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Local actress appears on big screen in 'Fruitvale Station'

  • Marjorie Crump-Shears of Cotati plays Grandma Bonnie in "Fruitvale Station."

When you watch the current film “Fruitvale Station,” based on the story of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer in Oakland on New Year's Eve 2009, keep an open for Oscar's grandmother.

Grandma Bonnie is played in the movie by Marjorie Crump-Shears, a longtime Bay Area film and stage actress who lives in Cotati.

“The day of New Year's Eve is Oscar Grant's mother's birthday, and there is a family gathering at Grandma Bonnie's house to celebrate it,” Crump-Shears said.

“My character always makes gumbo, and during my preparations for the party, I get a call from Oscar, who is at the store and is supposed to bring some crab and shrimp for the party,” she explained.

The movie, written and directed by Ryan Coogler, was filmed in Oakland last year. It won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

When Crump-Shears auditioned for her role, Coogler offered her some coaching and then declared, “I think we've found our Grandma Bonnie,” the actress recalled.

The Cotati actress confessed to getting flustered when she met Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, who plays Oscar's mother.

“When I met her, I was like a schoolgirl,” Crump-Shears said. “I was just in awe, and I was blathering.”

Crump-Shears, 71, billed as Marjorie Shears in the film's credits, worked as a teacher and school administrator in Sonoma and Marin counties for more than 20 years, until she retired in the late '90s to pursure her acting career.

She has appeared in several low-budget, independent films, including “Going Nowhere,” “Playground of Dreams” and “Everyday Black Man.”

Crump-Shears recently finished a five-week run of the new play “Krispy Kritters,” at the Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco.

In Santa Rosa, Crump-Shears appeared in the 6th Street Playhouse production of “Intimate Apparel” in 2011, directed by her daughter, Bronwen Shears.

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