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As any actor will tell you, there are some roles that are held in a bit higher esteem than others. Most Shakespearean leads are on this list, as are Batman and James Bond. This certainly also extends to religious figures as well, as there is a specific responsibility that comes with playing a person or entity that is worshiped. This was most definitely the way that Octavia Spencer felt going in to playing God (or at least an aspect of God) in the new movie The Shack, and it was a process that demanded a close relationship with director Stuart Hazeldine, as well as strong focus on what she wanted her performance to be.
I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Octavia Spencer a couple weeks ago at the Los Angeles press day for The Shack, and it was during our conversation that I touched upon her process getting into the role. Asking about how she got her mind around such an important part, and the kind of discussions she had with the film's director, she explained that it was a project that included a good bit of extra work and concentration on her part. Said the Oscar-winning actress,
He wanted a short-hand that we could talk about, so he gave me a few books that he wanted me to read. So we had that. But I had to figure out how to play Papa in my own way, and if it felt off, then we would talk about how to get it back on track. But just creating the world and the inner mechanisms of God is not something that you can take lightly, so for me it was just about boiling it down to terms and things that I understood.
The book that The Shack is based on, which was written by author William P. Young and published in 2007, was one that Octavia Spencer read long before the story was being adapted for the big screen. When she got involved with the effort and signed on to play Papa (essentially the "Father" portion of the Holy Trinity represented in the narrative), she clearly brought a lot of passion and dedication to the message with her.
You can watch Octavia Spencer talk about her role in The Shack and her preparation to play the role of God in the video below: