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Sometimes less is more and in “12 Years a Slave,” veteran actress Alfre Woodard has a small, yet powerful, role!

In the critically-acclaimed Steve McQueen drama, Woodard plays Mistress Harriet Shaw, who is married to a slave master.

The four-time Emmy Award winner told during our interview at the swanky Conrad Hotel in New York City that once she heard McQueen was attached to the project; she didn’t even need to read the script.

So you were excited to work with Steve McQueen?

I was told that Steve McQueen wanted me to be in his film and I said, “OK I’m in it,” and they said, “No, we’re going to send you the script,” and I said, “No, I’m in it.”

In “12 Years a Slave,” your character Mistress Harriet Shaw is the wife to a slave owner. How did that happen?

Yeah, common law. There was a lot of forced rape, but if you could get in a position as a concubine you better take it. That meant you weren’t going to get a lash everyday and out in the sun picking cotton. We can be judgmental all we want to, but you tell me whose going to make that decision not to. It’s not that anybody ever knew slavery would be overturned in their lifetime. It’s 300 years and in 300 years everybody, including indentured white people, tried to figure out a way of how am I going to stay alive and stay out of harm’s way as much as possible and keep my children out of harm’s way as much as possible.

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