"James Brown was definitely a music icon and for those of us who are barely 40 ... there was so much about the man in front of the music that I knew that I realized that when the whole idea of doing a movie about him [came about] that I knew so little about him as a person," the 44-year-old Oscar winner said at a recent New York press conference.
"We know how the story ends, but not, perhaps, how it began, and a little bit of the middle. So, I was really intrigued by that and the fact that you have this icon in Mick Jagger, this icon in Brian Grazer, and the genius of Tate Taylor that I really had to muscle my way in there."
So, how did Spencer prepare to play the woman who cared for Brown after his parents abandoned him as a boy?
"Every job is different. Every group of people, every character is different, but your process is usually the same once you learn how to do it," she explained.
"You have to make sure you do the work to ground the person in reality, so that you aren't building some sort of caricature or the performance doesn't ring hollow and you have to connect to the piece. You can't play a character that you judge in some way. So, when I read that Aunt Honey ran a brothel, I was like, 'Great!' Because back in 1950, what were her choices? So, I thought, 'What a great, enterprising young woman.' And I was happy to play her."
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd and Viola Davis, Get On Up is in theaters now. The film was produced by Jagger and Grazer, and helmed by Taylor, who previously directed Spencer in The Help.
Brown died in 2006 at the age of 73.