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Octavia Spencer Is Done With The "Bad Parts;" Looks Ahead To Playing Diverse Roles (But Is Hollywood Calling?)

by Tambay A. Obenson
January 18, 2012 3:53 PM
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octavia spencer

Of the actresses receiving the most attention for The Help, I'd say that Octavia Spencer is maybe the one actress whose career has gotten the most significant jolt. 

Viola Davis was already a name many were familiar with - certainly much more than we all were of Spencer - and even though her immediate future suddenly seems brighter, prior to The Help, Viola was much closer than Octavia has ever been to what I'd call *celebrity.* We now know the name and face very well; and she even won one of the industry's top honors (the Golden Globe) while her co-star, the higher-profiled actress, lost to her main competition.

We'll see what happens when the Oscar nominees are announced soon.

But Octavia has gained the most I'd say, and whether all this newfound fame translates to career longevity, or more specifically, roles for her to choose from, well, we'll see.

Although she certainly doesn't seem to think so, telling the LA Times in THIS profile posted earlier today that, "The studios are still not going to beat down my door unless it's a small part in a big comedy, and I've done those."  

The piece goes further to state that all the acclaim and attention she's recieved for her performance in The Help "hadn't changed her career much."

Not that we haven't seen this before; in comparison... most recently... it's been almost 5 years since Jennifer Hudson won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls; and for her next project she'll be playing a peripheral role as a singing nun in the horrible-looking big screen adaptation of The Three Stooges. She hasn't done much between the former and the latter film.

I wonder if it's a case of her NOT being offered work, or if she's just not making the effort, consumed with other things like family, weight loss book, singing, etc.

Regardless, the jury is apparently still out on Octavia Spencer; last fall, she booked a starring role in Diablo Cody's untitled directorial debut; and looking over her IMDB page, I'd say that's the highest profile project on the horizon for her.

Other than that, she has a supporting role in a Sundance 2012 feature titled Smashed, and roles in 2 indie features said to be in post-production; she's really the highest profile name in all of them, thanks to the exposure she's received from The Help, which may actually help those 3 films when they're released into the marketplace.

The title of the LA Times piece is "I'm Done With The Bad Parts," as a quote from Octavia, suggesting that she's ready to diversify her acting portfolio with roles that are varied and very different from those she's been essentially typecast in until now.

It ends like this:

Indeed, at 39, Spencer has spent too much time in split-second appearances as "troubled woman" and "bank co-worker" in mainstream Hollywood movies. Part of that is a function of the dearth of leading roles for black women; part of it a function of her choosiness.

"If you build it, they will come, and that's what I'm doing, one brick at a time," she said on the "Smashed" set. "That's what this movie is. I get to play somewhat different than who I usually am."

Smashed wasn't a film on my "to-see" list at Sundance, but now that I'm aware of it, and that she's in it, I'll make an effort to see it.

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  • Donella | January 19, 2012 3:48 PMReply

    My first sighting of Octavia Spencer was in Rob Zombie's Halloween II. She went out in a blaze of glory under Michael Myers' machete.

  • Geneva Girl | January 19, 2012 8:53 AMReply

    Perhaps, she should cast her sights on television. She may not get the lead role, but be cast as the BFF. It may not be ideal, but it would be a good paycheck. Her roles on television have been memorable. When my nine-year old saw her on the red carpet she was all excited because Octavia played the evil wizard on Wizards of Waverly Place. For that alone she's beloved in our household.

  • Jeff Winbush | January 19, 2012 12:42 AMReply

    So Octavia is "done with the bad parts?" Yeah, sure she is. Don't let that Golden Globe award go to your head, sweetie. You're still a Black woman working in White Hollywood. Ask Gabourney Sidibe and Monique how many "good parts" have been coming their way lately.

  • blaqbird | January 18, 2012 10:55 PMReply

    She was also great in a multi-episode arc of Ugly Betty. I'm not sure why some commenters feel sorry for her or think she's delusional just because she strives to leave those bad parts behind and strive for something more. Good for you Octavia. She knows her worth and refuses to accept anything less. And that, I can get behind.

  • BluTopaz | January 18, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    I watched Octavia in an ensemble comedy (I'm too lazy to google the name right now) where she played a blatantly stereotypical role, married to a conservative Black man who was concerned about appearances. When she first showed up i thought, here we go with this ish again and almost turned it off. But it turned out to be funny and surprisingly insightful. I'd recommend it.

  • BluTopaz | January 19, 2012 6:41 PM

    Pretty Ugly People. It might still be on Netflix streaming

  • Akimbo | January 19, 2012 11:03 AM

    Yeah, the title would be helpful.

  • jingmei | January 18, 2012 9:12 PMReply

    she's in late fourties but still single, good for her if she's gonna pick roles to star in films as she acclaimed

  • Mark | January 19, 2012 9:39 AM

    She's 39.

