Roundtable: Oprah Winfrey and 5 Top Actresses on Crying for Spielberg and 'Muff Shots'

Amy Adams, Emma Thompson, Julia Roberts, Octavia Spencer and "12 Years a Slave's" Lupita Nyong'o on their scariest on-set moments, dumb audition moments and kissing Meryl Streep.

THOMPSON: Ang Lee, on Sense and Sensibility, said, "Don't look so old." That was scary.

SPENCER: [In] Fruitvale Station, I played a real person, and there's a responsibility that is owed and a life that extends beyond the screen. And having to imagine losing a child. Those are places that you just don't go.

STORY: 'Fruitvale Station' Poised to Make Waves During Awards Season

Are there roles you won't play?

THOMPSON: Well, apart from the muff shot and things like that -- but let's not go there (laughter) -- there was a patch of time when I was in my 30s and just started [being offered] a whole string of roles that basically involved saying to a man, "Please don't go and do that brave thing. Don't! No, no, no, no, no!" That's a trope, the stock woman who says, "Don't do the brave thing." I said no to all of them. I'm so proud.

Are people writing better parts for women now?

SPENCER: Well, you have a fresh crop of female writers, and men are writing better parts for women and realizing that women can open films. I think we're making strides. We're not there yet, but I'm really excited about the past couple of years.

THOMPSON: What the ding-dong heck is going on if this is still something we're talking about?

WINFREY: I love that, with "the ding-dong heck."

THOMPSON: You can have it, you can use it.

WINFREY: Well, look at our culture.

ADAMS: It's what sells, right? It's a business. It will make a difference when we as women can support each other and celebrate each other.

ROBERTS: Yeah, but those women are like, "Well, I would love to do that. But I have to make dinner, and then make lunch for tomorrow."

STORY: Palm Springs Film Fest: Julia Roberts to Get Spotlight Award for 'August: Osage County'

WINFREY: I'm curious as to how your acting changed when you had the children.

ROBERTS: Well, it certainly decreased a great deal, but I had been working for 18 years when I had Hazel and Finn almost nine years ago. So I felt like I earned that time in my house and in my kitchen and in bed all day with these two little people. I felt that was my present to myself. I was fortunate to work a lot, and I worked hard, and I was very devoted to that, and then I earned this jewel box of a life that I felt completely entitled to. It still is really important, but it has made me take more things into consideration. August: Osage County was the first time I left my family to go work. And I almost didn't do it because I just felt so heartsick at the idea. I'd never been away from my children.

Lupita, how did you prepare to take on 12 Years a Slave?

NYONG'O: It was tough. I knew I couldn't go about it in any sort of method way because I would have not survived the experience. I was always so close to tears, and plenty of times, I'd be in my hotel room, just crying.

VIDEO: '12 Years A Slave' Featurette: The Cast

WINFREY: When you do something like that, do you somehow touch the energy space of the ancestors? When I did Beloved, I [had] a collection of slave memorabilia. I have the names of the slaves on my wall. I have them all listed by their names and their prices. You see the horse cart and the shoes, and the donkey and the lamb, as listed with "Sam" and "Anne."

Lupita, you worked behind the scenes on films before acting. How is it different in front of the camera?

NYONG'O: I worked on The Constant Gardener. I was first production assistant, so I was in charge of making sure that Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz got to where they needed to be.

ROBERTS: See, there's always a gorgeous girl in the trailer park who's outside with the walkie-talkie.

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