21 May 2019
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I am going to be 100 percent real with you,” Octavia Spencer says when we sit down at a restaurant one morning in L.A., not far from her home in the San Fernando Valley. She seems to mean it. Over the next hour, whether we’re discussing her salary negotiations, her stage fright, her dyslexia, her hairstyles (wigs included), or her issues with the way the fashion industry treats non-skinny people, Spencer has a knack for speaking the truth.

But if you’ve seen a certain movie trailer in recent weeks, your most pressing questions might be about another topic: her starring role as a murderous psychopath. In the horror film Ma, out May 31, Spencer plays an isolated woman who lures a group of teenagers into her home and proceeds to torture them one by one. After two Oscar nominations (for Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water) and one win (for best supporting actress in The Help), it’s her first titular role.

Spencer has always insisted that her films have something important to say. What about Ma? “This one might be the exception,” she says, letting out a long laugh.

In fact, the more Spencer talks about Ma and everything else, the more it’s clear that this is all part of a well-considered plan. Over the past few years, despite her growing collection of awards and despite Hollywood’s efforts to address its chronic diversity problem, Spencer, 49, was still getting offers for types of characters she’s played all along: sweet nurses, sassy maids. (“I didn’t realize there were so many maid roles in the pantheon,” she jokes.) So she issued a challenge to her old friend Tate Taylor, who directed The Help: “Find me something to do that I haven’t done.” Taylor came upon the script for Ma, whose deeply damaged protagonist, Sue Ann, was originally written as a white woman.

Spencer is a longtime fan of the horror genre (her character even got her face sliced in half in Halloween II), so on the set of Ma she had no qualms that Sue Ann had to do some pretty bad things, such as sewing the popular girl’s mouth shut with a needle and thread. Actually, Spencer was a little too convincing for one young cast member, who almost had a panic attack after shooting a torture scene. “I had to constantly check in with the kids,” Spencer remembers.

“‘Everybody OK? We still know we’re making a movie? Are you good?’ It was a little touch-and-go sometimes.” As for the movie’s deeper meaning, Spencer points out that horror films, like fairy tales, are usually allegorical, and in the era of social media there’s something especially relevant about a grown woman looking for acceptance in all the wrong places.

“She really needs to be a part of this group of kids, and she really needs them to like her,” Spencer says. More broadly, Ma is very much a genre film, “one that will sit with you for a few days and make you look at the actor in a different way, which is what I wanted.”

Spencer got her first acting role in 1996, when she was working as an assistant on the set of A Time to Kill and had the guts to ask the director, Joel Schumacher, for a small part. (Of course, he cast her as a nurse, but at least it was Sandra Bullock’s nurse.) During the years of endless auditioning and occasional minor roles that followed, the actress says she never considered any other career. “I guess I see things differently from other people in terms of success,” says Spencer, whose mother worked as a maid. “I’m from Montgomery, Ala. I’m a woman of size, with a character-actor face. When I was paid to do that little job in A Time to Kill, I’d already become successful. Someone had already paid me to do what I knew I was destined to do. So, for me, it was only about getting better and just following the ride up the ladder.”

These days, as she nears the ladder’s upper rungs, Spencer has made it a crusade to ensure that she and other women, especially women of color, get paid what they deserve. In 2017, when Jessica Chastain (Spencer’s co-star in The Help) was getting ready to shop around a new comedy with Spencer attached, the two discussed their fees during a phone call. Spencer told Chastain her expectations and revealed how much she’d been earning previously. “Jessica was completely silent,” Spencer recalls. “When she started to talk again, her voice quivered. She said, ‘Octavia, you and I are going to get paid exactly the same on this.’ And she never wavered.” Though the movie, which eventually went to Universal, isn’t in production yet, Spencer’s salary increased by a factor of five.

Since then Spencer has been refining her hardball negotiating techniques. And while the final decisions about casting and compensation are still often made by male studio executives, Spencer has discovered that the men in the room are more interested in equality than people expect. “Sometimes you only need to ask,” she says. “And sometimes you need to ask and also hit the table.” It also helps to be ready to walk. “When they say, ‘Take it or leave it,’ they don’t think you’re going to leave it. But when they know you’re prepared to leave it, things change.”

