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The Help's Octavia Spencer

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WHY THE BUZZ After 15 years of bit parts, the Montgomery, Ala., native, 41, is an Oscar favorite for her turn as Minny, a maid in 1960s Mississippi with wicked comic timing and dangerous baking skills. “It was great to put it all into a character onscreen for longer than three minutes,” she says.

HOW SHE NAILED THE ROLE

The Help‘s author Kathryn Stockett partly modeled the character on her pal Spencer. “The only thing I inspired was her ability to speak her mind,” Spencer says.

SHE CAN’T WAIT TO MEET…

“Meryl Streep. I think I might bear-hug her.”

FAME GETS WEIRD WHEN…

“People are quoting Minny, but when someone says, ‘Eat my s—!’ out of the blue, I’m like, ‘How rude!’ And then it’s, ‘Ah, you might want to say hello first.'”