Octavia Spencer

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Octavia Spencer
Octavia Spencer 2016.jpg
Spencer at the premiere of Hidden Figures, December 2016
Born Octavia Lenora Spencer
(1972-05-25) May 25, 1972 (age 44)
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
Other names Octavia L. Spencer
Alma mater Auburn University
Occupation Actress, author
Years active 1996–present

Octavia Lenora Spencer[1] (born May 25, 1972)[2][3] is an American actress and author. She made her film debut in A Time to Kill. Her breakthrough came in 2011, when she starred as Minny Jackson in the period film The Help, for which she won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress. She had a critically acclaimed performance in Ryan Coogler's drama Fruitvale Station (2013), for which she received the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. Recently, Spencer has received acclaim for her work in the films Get on Up, Black or White, Smashed, Snowpiercer, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and Zootopia. In 2017, she received Academy Award, Golden Globe, and SAG nominations for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as mathematician Dorothy Vaughan in the drama Hidden Figures.

As an author, Spencer has started a children's book series titled Randi Rhodes Ninja Detective, publishing two books in the series- The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (2013) and The Sweetest Heist in History (2015).[4]

Early life[edit]

Octavia Lenora Spencer was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and has six siblings, including sisters Rosa and Areka.[5] Her mother, Dellsena Spencer (1945-1988),[6] worked as a maid.[7] Spencer graduated from Jefferson Davis High School in 1988.[8][9] She studied drama for two years[10] (1988–1989), and received a bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts from Auburn University.[11]


At nineteen, Spencer worked as an intern on the set of The Long Walk Home, a film starring Whoopi Goldberg.[12]

In 1997 she moved to Los Angeles on the advice of her friend Tate Taylor, the future director of The Help, in which Spencer would later star.[13]

Spencer made her film debut as a nurse in Joel Schumacher's A Time to Kill, based on the book by John Grisham. She was originally hired to work on casting, but asked Schumacher if she could audition for a part.[14] Other film credits include: Never Been Kissed, Big Momma's House, Bad Santa, Spider-Man, Coach Carter, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! and Pretty Ugly People.

She has made a number of guest appearances on television series, including Raising the Bar, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Big Bang Theory, Wizards of Waverly Place, Grounded for Life, ER, Titus, Becker, 30 Rock and Dharma & Greg, plus a recurring role on Mom. She is best known for her starring roles as Serenity Johnson on Comedy Central's Halfway Home, and Constance Grady, the amorous INS caseworker on Ugly Betty.

In 2003, Spencer made her stage debut in Los Angeles, in Del Shores' play, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, starring opposite veteran actress Beth Grant. It was her first and only play, as, she once explained, she suffers from what she called "intense stage fright".[15] Later that year, she starred opposite Allison Janney in Tate Taylor's critically lauded short feature Chicken Party.

In 2008, Spencer's brief appearance in Seven Pounds as Kate, Rosario Dawson's home care nurse, garnered her high praise and media attention.[16]

In April 2009, Entertainment Weekly listed Spencer as among its "25 Funniest Actresses in Hollywood."[17]

In August 2009, Spencer appeared in Rob Zombie's Halloween II. She also had a role in the American remake of the Danish classic Love at First Hiccup, opposite Scout Taylor-Compton. Spencer starred in the feature film Herpes Boy, alongside Beth Grant, Ahna O'Reilly and Byron Lane. She played the voice of "Minny" on the audio version of novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Later that year, Spencer's short film The Captain was honored by the CICFF as a finalist for the REEL Poetry Award.

In August 2010, Spencer joined Viola Davis, Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard in The Help, an adaptation of the novel. She played the feisty and unflappable Minny Jackson. The film was written, produced and directed by Tate Taylor, and produced by Brunson Green, Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, and Mark Radcliffe. She gained critical acclaim, and was mentioned for various awards nominations. She won the 2012 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her work in The Help.[18]

On February 12, 2012, Spencer won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for her Performance in The Help, and on February 26 she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the same performance; it was her first Oscar nomination and first win. Spencer was given a standing ovation at the ceremony, and was moved to tears during her acceptance speech. In June 2012, Spencer was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[19]

The Help cast at 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards (Spencer in the middle).