Allison Janney, who’s been a close friend of Spencer’s for 18 years (they also co-starred in The Help), says she has learned a lot from watching Spencer turn down unworthy offers. “Octavia is very fierce,” says Janney. “When she says no, she just tells her agent, ‘Thank them.’ It’s her way of saying, ‘I’ve drawn my line in the sand, and I’m not moving it.’ ” Spencer is now one of the main people Janney calls for advice on business matters, including her salary. “I’m like, ‘Octavia, does this sound right to you?’ And she’ll go, ‘Absolutely.’ Or she’ll go, ‘Hell, no! Hell, no!’ She inspires me to be tougher.”

Spencer also sees plenty of room for change in the way the fashion world treats women with bodies like hers. “Now, this is going to ruffle some feathers,” she says. “I love clothes. I don’t know many women who don’t love to be pretty when it’s time to be pretty. But fashion has not always been kind to women who look like me.” If anything, Spencer says, her experience on the red carpet go-round has left her less interested in fashion because the industry makes little effort to include her. “They don’t market to me. If they did, they would make so much more money! Because there are so many more women who fit my demographic. But I’m not going to chase it. So I just smile and say, ‘Whenever you guys come to your senses.’”


17 May 2019
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Check out these fun stills of Octavia & Henry Winkler on the James Corden special session of The Price is Right!

Gallery Links:
Octavia Spencer Online > 2019 > May 15 | The Late Late Show With James Corden – Show

16 May 2019
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Octavia is doing press for Ma and this week she was on The Late Late Show with James Corden along with actor Henry Winkler.

With Henry Winkler sitting next to her, Octavia Spencer shares her favorite memory of Fonzie. After, James asks Octavia, fresh off a flight from London where she’s been filming, about her time in his home country and learns she found it makes you want unusual things, like dish detergent.

James arranges for “The Price Is Right” super fan Octavia Spencer and fellow show guest Henry Winkler to take part in one of the show’s featured games, Squeeze Play. After the two bid on a pressure cooker, Octavia submits her best guess to win a dirt bike (that will immediately be returned to The Price Is Right).

16 May 2019
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I have always been a fan of Graham Norton’s talk show … and so it is so fun to have had Octavia stop by this past weekend!

Here is a clip from the interview:

Here are some images from the interview:

Gallery Links:
Octavia Spencer Online > 2019 > May 9 | The Graham Norton Show – Show

16 May 2019
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All it took for Octavia Spencer to board the Blumhouse thriller Ma (in theaters May 31) was the prospect of reversing an age-old stereotype.

“Black people always die in the first 15 minutes of a horror film,” the actress tells EW, recalling her initial skepticism upon hearing longtime friend and collaborator Tate Taylor’s (The Help) pitch for a disturbing, darkly funny revenge story. “He said, ‘Not only do you not die, you get to kill people!’”

Spencer immediately dove into the psyche of the titular loner who befriends a group of rowdy high schoolers, offering the basement of her isolated home as a safe space for their partying. Teenage debauchery quickly turns to bloody butchery, however, after their concerned parents unexpectedly trigger Ma’s past trauma. “Because certain things happened in her life, there’s a domino effect for her future,” she teases.

Taylor, who revamped the character (originally a sadistic white woman) to suit Spencer, compares Ma’s tone to the “goofiness of Misery” mixed with classic teen movies of the ’80s. But genre tropes weren’t the only thing the duo subverted.

“There are archetypes people only want to see me as,” Spencer adds. (“Wise characters” wearing “period wigs and costumes,” as Taylor explains it.) “So I had to change that for myself [and] the next young woman of color to be able to play every type of role.”

Fittingly, Taylor calls the film a “cautionary tale” about the mistreatment of women. “Don’t brush them under the rug and think there won’t be repercussions,” he teases. “Not with Ma!”


16 May 2019
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As the release date of Ma approaches more images from the film are being released … check out our gallery for the newest additions!

Gallery Links:
Octavia Spencer Online > Films > 2019 | Ma

05 May 2019
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Last night Octavia supported her friend Mark Wahlburg at the London Launch Party for his restaurant Wahlburgers.

Gallery Links:
Octavia Spencer Online > 2019 > May 4 | Launch Party For Wahlburger’s In London
Octavia Spencer Online > 2019 > May 4 | Launch Party For Wahlburger’s In London – Inside

30 Apr 2019
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The Hollywood Reporter highlighted 50 individuals who have helped drive opportunities for more diversity in Hollywood … including Octavia.

Meet the creative and business forces — including Kenya Barris, Laverne Cox, Jon M. Chu and Norman Lear — who are shifting the industry’s landscape to drive opportunities onscreen and off for fresh talents and leaders: “I want to do things that break what I expect Hollywood to do.”

