At the age of 72, legendary actress Kathy Bates shows no signs of slowing down. She’ll soon be making her fourth walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards thanks to her compelling performance in Clint Eastwood’s biographical drama Richard Jewell. Her portrayal of Bobi Jewell, the doting mother of Richard Jewell who was wrongly accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, has her in contention for best supporting actress.

Some years back, Bates received Oscar nods in the same category for her roles in Primary Colors (1998) and About Schmidt (2002). And, thirty years ago, the Tennessee native’s unforgettable portrayal of the homicidal nurse Annie Wilkes earned the Oscar for Best Actress. Some might say Bates is a veteran of accolades because she’s enjoyed an endless stream of award-show nominations over the course of her career—95, in fact, with a whopping 35 wins (so far) according to IMDb.

Although the real person Richard Jewell died at the age of 44 over a decade ago, his mother is still alive today so Bates went to meet her in preparation for the role. “I just want to get this right for you,” Bates told her. Bobi responded, “Well, just be me.” Bates told Deadline, “And I thought, ‘Oh God, if that were true, I’d have 15 Academy awards by now.’ I had to, as an actor, create a character of Bobi, otherwise it would have been robotic. You can’t just go in and try to mimic somebody.”

Bates describes acting as her “life force;” and it keeps her alive. And that’s not just a figure of speech in her case. The actress has survived cancer—twice. She underwent a double mastectomy, and she still suffers with painful Lymphedema, a swelling of the limbs caused by the removal of lymph nodes due to her cancer treatment. She’s also suffered with depression.  In other words, Kathy is a fighter! But she faces her daily battles with a great sense of purpose, in large part, thanks to her convictions about acting. For instance, she feels a great inspiration to generate empathy through her characters. In an Impact Theory interview with Tom Bilyeu, the star elaborated:

 “What we can do as actors, if we’re lucky, is to create empathy. I think that’s the most important thing not only for artists but for the world, especially now, and to bring people out of their tribes and open their eyes to other worlds, other cultures. And that’s what keeps me going.”

Even if the job of an actor is unpredictable and challenging, Bates encourages others to keep the faith as they pursue their acting aspirations. “As an actor,” she says, “you don’t know what your work is going to be because you have to kind of sail your little boat out there and then let it go. And you don’t know who it’s going to touch or where it’s going to go, and you have to have faith that maybe you will touch someone’s heart or change their minds about something.”

Bates is also fueled by gratitude and humility as she approaches her work. “I always thank the crew. I’d be dancing around in an empty parking lot in my underwear just spouting lines without everybody—even marketing people, PR people. Everybody makes a movie and gets it out so people can see what you really care about, what you want to say.”

And although she believes firmly in putting in the hard work, she reminds herself to not take things too far. Bates recalls what actress-comedian Meslissa McCarthy once told her kids, “You don’t have to be perfect to be remarkable.”

You can catch Kathy Bates at the Oscars on February 9th at 5 p.m.. And Richard Jewell is playing in theaters now.