  • jingmei | January 18, 2012 9:13 PM

    i mean all opportunities knock her doors

  • rod DOD | January 18, 2012 8:35 PMReply

    wow she is only 39 i thought she was at least 44-45, but shes a great actress

  • jUst me V | January 18, 2012 6:00 PMReply

    It's sad that we as African Americans still in 2012 haven't learned to support each other in our endeavours. If she wants to strive for perfection that's on her but it's so much easier to sit in front of your computer judging someone for trying, when you probably don't have half the guts to get up and do the same. When are we going to wake up and realize that if we don't believe in us, no one else will? When people of other nationalities succeed everyone in their race is proud of them, everyone comes out in support and you better not say anything bad about them. When one of us succeeds all you hear is negativity, which translates to me as jealousy! Jealous because things didn't pan out the way you dreamed, or because you were to "chicken" to go out and make them happen. Well the sky "IS" the limit and if she wants to put forth every effort to reach for it, I say go for it, because when it's my turn, not one of you uppity negroes gonna stop me!!!

  • Justin D. | January 18, 2012 8:46 PM

    I agree.

  • David | January 18, 2012 8:11 PM

    @Just Me V --- That's a surprising observation. My feeling is there is unity and consolidation of support in the African American film community, esp., in indie film circles. And that's NOT the case with other ethnicities and racial groups for a number of reasons (that's a whole other discussion).

  • Anwar | January 18, 2012 5:52 PMReply

    She's not being unrealistic about it. She said the STUDIOS aren't going to beat down her door but she's already done parts in independent films that she wouldn't have been able to do before The Help. Her role in Smashed is one of them(if you read the article, you'd know it), She clearly knows what she's up against. Sometimes people are so negative about the situations in Hollywood that they don't even look at the perspective of the actor. She's always worked and made connections but with the type of parts she got before and how small they were and where she's at now, there is no reason to not be optimistic. There is nowhere but up.

    Might I add that if she wins she would be one of the few black actresses that has dedicated her entire career to acting. Mo'Nique-comedian/talk show host/whatever else she does. She's not really that concerned with getting great parts and she lives so far out of the industry. Jennifer Hudson-singer. Whoopi Goldberg-comedian/personality. It's easier to get good parts as a character when you actually are dedicated to one thing and have a goal.

  • Donella | January 18, 2012 5:15 PMReply

    Monique said something very similar after her Oscar win--that it doesn't change much for Black female winners. I wonder if placing more focus on overseas markets remains an option? Maybe the answer is placing more emphasis on international publicity rather than Hollywood publicity. I'm seeing some very good projects in the African diaspora.

  • Donella | January 18, 2012 6:38 PM

    No. I mean participating in foreign films as actors or producers.

  • David | January 18, 2012 5:22 PM

    I highly doubt it. If Tyler "cash cow" Perry can't even draw beyond the domestic u.s., I doubt that an overseas market bodes that much better for these actors. Unfortunate, but true. Unless, of course -- you're doing straight up action flick.

  • Malik | January 18, 2012 4:48 PMReply

    She could go to more independent directors. I mean I just don't get waiting on Hollywood to give you parts that they aren't going to write. I wonder how many Black actors/actresses want more diverse parts are if they want more diverse big production parts. Not that I think anything is wrong with wanting the latter.

  • Orville | January 18, 2012 4:21 PMReply

    I think Octavia's head in the clouds she is a 39 year old overweight black woman. I doubt Hollywood will give Octavia any leading lady roles. The Help is the best thing Octavia has gotten and I doubt she will get anything better. If Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Sanaa Lathan, Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union are struggling for work how is Octavia going to do better? Octavia is also unattractive I know her fans will disagree but she's basically mammy.

  • Akimbo | January 19, 2012 11:09 AM

    You do realize that every time you mention Gabrielle Union, you totally kill your argument, right? Not only does she work regularly but she's also wack as hell. It always seems to come down to beauty and not talent with you.

  • Nadine | January 18, 2012 8:45 PM

    ...because she is overweight and Black she will get roles in Hollywood.

  • DJay | January 18, 2012 5:21 PM

    Ouch, a little harsh.
    I'm writing a role for her that I'm pretty confident she can kill. We'll just have to wait and see.

  • Concerned Forher | January 18, 2012 4:14 PMReply

    Poor thing. She's so optimistic about it all. I hope it works out for her.

  • jacinta | January 19, 2012 6:08 PM

    @David, Tyler Perry's film do not sell in the UK because Lionsgate tries to market it to a white mainstream who do not get it. The UK is increasingly secular and the mainstream press do hate all the religious stuff so his sort of inspirational fanfare does not go down well!

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