Emmys 2013: Alfre Woodard on ‘Steel Magnolias’ and Mandela’s birthday

Phylicia Rashad, left, and Alfre Woodard appear in a scene from Lifetime's "Steel Magnolias." Woodard was nominated for an Emmy Award for best supporting actress in a miniseries or movie.
(Eric Liebowitz / Associated Press)

Alfre Woodard was thrilled for two good reasons Thursday morning: She was nominated for supporting actress for the role of Ouiser in the Lifetime remake of “Steel Magnolias,” and it was Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday.

“It’s a happy, happy day!” said Woodard by phone from LAX airport, where she was waiting for a plane to fly to Napa to participate in Festival del Sole, which benefits arts education. “I feel as excited as I did 50,000 years ago when I got my first nomination. I’m so proud to be an actor because you get to keep company with other actors, and I love to be reminded that that’s my village. It makes you so proud.”

Like many nominees, Woodard was in bed when she got the phone call about her nomination. And she really wanted to stay there.

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“I was trying to get that last half an hour before I had to get up and head to the airport,” Woodard said. “I still tried to go back to sleep. But my eyes were fluttering and there was a big stupid grin on my face, and I thought, ‘Oh get up, Alfre.’ ”

She also had to check on a video she made “about getting everyone to commit to 67 minutes of service for Mandela, in honor of his 67 years service.” She needed to be sure the video made it to Johannesburg.

After that she had to head to the airport where she is always greeted with kindness.

“Everybody is always very lovely and friendly to me, although I don’t think that anybody else knows about my nomination yet,” Woodard said of her reception at LAX. “But it’s like I have 100,000 relatives whenever I’m traveling through airports. I feel most at home when I’m traveling because I’m always alone and people always chat me up — so it’s a social occasion every time.”


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She’s pretty certain she’s right about people not knowing about her nomination yet, because she hasn’t even had time to check on who else was nominated alongside her.

“I only know about myself, and I’m assuming it’s real because you guys called me,” Woodard said. “It could be a big punk for all I know, but even if it is, it’s a lovely day. I haven’t seen the others yet, but I hope my other sisters got recognized.”

She thinks her nomination was helped along by the extreme nature of her character in “Steel Magnolias.”


“Everyone knows an Ouiser — they make us laugh, there is something attractive about them because they are unedited,” Woodard said. “As adults you’re supposed to have restraint and decorum. But to walk around and let your mouth run -- and let unedited words run out if your mouth -- I think we all want to do that.”


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