LOS ANGELES — On March 21, 2012, the state of Alabama officially proclaimed “Octavia Spencer Day” for the native daughter who had captured the nation’s attention and a supporting-actress Oscar for her role as Minny in The Help weeks earlier.
The Montgomery native was granted stretch pink limousine service, slammed down the state Legislature gavel and heard a hometown marching band play a song in her honor. But after that Spencer, 43, stopped accepting accolades for her work.
“It’s hard to outdo a day in my honor, so I kind of wanted that to be the ultimate moment. I didn’t go beyond that,” Spencer says. “At some point you have to stop. I’d be running around accepting things, then I’d get rusty for the work.”
That’s not likely to happen. She is re-emerging with a vengeance, starting with her co-starring role in Fruitvale Station (opening wide on Friday), which garnered top honors at January’s Sundance Film Festival. The film by 27-year-old writer/director Ryan Coogler is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area who was shot by police on New Year’s Day 2009.
After years of waiting to hit her stride in Hollywood, the veteran actress is finally able to take advantage of the creative projects she has always dreamed about, thanks to her Help success.
“Octavia is all about perseverance,” says Michael B. Jordan (HBO’s The Wire), who portrays her son Oscar in Fruitvale Station. “She paid her dues and stuck with it. It’s her never-say-die attitude that got her where she is now and will continue to push her in the future.”
Spencer will make her singing debut as a Las Vegas bartender in Diablo Cody’s Paradise (Oct. 18), a thought that makes her cringe while sipping her Diet Coke at Culina restaurant. And she’s finished the sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer (no release date yet), in which she and Chris Evans will battle fellow passengers aboard a train traveling around a frozen planet.
“I get to actually fight onscreen, something I have always wanted to do,” Spencer says, noting that the fascination stopped after she clocked one of the stuntmen with a prop pickax during a melee. “I thought, ‘My God, this can happen to me,’ and I was paralyzed with fear after that. It was like, ‘Please don’t hit me.’ For real. I realize I am probably not an action girl.”
Next she’ll start filming alongside one of her Hollywood heroes, Kevin Costner, in the drama Black and White, in which they will portray grandparents fighting a custody battle. “I’m scared. I’m a huge Costner fan. But at least there’s no action. So there’s no chance I’m going to get hit by anything,” she says with a laugh.
Spencer also has expanded into the literary world with her kids’ novel, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, which will be released Oct. 15. It’s the first in a series featuring a female-led, multicultural group of kids who solve mysteries. She also has optioned the rights to journalist Tim Rieterman’s book Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, and plans to produce a movie about the infamous 1978 Jonestown massacre.
“This is something I have been interested in my entire life. I am getting to get a chance to explore these things I would never have been able to do otherwise. Honey, if awards season 2012 did not happen, there would not be a published book and I would not be here talking about Fruitvale Station. This ride is still going. And if I have anything to do with it, it will continue to go for a while.”
She holds up her Diet Coke to celebrate. “So cheers to that.”
article by Bryan Alexander via usatoday.com