In 2013, she appeared alongside Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station, a film chronicling the last day of Oscar Grant, who was killed at a Bay Area Rapid Transit station in 2009.[20]

In September 2013, it was announced that she would reunite with The Help director Tate Taylor in the biopic on singer James Brown Get On Up, opposite her The Help co-star Viola Davis. The film was released in 2014.[21] From September 2014 until February 2015, she starred in Steven Spielberg's Fox drama television series Red Band Society.[22]

Spencer co-starred alongside Kevin Costner in the drama film Black or White (2014)[23] and co-starred as Johanna Reyes in the second installment of the Divergent series, The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015).[24] She reprised the role in The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016). She voiced an otter, Mrs. Otterton, in Disney's Zootopia, which marks her first animated film.

In 2016 she starred alongside Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe as Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures, a film about African-American mathematicians at NASA who were critical to its success in the 1960s in the Space Race, and who each had careers there. This role garnered her a second nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a category she previously won for her role as Minny Jackson in The Help five years prior. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Spencer bought out a Los Angeles screening of Hidden Figures to treat low-income families that would have been unable to afford to see the film otherwise.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Spencer says she has dyslexia.[26]



Year Project Role Notes
1996 A Time to Kill Roark's Nurse
1997 The 6th Man Nativity Watson
1997 Sparkler Wanda
1999 Never Been Kissed Cynthia
1999 Being John Malkovich Woman in Elevator
1999 Blue Streak Shawna
2000 The Sky Is Falling Nurse No. 2
2000 Everything Put Together Nurse B
2000 American Virgin Agnes Large
2000 What Planet Are You From? Baby Nurse
2000 Auto Motives Rhonda
2000 Big Momma's House Twila
2000 Four Dogs Playing Poker Waitress
2001 Sol Goode Unemployment Clerk
2001 The Journeyman Black Belly
2002 Spider-Man Check-In Girl
2003 Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde Security Guard
2003 S.W.A.T. Neighbor in Alley
2003 Chicken Party Laqueta Mills
2003 Bad Santa Opal
2004 Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! Janine
2004 Breakin' All the Rules Stylist
2005 Coach Carter Mrs. Battle
2005 Pretty Persuasion Woman
2005 Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom
Dancing and Charm School
Ayisha Lebaron
2005 Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous Octavia – Bookstore
2005 Beauty Shop Big Customer
2005 Wannabe Lady Chanet Janney Jones
2006 Pulse Landlady
2007 The Nines Streetwalker
2008 Next of Kin Grace
2008 Pretty Ugly People Mary
2008 The Spleenectomy Nurse
2008 Seven Pounds Kate (Home Health Care Nurse)
2009 The First Time (Love At First Hiccup) Mrs. Hambrick
2009 Drag Me to Hell Bank Co-Worker No. 1
2009 Jesus People: The Movie Angel Angelique
2009 The Soloist Troubled Woman
2009 Just Peck Detention Room Teacher
2009 Halloween II Nurse Daniels
2009 Herpes Boy Rochelle
2009 Small Town Saturday Night Rhonda Dooley
2010 Dinner for Schmucks Madame Nora
2011 The Help Minny Jackson
2011 Peep World Allison
2011 Flypaper Madge Wiggins
2012 Blues for Willadean LaSonia Robinson
2012 Smashed Jenny
2013 Fruitvale Station Wanda
2013 Snowpiercer Tanya
2013 Paradise Loray
2014 Get On Up Aunt Honey Washington
2015 The Great Gilly Hopkins Miss Harris
2015 Black or White Rowena Jeffers
2015 The Divergent Series: Insurgent Johanna Reyes
2015 Fathers and Daughters Dr. Korman
2016 Zootopia Mrs. Otterton (voice)
2016 The Divergent Series: Allegiant Johanna Reyes
2016 The Free World Linda Workman
2016 Bad Santa 2 Opal
2016 Hidden Figures Dorothy Vaughan
2017 The Shack Papa
2017 Gifted Roberta Taylor
2017 The Shape of Water Zelda Completed


