On March 4, winners will be crowned at the 90th Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, we’ve got inside intel on the nominees. Below, read about the contenders for Best Supporting Actor, and come back to throughout the week for spotlights on the other major categories.

Willem Dafoe

Starring In: The Florida Project
Age: 62
Oscar Past: 2 nominations; 0 wins
Role Call: Bobby, the authoritative but gentle manager of the Magic Castle Inn & Suites

Director Sean Baker cast mostly newcomers and nonactors in his tale of Florida poverty, with the exception of Willem Dafoe. The 62-year-old veteran, whose acting range stretches from vampire to Jesus Christ, plays a motel manager who treats his down-on-their-luck tenants with rare compassion, and Dafoe melts into the role with authenticity and warmth. “[Bobby] wears a lot of hats because this is a community of people with a wide range of needs,” Dafoe says. “He’s kind of a responsible party and an empathetic character. He’s always adjusting who he is for different situations, and I think that to find the right flexibility was sometimes difficult.” Not only did Dafoe meet with the real-life man who was the inspiration for his character but he also learned the ins and outs of motel management. “And then,” he adds, “I worked on my tan.” There’s no detail too small for a true artist. — Devan Coggan

Woody Harrelson

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Starring In: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Age: 56
Oscar Past: 2 nominations; 0 wins
Role Call: Bill Willoughby, a beleaguered small-town police chief unable to solve a brutal murder

Woody Harrelson once passed on a role in The Pillowman, a play written by Three Billboards filmmaker Martin McDonagh. But after seeing it, “I said, ‘I’ll never not do anything he ever asks me to do again,’ ” Harrelson says with a laugh. As Ebbing police chief Bill Willoughby, whose failure to find the killer of a young woman is criticized, via roadside advertisements, by her grieving mother (Frances McDormand), Harrelson plays up his good-ol’-boy charms but also reveals a man devastated by his own personal crisis. “He is amazing in every scene he’s in,” McDonagh says. “He is sort of the heart of the movie.” — Clark Collis, with additional reporting by Sara Vilkomerson

Richard Jenkins

Starring In: The Shape of Water
Age: 70
Oscar Past: 1 nomination; 0 wins
Role Call: Giles, a failed commercial artist and closeted gay man who lives next door to a mute woman

When Richard Jenkins first read the script for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, he immediately thought he understood Giles. He was wrong. It wasn’t until he stepped into the room for the first day of rehearsal with Sally Hawkins, who plays Elisa—Giles’ mute neighbor, who falls in love with a tortured sea creature—that everything clicked. “That was kind of the clue for me of who he is: how he treats Elisa in the beginning,” says Jenkins (The Visitor). Giles has his own engaging arc—an unrequited crush on a handsome chum from the local diner—and Jenkins is also the comforting voice who narrates the tale. Jenkins knows how lucky he was to have been cast in such a rewarding role at this point on his career. “You know, 20 years ago I don’t know if I would have realized just how special it is,” he says. “These movies don’t come along very often.” Try: never. — Chancellor Agard

Christopher Plummer

Starring In: All the Money in the World
Age: 88
Oscar Past: 2 nominations; 1 win
Role Call: Billionaire oil magnate J. Paul Getty, who keeps his wealth closer than he does his family

The Oscar winner needed little convincing to join director Ridley Scott on an unprecedented mission: reshoot every scene that had featured Kevin Spacey as miserly J. Paul Getty after Spacey was accused of sexual misdeeds in October, just weeks before the film’s release date. (Spacey apologized.) “I like doing things quickly,” Plummer says. “I don’t like hanging around, getting indulgent, and talking about it.” At 88, he had all the tools he needed to play Getty in just nine days of work. One particular monologue, during which Getty confesses to preferring objects to people because he can own them, helped Plummer ground his performance. “There’s some vulnerability in this strange, cold person,” he explains. “He’s a very clever, very smart man, but a very lonely one.” Besides, the actor adds with a laugh, “I do like things. I agree with him privately.” How rich. — Shirley Li, with additional reporting by Gerrad Hall

Sam Rockwell

Starring In: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Age: 49
Oscar Past: 0 nominations; 0 wins
Role Call: Jason Dixon, a despicable small-town cop who becomes enraged when the mother of a murdered girl criticizes his boss for failing to solve the crime

Sam Rockwell’s racist cop Jason Dixon seems to embody all that is wrong about the titular town’s police department. “He’s an a–hole, in many ways,” Rockwell says. He’s also not a Sherlock Holmes-level sleuth, as evidenced by Dixon’s inability to locate even his badge for much of the film. “People ask me, ‘How do you play dumb?’ ” says the actor. “I’m a pretty gullible person. You just enhance that side of yourself.” But this latest addition to the Green Mile star’s gallery of grotesques evokes a surprising amount of sympathy. “Sam can bring a tenderness and a humanity to the darkest of characters,” says director Martin McDonagh. To help portray the cop’s ambiguity, Rockwell found inspiration in two very different cultural artifacts: The Andy Griffith Show and Taxi Driver. “‘Barney Fife turns into Travis Bickle’ was the arc,” he says. As a result, finally, the Academy is talking to him. — Clark Collis, with additional reporting by Sara Vilkomerson

All the Money in the World
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