When it comes to high-caliber actresses like Octavia Spencer and Naomi Watts, you assume they have their pick of projects — which only makes us more curious about why they choose the ones they do. We sat down to talk through why Spencer and Watts were drawn to their new film Luce, and their answers didn’t disappoint. Directed by Julius Onah, Luce is a psychological thriller that talks through big questions of race, identity, and family. And Spencer and Watts are quick to say that neither of their characters handles things exactly right.
Luce tells the story of a married couple (Watts plays the wife, Amy), and their adopted son from war-torn Eritrea. When he writes a disturbing essay at school, his teacher Harriet (Spencer) raises concerns to his parents — and their picture-perfect image of their son begins to unravel.
Reflecting on her own parenting experiences, Watts brings up a New York Times article on “snowplow parents:” parents so determined to make things easy for their kids that they end up putting them at a disadvantage. “So much of parenting — and this is where Amy fails — is getting out of the way,” Watts muses, adding: “Don’t clear the path, prepare the path.”
Despite Watts’ frank admission that her character “fails” in this aspect of parenting, there is one thing she admires: “What I love about this character — despite the fact that she’s incredibly flawed — is that she will go to great lengths to protect her child.”
Spencer is similarly conflicted about her character: “I kept thinking about every character’s perspective,” Spencer recalls of first getting the script. “And I thought: ‘Harriet terrifies me in a lot of ways, but I want to do it.'” For the Help star, it was refreshing to see a project that didn’t sugarcoat reality, or make things nicer than they had to be. “Life is not tied up in a bow,” Spencer reflects. “The ending of our film is not tied up in a bow.”