Year Project Role Notes
1998 ER Maria Jones Season 5, episode 7
1999 Lansky Evelyn the Maid TV movie
1999 The X-Files Nurse Season 7, episode 4, "Millennium"
2000 Malcolm in the Middle Cashier Season 2, episode 9
2000 Missing Pieces Elegant Guest TV movie
2001 Follow the Stars Home Hildy TV movie
2002 Little John Waitress TV movie
2005 CSI: NY Child Welfare Rep 1 episode
2007 The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman Cheryl / Female Security Guard 4 episodes
2007 Halfway Home Serenity Johnson 10 episodes
2007 Ugly Betty Constance Grady 5 episodes
2008 The Big Bang Theory DMV Employee Season 2, episode 5
2008 Wizards of Waverly Place Dr. Evilini 2 episodes
2009 Dollhouse Professor Jackie 1 episode
2009 Raising the Bar Arvina Watkins 5 episodes
2010 Hawthorne Emily Thomkins Season 2, episode 4
2013 30 Rock Herself TV series; 1 episode, "Game Over"
2013 Call Me Crazy: A Five Film Dr. Nance Lifetime Original Movie
2013–present Mom Regina Recurring: 8 episodes
2014–2015 Red Band Society Nurse Dena Jackson 13 episodes; Main role
2015 Drunk History Harriet Tubman Episode: "Spies"
2017 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Octavia Spencer/Father John Misty"

Awards and nominations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Octavia Spencer before she was a star". Montgomery/Dothan, Alabama: WSFA. February 26, 2012. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  2. ^ Spencer, Octavia [octaviaspencer] (January 24, 2012). "ERM, for some reason I'm being reported as being anywhere from 38-43 yrs old." (Tweet). Archived from the original on March 22, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2013 – via Twitter.  "DOB 5/25/72. that would make me 39 until may 25th, right?"
  3. ^ "Octavia Spencer Biography: Film Actress, Television Actress (1972–)". Biography.com (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on August 11, 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Octavia Spencer's first book, 'Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective". USA Today. January 2013. Retrieved February 21, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Areka Spencer Thrilled for Sister", Boston Globe, Retrieved 2 February 2015
  6. ^ Public Record of Dellsena Spencer retrieved 2/21/2015
  7. ^ Calkin, Jessamy (July 16, 2009). "The maid's tale: Kathryn Stockett examines slavery and racism in America's Deep South". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  8. ^ "Local News - The Montgomery Advertiser - montgomeryadvertiser.com". February 21, 2015. 
  9. ^ Greene, Teri (August 14, 2011). "Montgomery native stars in 'The Help'". Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  10. ^ Carlton, Bob (August 7, 2011). "Montgomery actress Octavia Spencer may become a star with The Help". The Birmingham News. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Octavia Spencer". comedy central. 
  12. ^ Dreier, Peter (February 27, 2012). "Will The Help's Oscar Revive Interest in The Long Walk Home?". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  13. ^ Onstad, Katrina (2016-11-03). "Octavia Spencer Cracks a Few Hollywood Equations". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  14. ^ Riley, Jenelle (April 5, 2005). "Octavia Spencer: The Quip Queen". allbusiness.com. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  15. ^ Riley, Jenelle (August 8, 2011). "How Octavia Spencer Landed the Role of a Lifetime". Backstage. Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  16. ^ Rosen, Lisa (February 4, 2009). "Big impressions in brief roles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Octavia Spencer – The 25 Funniest Actresses in Hollywood". Entertainment Weekly. 13 April 2009. Retrieved June 27, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Could Viola Davis, Emma Stone & Octavia Spencer Get Oscar Nods for 'The Help'?" from iVillage website
  19. ^ Thompson, Arienne (June 29, 2012). "McConaughey, Spencer invited to join Academy". USA Today. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  20. ^ Kit, Borys (April 17, 2012). "Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer to Star in Movie About Controversial Police Killing (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Tate Taylor Reunites With 'The Help's Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer On James Brown Pic". Deadline. September 30, 2013. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  22. ^ Chris Harnick. "Red Band Society Stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable on Looking for Life and Laughs in Sickness and Tragedy". E Oline. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  23. ^ "Octavia Spencer Will Battle Kevin Costner For Custody In Drama 'Black And White'". indiewire.com. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  24. ^ "CASTING NEWS: Octavia Spencer To Play Johanna In 'Insurgent'". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  25. ^ "'Hidden Figures' Stars Octavia Spencer & Taraji P. Henson Share the Love After Another Big Box Office Weekend". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved 2017-04-03. 
  26. ^ "Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer and Mckenna Grace open up about 'Gifted'" (Video). Good Morning America. April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 8, 2017 – via Youtube. 

External links[edit]