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Q&A With Octavia Spencer

'The Help' star dishes about health, weight, her new book, and the fabulous 40s.

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Celebrities get both positive and negative attention from the media. How do you handle the criticism?

I realize that you can't believe everything that people say about you or the perception of yourself in the media. Because if you believe the good things that people say, then you have to believe the bad things. And I know I beat myself up more than I would allow anybody else to. So I'm at peace with that. I'm at peace with being my own worst critic and not allowing anyone else that luxury.

What do you do for exercise?

For the past 3 months I've been learning Pilates. I want to try yoga. And if that doesn't work I'm going to try [indoor cycling]. But I want to at least try many things and see which one fits better. But walking is the thing that has been my saving grace.

What is your best health habit?

If I am having a hamburger or something like that I never eat the whole bun. I eat the thin layer -- the bottom bun. I don't ever add cheese. I don't have mayonnaise on it. And I try now to stay away from mayonnaise-type dressings because that's just like eating three slices of cheese. Just those little minimal things.

What is your worst health habit?

Popcorn is my Achilles' heel. I cannot go to a movie and not have popcorn. I know this about myself. But I don't ever have them put the extra butter on it. I try to do it as dry as possible. And now I do the smallest bag possible and I always tell them not to fill it up, because I know that I'm going to eat what they put in there.

You star in the upcoming film, Fruitvale Station, about the controversial shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by police at a Bay Area train station. Why did you feel this film was important to make?

I loved it because it really was just a way to restore some of Oscar's humanity that was lost in all the recriminations that occurred on both sides with this issue. It's really and truly about how we interact with people that we deem different from ourselves. And learning to empathize with people we deem different from ourselves.

How do you feel about portraying a grandmother in both Fruitvale Station and the upcoming Kevin Costner movie, Black and White?

I almost didn't take Fruitvale because the thought of playing a grandmother -- it doesn't appeal to me. Because I feel like there is an experience of life that a grandparent has that you can tell that I don't have. I told the director, if I play a grandmother it's going to have to be one who is 41 or 42 -- my own age. It's all I can really bring to the role. I can't play something that I have no knowledge of.

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