What’s the point of winning your industry’s highest honor if it doesn’t open up any more opportunities to succeed?
That’s the sad but inevitable response to a new interview with Octavia Spencer, who won the Best Supporting trophy two years ago for The Help and has yet to see that recognition materialize into better scripts sent her way.
Spencer was outspoken about the limitations actors and actresses of color continue to face — a situation that does not improve with an Academy Award, at least for middle-aged actresses. Here are some choice quotes:
On her life post-Oscar:
Life is exactly the same. Life is the same. I have to lead a very small life in terms of what people think “Hollywood” is….
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.
On being an actress of color:
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. The fact that Think Like A Man made so much money last year—over $100 million—but got very limited worldwide distribution is a problem. Will Smith would not be Worldwide Will Smith if he had not insisted on going worldwide and touring with his films. You have to build that audience for people and allow for it to happen.
On the importance of diversity on screen:
I think diversity is something that should be celebrated because it’s who we are as a world, and little kids need to be able to turn on the TV and see real-world representations of themselves. It’s very important. You need that representation. With Obama, the glass ceiling has been broken with what men can aspire to, and now we need to do the same for women and what women can aspire to. But that being said, I’m all about not having race as a factor. To me, it should just be about the best actor for the part. Who cares if the lead is an Asian male? If this is the best actor for that role, why does the role have to be indicative of a person’s ethnicity?
On what she loves about Red Band Society, her upcoming hospital show for Fox:
[Diversity is] what I love about Red Band Society—we have Latin, Asian, black, gay, straight, and Indian cast members. Think about it: The hospital is the most diverse place ever. I am thrilled because the subject matter is rich, but I like that it is a tapestry of color, which is very much needed. I play a nurse in a pediatric hospital. She’s sort of like the principal in The Breakfast Club. My character is pretty strict, and it’s not sentimental or sad; it’s more life-affirming, and you watch children who are sick, some with terminal illnesses, go through the rigors of getting better while also being kids.
Spencer can currently be seen in the James Brown biopic Get On Up (also directed by Tate Taylor, the filmmaker behind The Help) and as the lead in Fox’s Red Band Society, created by Margaret Nagle, which debuts September 17. She will play the tough-love nurse overseeing the care of a group of sick teenagers at the pediatric ward of a hospital.
[via Daily Beast]