“Every time someone earnestly explains why it is so incredibly deeply difficult for them to find a woman or a man of color to hire,” says Shonda Rhimes, “an angel loses its wings.” In other words, it’s way past time for Hollywood’s offices, sets and writers rooms to represent robust diversity, and THR’s first-ever roster of Agents of Change highlights the key figures working daily to make that happen. They were chosen — after extensive reporting and consultation with stakeholders at every level of entertainment, as well as key members of inclusion-centered industry groups like Time’s Up and ReFrame — for their active leadership and mentorship: These are the producers, execs, creators, stars and advocates making content, making hires and making noise for those still finding their voice. Adds Rhimes, “Good men fix broken things.” So meet the good men (including some straight white dudes), good women and one nonbinary person who are leading the way.

Octavia Spencer
Actor, producer

The 46-year-old Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water star may be a bona fide A-lister, but she has been outspoken about her personal fight for pay equality — and says having open dialogue is the key. “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with young women who have an accomplished résumé while their male co-stars do not; yet, he’s offered considerably more,” says Spencer, who just signed a three-year pod deal with Disney’s 20th Century Fox Television for her new production company Orit Entertainment. As an executive producer, Spencer has used her power to bring more women onto set. In her upcoming horror film Ma, 45 percent of department heads were women, and for her Apple series Truth Be Told, she adds, “Our fearless executive producers are diverse and comprised of 70 percent women, so it was organic to hire female department heads and directors.”

WHO’S REALLY MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN HOLLYWOOD? “Mindy Kaling, Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon and Tyler Perry are all creating opportunities that I find exciting.”

BRAVEST CAREER RISK I’VE TAKEN “Moving from Montgomery, Alabama, with $3,000, a few contacts, and a dream in my heart.”

29 Apr 2019
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Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for sharing this news!

The Oscar winner has also launched a production company with WME’s Brian Clisham set to run it alongside her.

Octavia Spencer is putting down roots at Disney’s 20th Century Fox Television.

The Oscar-winner (The Help) has signed a three-year pod deal with the studio and launched a production company, Orit Entertainment, with partner Brian Clisham. Under the pact, Orit will produce television and film projects across all genres with a focus on inspiring and uplifting fare. Those projects will be in the same vein of the feature films and series in which she has starred.

“I decided to partner with Brian because, as an agent , he was instrumental in shaping my career. He has always understood my desire to work with a diverse group of talent both in front of and behind the scenes. I trust his taste and his counsel and know he will thrive in this new role. We are always on the same page and most importantly, have a lot fun!”

lisham started his career in the Endeavor mailroom in 2006 and was an assistant and an agent in the talent department at WME for 13 years.

“It’s no surprise to me that Octavia went from a ’20-year overnight success’ with The Help, to a bona fide multi-hyphenate,” Clisham said. “Octavia doesn’t just think like an actor — she sees every project through the lens of a producer, studio executive, awards consultant, cinematographer … you name it. Her creative and business acumen have led her to this moment, and I’m honored she wants to partner with me in this new chapter to continue the success we’ve built together over the past nine years.”

Spencer’s credits include starring and exec producing Apple’s eight-episode drama series Truth Be Told as well as Netflix limited series Madam CJ Walker, which is also exec produced by LeBron James. She’s also developing a Jonestown drama at HBO alongside Vince Gilligan and Michelle MacLaren. On the film side, she next stars and exec produces Ma, Luce and the upcoming The Witches. She also has voice roles in The Voyage of Dr. Doolittle and Disney’s Onward. As an exec producer, her film credits include best-picture Oscar winner Greenbook, Fruitvale Station and Small Town Crime.

“Octavia is so impressive. Not only is she a spectacular talent as a performer, but she has also amassed a body of work that speaks to her taste in material and creative and commercial instincts,” said 20th president of creative affairs Jonnie Davis. “Every project she signs on for is interesting and unexpected, and when she told us she and Brian wanted to develop projects for television, we were instantly on board to be their studio. We think her company is really going to make a mark.”

Spencer becomes the latest producer to ink a deal with the now Disney-owned 20th Century Fox TV. She joins recent signings including Bob’s Burgers co-showrunner Nora Smith, Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar (Fresh Off the Boat, Speechless), I. Marlene King (Pretty Little Liars) and Drew Goddard (Buffy).

Spencer and Orit are repped by WME and Jackoway Austen.

31 Mar 2019
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Meet the creative minds behind the stories.

Apple TV+ is a new streaming service with original stories from the most creative minds in TV and film. Coming this fall.

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