Spencer at the premiere of Hidden Figures, December 2016
|Born||Octavia Lenora Spencer
May 25, 1970
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
|Other names||Octavia L. Spencer|
|Alma mater||Auburn University|
I choose projects that resonate with me on some personal level and projects that I'm afraid to do. If I'm afraid to do them, then I usually say yes, because it means that I'm not ready to go there and deal with certain aspects of the script. And that means that I need to do it, because the things that scare you only make you better and stronger.
City Year resonated with me because when I grew up, we were poor – and an education is a way out of poverty. It's a way out of the current situation that can seem isolating and hopeless for some kids.
I'm probably the most militant person you'll ever meet and I speak my mind without provocation sometimes.
Will Smith would not be Worldwide Will Smith if he had not insisted on going worldwide and touring with his films. You have to build that audience for people and allow for it to happen.
When you see results, you start to wonder, 'What would happen if I had oatmeal instead of sausage for breakfast?' You start to eat better because you feel better.
It may sound funny, but it's true: I tried to put myself through the 12-step program. I didn't want to attend a real meeting; my role didn't really require that, and I feel those meetings are sort of sacred, and they're anonymous for a reason. I tried to deal with some of my love of snacks – and I relapsed a lot.
If a little black girl in Montgomery, Alabama, or some far-reaching region sees something that I do and aspires to do it one day with the knowledge that she can achieve it, then hey, my work is done.
I gravitate to the roles, not necessarily television or film. It's just the fact that, for me, the most interesting roles have been in television.
I think it's actually a misperception that I am a comedic actress. I do more drama than comedy but very little of it has been seen. When you are in big funny movies and they do well and your little part in it kind of explodes people perceive you as a comedian.
My idea of success is not Oscars. Am I glad I have that little trinket? Yes, I am. But it depends on how you define success. The minute I got my first professional cheque from Joel Schumacher, I was successful. Somebody's paying me to act!
When my car broke down in L.A., nobody stopped. They just kept whizzing by.
There are so few roles out there. And even if it is a film that could be led by a black actress, how many times is that film going to get funded? Let's just be real. But it's not just black people. It's Asians, it's Hispanic people if you're not Salma Hayek. It's hard. It's hard to get films funded.
I think my role, I want to have a presence both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. So I can't say on one particular thing, so I'll just name them all. I'll be the jack of all trades and hopefully decent at one of them.
Weight issues, race issues will always be there and if you allow them to get to you and you allow them to affect you then yes they affect you. But my thing is I have so many other things to worry about I can't worry about other people's perception of me.
I want to see more Asian. I want to see more Latin. I want more Indian. There's more than Mindy Kaling out there, guys! There's more than Bai Ling.
We all have hourglass figures; your sand just settles in different places.
Christian Louboutin, I love you, but honey, please! But when you have this much weight, you've got to give us a little platform. Sorry! The shoes are stunning though. An ounce of pain, it's worth it.
Life is too short, and I need to eat. I am my meanest when I haven't had a meal.
We as women have a voice and we are decision makers in what film to see. We always support our boyfriends and husbands by going to see the male dominated films, but we don't compel them to see films with female casts.
You just keep moving forward and doing what you do and hope that it resonates with people. And if it doesn't, you just keep moving on until you find a project that does.
We always think that we're going to be young forever, and now when I wake up, I need to stretch, and I need to have my glass of water and be cognizant of what I'm doing with my body.
The misperception about the South is that everybody is racist, and all black people are victims, that what was prevalent in the '60s is only relegated to the South.
If you come out of the gate with a finger pointed, then you really aren't opening the door to any sort of resolution to whatever the problem may be. Whether it's about race or sexual orientation or religion, if you can't empathize with the opposing party, then you can't really meet in the middle.
I'm thrilled I got to work with James Ponsoldt, who is going to make his mark on this industry.
Civil rights happened because youth got involved. The youth stood up and helped to break the pattern that their parents had got accustomed to living. The next generation has to take that stand for whatever it is, socially, that they are involved in.
There is racism all over the United States. Most Southerners I know, we definitely find ourselves defending our heritage.
I'm one of those people if you ask, 'What's your favourite song?' I'm going to give you five. I don't have just one favourite.
I'm a woman who eventually will get married and have kids – adopted at this point – but I see myself with a family and less time to commit to wanting to be a lead character.
I just think that you have to believe in yourself and you have to work very hard. You can't ever think that you're the best thing since sliced bread because I promise you, there are going to be Viola Davises and Jessica Chastains and Emma Stones who are the best thing since sliced bread. So take it seriously, but don't take it too seriously.
