady and best friend, and Mary’s teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate), a young woman whose concern for her student soon develops into a relationship with her uncle as well.

“I don’t think there’s a single member of the crew she didn’t reach out to and make laugh on a daily basis. producer Karen Lunder says of the actress who personified the character of Roberta. “She brought warmth and humor to this pivotal role. She’s also the one person who knows Frank almost better than himself. Most importantly, Roberta is the comic relief, which comes out of her relationship with Frank. She’s always giving him the business, but she’s also deeply emotional. You care so much about Roberta and worry whether she will be able to continue to have the relationship with Mary.”

Spencer recalls what attracted her to the role, “What intrigues me about Roberta is that her relationship with Frank and Mary is an integral part of the story. She’s a surrogate mom to the girl and to this habitually single guy, she’s a sister and a mom, whatever the relationship requires. If I were to describe the anatomy of GIFTED, Mary would be the heart, Frank would be the muscle and the sinew and Roberta would be the spine. It all works wonderfully together and that’s why it resonated with me on so many levels.”

Ultimately, Roberta discovers the power she does have in this untraditional family unit: “You realize that these people coexist in a way that is very much family. They need each other. Frank has a very tough decision to make, and when he makes that decision he asks Roberta for help. I really love that the end of the movie starts the same way as the beginning, with Frank and Roberta’s relationship.”

“Gifted” opens May 3, 2017 in Philippine cinemas from 20th Century Fox as distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

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Oscar winner Octavia Spencer faces prejudice in ‘Hidden Figures’

Octavia Spencer whose powerful performance in “The Help” won her a Best Supporting Actress in the Oscars stars in another riveting role in the inspiring story of women of courage in “Hidden Figures.”

Spencer plays one of the three brilliant mathematicians working in NASA at a time when prejudice and discrimination in the early 1960s ran high. Based on the stories of real life women, Spencer’s role, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) made remarkable accomplishments against all odds and breaking barriers when they helped America win the space race that paved the way for future generations.

“Hidden Figures” is an exciting film about courage, resilience and empowerment, focusing on a trio of gifted women whose excellent work in the fields of mathematics and aerospace engineering was of crucial importance in turning around the space race. It is also an emotional story about the friendship that developed between the three women and the challenges they faced in their families and communities, who were forging ahead in their extraordinary careers, while dealing with segregation.

Known as ‘colored computers’, they crossed racial and gender boundaries at NASA (America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration), where they proved to be indispensable—the best at their jobs. The black mathematicians had to eat separately from their white counterparts and use ‘colored’ restrooms. Yet as the movie relates, everyone set aside prejudice and differences, joining forces to do groundbreaking work.

Katherine Johnson’s mathematical calculations were key to the success of John Glenn’s historic ‘Friendship 7’ mission, which made him the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Mary Jackson (musician Janelle Monáe in her first major film role) was a dynamic and brilliant young woman who found herself in an untenable position. She became the first woman of any color to be an engineer at NASA. Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, was in charge of the black computers. At the time, the first electronic IBM computer had been introduced at NASA. Vaughan was one of the few who understood its significance.

“Octavia is one of the best actresses in the world,” says director Ted Melfi, who made last year’s acclaimed film, “St. Vincent.” So for her to play the rock of the movie was great. She guides the computing group. She’s the maternal figure for her friends. She’s the one with all the wisdom and Octavia was the perfect choice for me.”

For Spencer, who will also be seen in the upcoming “Gifted” with Chris Evans, “Hidden Figures” offered an interesting role she couldn’t resist. “It was amazing that so many women who were integral to the space race were somehow omitted from history. I’m not just talking about African American women; I’m talking about all the women involved; there were black and white female computers at NASA. It is so interesting when you start thinking about who the ‘computers’ were; they were human beings who actually sat down and did all these crucial mathematical calculations. I love the fact that their journey is now a Hollywood story. The women who were involved in the space program would change history in a way that nobody could ever imagine, and it is amazing that nobody knew about them until now. It is really exciting. I wanted to be a part of a story that celebrates those contributions and that empowers women, so I’m very happy to be involved.”

Also starrring Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons. With a score from multiple Grammy winning musician Pharrell Williams, the film is compelling and highly entertaining.

Opening February 22, 2017 in Philippine cinemas, “Hidden Figures” is from 20th Century Fox and to be distributed by Warner Bros.