The talented and warm Octavia Spencer has played plenty of esteemed roles, from the mother of the late Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station to her upcoming role as NASA mathematician Dorthy Vaughan in , but at the most pivotal point in her career, she fell displeased with the roles coming her way.
Speaking with fellow actor Dev Patel for Variety’s Actors on Actors segment Friday (Dec. 2), Spencer says after filming the role of maid Minny Jackson in The Help, she was nearly typecasted. “The archetypes that they really want to see — a woman of zaftig stature and a cute, little Cheshire cat grin — is the nurturer or the sassy whatever,” Spencer said. “Right after I did The Help, it was barely in the can, I was all excited about the possibilities that were to come and 90 percent of the roles were, ‘Oh, we have this great role for you,’ it’s a maid. ‘We have this wonderful role for you,’ it was a maid.”
Spencer went on to win an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actress,” but says she had to play her cards right. “Here’s the thing, I just played the best damn maid role written,” she continued. “I don’t have a problem playing a maid again, but it has to top this one and none of them did. For me, it was about looking in different places exploring different directors, who hadn’t earned their stripes in Hollywood but you can see it because they were great writer/directors and sitting it out and just waiting for those great roles.”
The actress went on to take small, but critically acclaimed roles in films like Call Me Crazy: A Five Film, James Brown biopic Get On Up and provide the internets with a new take on Harriet Tubman in the Comedy Central Comedy hit, Drunk History. Her typecast woes have been echoed by friends and peers like Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson.