Everyone loves Octavia Spencer in nearly every role she decides to take on. While we all know her as getting her big break in The Help, she was already a respected character actress for 15 years prior.
Since her celebrated turn in the above film, she’s been making up to four films a year and not doing just one kind of film genre. She’s become one of the most diverse actresses in the industry.
What projects does she have coming up this year and next? Television is in the mix, including an animated movie, and working again with the original director of The Help.
Character actors are usually under the radar for years
Spencer has been around as an actress for longer than you may remember. It’s not unusual, though, for character actors of her caliber to end up being taken for granted for years before landing a star-making role.
You have to go back to the mid-1990s to see where Spencer started her career. Many might not know a connection to Whoopi Goldberg helped shape a decision to become an actress. Octavia worked as an intern on the set of The Long Walk Home, which many could consider a forerunner to The Help.
This film didn’t receive the Oscar-caliber attention it deserved. Nevertheless, it seems Spencer found it a moving experience to realize she could play or produce similar roles in her future.
The future director of ‘The Help’ told Spencer to go to Hollywood
Director Tate Taylor was friends with Octavia Spencer when both lived in the U.S. South. Spencer was born in Montgomery, Alabama where The Long Walk Home was filmed.
You’d think someone like Whoopi Goldberg would have been the one to inspire Spencer to go to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. Instead, it was Taylor who persuaded her to.
It was a smart move because she started to pick up roles quickly by 1996, including a small role in A Time to Kill. She was able to do this despite dealing with dyslexia as so many other famous actors have.
Fourteen years of working as a character actor
Between 1997 and 2011, Octavia Spencer acted in notable films, though usually as side characters. Go back and stream or rent some of her movies and you’ll be reminded of how she always stood out without anyone knowing her name.
You’ll find her in films like Being John Malkovich, Bad Santa, and The Soloist. Just a year before landing her pivotal role in The Help, she was working in the comedy Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carell. It was the last time she’d have to be in films like this after winning the Best Supporting Oscar.
Playing Minny Jackson in The Help stunned everyone and woke everyone up to what a great acting talent she’d been all along. Everyone admitted to this, even when she had to play demeaning small roles like “Troubled Woman.”
Expanding her film horizons
After winning the Oscar, Spencer co-starred in various diverse movie projects, including acting and executive-producing critical favorite Fruitvale Station.
Hidden Figures in 2016 had her up for another Oscar nomination. Before and during this time, however, she participated in nearly every type of film genre. Part of this includes doing voice work in animated films like Zootopia.
Did you know she’s also one of the executive producers of the Oscar Best Picture winner Green Book?
An upcoming project will re-team her with Tate Taylor
To prove the solid friendship between Spencer and Taylor, they’ll be reuniting for his next project: A horror movie called Ma. For television, she’s putting together a series called Are You Sleeping, a drama focusing on the consequences of true-crime podcasts.
Into 2020, expect to see her doing voice work in another big-screen remake of Doctor Doolittle, plus lending her voice to a much-awaited Pixar animated film called Onward.
A title like this is almost apropos as we look back at the career of Octavia Spencer. She’s a major inspiration for those who continue to work hard as memorable sideline character actors and still wait interminably for a long overdue starring break.