I'm not an optimist. I'm a realist. And my reality is that we live in a multifaceted, multicultural world. And maybe once we stop labeling ourselves, then maybe everyone else will.
If you tell me I can't eat something, I'll obsess over it and end up overeating!
Meeting Oprah Winfrey, I cried like a baby. Meeting Steven Spielberg, I cried like a baby. Meeting Denzel Washington, I gushed like a crazy woman. If I don't get excited or star struck by someone I've been dying to meet, it's time to retire.
Angry or not. It's a human emotion. But you can't walk around being angry all the time. What a dull person you'd have to be!
I'm an Oscar nominee. I love saying that. Whatever happens, I'm going to sing that 'I'm an Oscar nominee' part.
I think if I weren't so squeamish, I would have been some sort of forensic analyst. And I can't do anything with a microscope, because then I start thinking about the world of germs around us.
I should be married and have 19 kids. And now I'm thinking my eggs are dying on the shelf. They're going to go past their expiration date. But it's what I chose, so I'm fine with that decision.
Hollywood is strange in and of itself. People dress up and pretend to be other people, and you can either make millions of dollars, or no money. It's odd.
Being a part of a large family is just like a little society: those who fight to the top of the heap. We relied on each other and still do. They never discouraged me or told me to get a proper job.
I'm not trying to be a different weight. I want to be a different body type so that I'm not an apple. I just want to be a pear!
I prefer doing interviews where people don't have to interpret what you say. I'm going to be real honest.
People want to see more diversity. That's why you have the Kevin Hart making $17 million dollars on a holiday weekend.
My mom always told me I could do or be anything I dared to dream, and I always wanted to work in the movie industry.
The fact that women are very young in obtaining their civil rights and African-Americans are young in obtaining their civil rights, I think it's about time that we extend that to all Americans, whether straight, gay, purple, green, black, brown.
What surprised me about the Oscars was how familiar it was – because you're in the room with all these people that have inspired you from your childhood to adulthood in the film industry. It feels like you've known them all of your life.
There are fewer and fewer roles that I haven't done already, or archetypes that I haven't played, and to break out of that box, the most interesting stuff is television.
As we women know, there are so many other hurdles that we have to cross that I would love it if we could stop having the race conversation so that we can get women further on. You know, a female president now that we have an African American president. Maybe we can get an Asian female, a gay person?
As a kid, I was always very thin, and I kind of didn't know that I was skinny.
I think diversity is something that should be celebrated because it's who we are as a world, and little kids need to be able to turn on the TV and see real-world representations of themselves. It's very important.
The college years are when you sow all your wild oats and become a vampire. By 40, you've lived it up. At least, you hope.
I think the paradigm is shifting with regard to women and what we bring to the industry. I feel very blessed.
Needless to say, I would have loved to have been a black belt instead of actually just wearing one to hold up my pants!
Let's just say that I have a tendency if I am uncomfortable in a situation to speak my mind.
It's been pretty effortless with Sensa because I am not thinking about how long do I need to do this. Usually, when you stop a diet program, you lose control again. But I don't need to stop what I'm doing. I'm eating everything that I like. Sensa just helps me keep it all in check.
I'm dyslexic, and it takes me longer to memorize and to embody the character so I can really own it.
I have to lead a very small life in terms of what people think 'Hollywood' is. It's a full life for me, but I'm not jetting across the world. But life is good.
I like a person who knows how to say something dark at a very dark moment. The darker the moment and the darker the comic, the better. Something that is so wrong on all levels.
The mentality of how we treat one another needs to be examined – especially how we treat our men of color.
You have to get out of your comfort zone in order to grow. And as an actor, you don't become Meryl Streep by doing the same type of comedy. You get there by being challenged. And unfortunately, there's a lack of roles for women of color, so you actually have to be the engineer creating some of those roles.
What's so great about DreamWorks is that it's run by filmmakers who believe that if it's not broke, don't fix it.
The thing about the South is we accept our history. We don't push it under the rug.
I was always a closet lover of acting. My mom was very practical. She never, ever restricted our dreams, always told us we could do or be anything. Then I said, 'Maybe I want to be an actor'. And she said, 'Maybe not that'.
I am not trying to conform to an unrealistic model of beauty. I am, however, being proactive in being the healthiest I can be.
I like to read, even though it was really tough, because I could go anywhere in the world in a book, and I could have so many adventures in a book.
If more women ate, they would be a lot happier. Let me tell you, I am a lot grumpier when I don't eat.
What I love about Tadashi is that he isn't a designer that designs only for a double-zero. He designs for double-Ds, you know? Women of all shapes and sizes can wear him.
