Octavia Spencer, who has a starring role in the highly anticipated film, Hidden Figures, had a piece over the weekend in the NY Times. The actress, who has built a very sturdy resume since her breakout role in The Help, discussed everything from her upbringing in Montgomery, Alabama to the lack of diversity in Hollywood.
On her humble beginnings in Montgomery, Alabama, the sixth of seven children. They were raised by her mother, who cleaned and worked odd jobs to support the family:
“That instilled a work ethic in me to make sure that I could always provide for myself — there’s no job too small,” Ms. Spencer said. “We always had what we needed and sometimes what we wanted.”
In addition to her acting roles, she is also the author of a series of books for middle-schoolers called “Randi Rhodes: Ninja Detective.” Of those books, Ms. Spencer said, “I wanted to give back,” a phrase she used many times, referring to working with minority directors, producing, helping young actors.
On diversity in Hollywood:
She has begun optioning books, including one about Madam C. J. Walker, considered the first self-made African-American female millionaire. “Since making ‘Hidden Figures,’ I don’t have a problem saying to a room of male executives: ‘I need a female writer or a female director,’ or ‘I need a black voice or a Latin voice,’” she said. “I do not feel bad about it.”
On speaking up in meetings about diversity in Hollywood:
“The big boys were big boys.” “They heard me and encouraged me to have a voice, always listened to my needs. We as women should always ask for what we need and might be surprised that there might not be as much resistance as we perhaps perceive.”