Viola Davis and Mary J. Blige: Paging Oscar

The Help’s star and songwriter talk awards and what’s next.

Posted: 08/26/2011 12:00 AM EDT

Number one at the box office with $77 million in tickets sold to date and glowing reviews and raves for its stars, The Help has what Hollywood calls the “legs” to carry it straight to the Oscars. Leading the accolade parade is Viola Davis for her portrayal of Aibileen, a part she lobbied hard to get. A fan of Kathryn Stockett’s novel set in the segregated ‘60s, she saw her “momma, auntie and all the people I grew up with” in the housemaid characters, and “thought it was an extraordinary opportunity to understand who these women were beyond the position of servitude.” 

 

Based on a number-one bestseller, The Help had major buzz going in, which made Davis somewhat nervous. “Expectation can be a destructive thing,” believes the actress, who has another highly anticipated film due in January, the screen adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s post-9/11 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. “It’s always better if people have no expectation whatsoever, and then you come from the rear and just blow them away.” Her performance is doing exactly that, and she’ll likely get the chance to vie for that overdue Academy Award.

 

Mary J. Blige might be right up there with her at Oscar time — she could score a nomination for her original song “The Living Proof,” which plays over the end credits. She remembers laughing, crying, getting angry and identifying with the “women standing together to save us all,” and left encouraged and inspired to write her commissioned song. “If I even get nominated it would be good enough for me,” she says. “But wow, I would like to win.” The nine-time Grammy Award winner has a new album on tap for October, My Life II: The Journey Continues, and she’ll star in a long-awaited biopic of jazz artist Nina Simone.

 

The Help is currently in theaters. 

 

 

(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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