As you make your way along life's tumultuous highways, it's important to note that you should always carry a map, have plenty of fuel in the tank, and take frequent rest stops.
Do I feel that white directors have to tell only white stories? No. Do I feel that black filmmakers should only tell stories about black people? No. If we say that, then that means Asian people cannot write about anybody but Asians. I don't think a woman should only write about women.
Let me tell you, my career went from zero to 900. Its hard keeping up with that pace, but I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.
I think if we give kids a break in education, we would have fewer crimes being committed. If we keep them on track, they know that they have options. It's important for me because, you know, my life would've been different had I not had the education that I had.
My family supported me before any of this crazy notion of moving out to Hollywood and staking my claim. That support has never waned.
I think that young women and little girls need to see that they don't have to be the damsel in distress. They don't have to not show their strength. They don't have to be whatever the stereotype is or the tropes that we go to in our minds.
I have an affinity for the law. I like looking at the small type on contracts, and if I could have afforded law school, I probably would have gone.
The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I'm a character actor, this I know. And I'm getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren't many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch.
I have tried every diet to lose weight. When you restrict yourself, you're setting yourself up for failure.
When we don't have all the details about our characters, we have to make it up to fill in all the details. So, for me, writing and acting go hand in hand.
I'm not a fan of 'Gone With the Wind.' I didn't like the movie. I didn't like the book.
If a great role comes along, and you are too tall to play it, then I think the role is too small for your talents.
I don't have one role that I want to play. I guess… I want to be a producer. I want to be an activist. I want to be proactive in bringing about work for men, women, boys, girls, everybody who is good at what they do and deserve a shot at it.
I know I'm never going to be one of those size 2 actresses – that's just not me. But I do want to be the healthiest I can be, and a role model to women of all shapes and sizes.
There are so many more women and men who deserve opportunities. People of color. Period.
I'll say that I don't think you can throw a stone and not come in contact with someone who knows someone or has problems with substance abuse.
I don't think there will ever be a time I don't write, and I hope there will never be a time I don't act.
People want to see something that isn't necessarily somebody walking around in a superhero costume.
It baffles me that everything is so homogenized, because the world isn't, and yet we continue to support things that are so incredibly milquetoast.
I hope that in some way that I can be some sort of beacon of hope, especially because I am not the typical Hollywood beauty.
I've seen too many sunrises, as far as the walk of shame, staying out too late doing very bad things.
You know, bigotry isn't relevant to just the South. It never was. But I'm very grateful that I don't know what it's like from experience.
I am an advocate of education. It is the panacea for all that ails us in our society.
If you go through life, and you don't find the beauty in an unexpected place, then you really have a sad existence.
Your parents only want what's best for you. They know a career in the arts usually means living paycheck to paycheck; they just want you to know that you have other options!
I will live in TV Land watching 'Columbo.' I also like my 'Forensic Files,' all of that true crime.
I love working with kids and seeing the light come on when they realize they are smart. It's so beautiful to watch.
You cannot live to please everyone else. You have to edify, educate and fulfill your own dreams and destiny, and hope that whatever your art is that you're putting out there, if it's received, great, I respect you for receiving it. If it's not received, great, I respect you for not.
I'm excited that I get to do what I love, and I'm benefiting through projects that speak to me.
It was never easy being Cicely Tyson. And it will not be easy being Octavia or Viola Davis.
Yes, you want to do studio movies, but I also want to grow as an actor, and an actress like me is not going to get roles where you grow and evolve in a studio film. It's just not gonna happen.
I think success happens when it's supposed to and when you can appreciate it. I am grateful that it didn't happen for me at 22 or 23. I would've been foolish enough to think that we're all entitled to it, instead of it being the divine blessing that it is.
If you are unhealthy, start by making small changes to become healthier. You are unique, beautiful, and worthy.
People think that I have this wonderful hourglass figure, but I owe that to designer Tadashi Shoji because he cuts for me really well.
When you give kids the tools necessary to change their destiny, it's really empowering.
There is so much art can do to enlighten people, no matter what their views might be. If art can't go there or doesn't elevate the social consciousness in some way, then we are in peril.
The first time I saw E.T., the actual image of an alien, and he was so sweet-looking. I wanted him. I wanted E.T.
I was a production assistant. I saw what people who are full of themselves are like – another reason not to lose your humility! I have a mouth on me so I wasn't the best P.A.
The statement that I made and that I think I will continue to make is that racism and bigotry isn't just relegated to the Southern region; it permeates the history of our nation. It's not to say that we haven't made progress. Obviously we have with our first African American president, and I never thought that would happen in my lifetime.