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Octavia Spencer Says She’s Tired Of The “Small” Film Roles as TV Has Opened Up New Opportunities for Black Actresses

Shadow and Act By Sergio | Shadow and Act July 31, 2014 at 6:19PM

Joining the chorus, Octavia Spencer says that television seemingly appears to be the new golden opportunity for black actresses looking for challenging roles.
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Octavia Spencer

So while we have readers still fiercely defending Woody Allen, and the comments he made regarding why there aren’t more black actors in his films (HERE), let’s hear from a black actor who says that, just because she’s won an Oscar, it doesn't mean that her life has changed, adding that it’s still an everyday struggle.

I’m referring to Octavia Spencer, who, in an interview in published today on the Daily Beast (HERE) said that, while things have been good, it’s not like producers have been breaking down her door with great offers.

She states: “Well, the roles I’m being offered in film are too small to sink your teeth into, and I thought it was time to be able to live with a character at inception and travel with her to fruition, and allow myself to evolve as an actress. I don’t get that opportunity in movies, where they ask me, “Will you play the distraught mom of this boy?” I say, “Sure, but I’ve played it before.” I wanted to play against-type, and while people will say, “She’s playing a no-nonsense nurse,” there’s so much more to her than that.”

Not that’s she’s bitter, but realistic. She adds: “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. It’s a business thing, and you have to change the mindset of people around here.”

And this is the main reason why Spencer - as Viola Davis also said a few week ago in a piece I wrote (HERE) - admits that television seems to currently be the best venue for black actresses and other actors of color.  She states: “In order for you to be known worldwide if you’re not getting the introduction through films, you need to be in television. I don’t have a problem with the medium—film or television—because I’m an actor. I act. So if I’m able to get a part that helps me stretch myself and evolve as an actress? Wonderful. And if I get to be a part of something that will expand myself to a worldwide audience? Hell yeah. Sign me up!”

She agrees that television, such as her new show "Red Band Society" for Fox, premiering on Sept. 17, is where the real new opportunities for back actresses are, with a few exceptions: “I’m barely 44, but that’s still the pasture, I guess. 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. But what I love about it is thank God for television, because you wouldn’t have the diversity. Now, we’re seeing it a little more in blockbuster movies. Thor had a multicultural cast. So did Winter Soldier. The Amazing Spider-Man 2. To me, that’s what it should be. 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.”

So do you agree with Spencer and Davis that television is the new medium for black actresses?

This article is related to: Octavia Spencer


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