Octavia Spencer Q&A: ‘Hidden Figures’
When asked during our recent webcam chat (watch above) about the healthy box office and strong word-of-mouth for her new film “Hidden Figures,” Octavia Spencer divulges, “We all have been underdogs at some point in our lives, and if you don’t root for the underdog, there’s something wrong with you.” Based on a true story, this Fox 2000 release stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who helped NASA launch their first successful space missions while fighting against the laws of segregation. Spencer costars as Dorothy Vaughn, a colleague of Johnson’s and the first African American woman to be promoted as head of personnel at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Janelle Monae rounds out the trio as Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Theodore Melfi‘s biopic is the fact that this story has remained largely unknown for so long. “It’s about ordinary women who had extraordinary talents,” explains Spencer, “and they were largely unrecognized.” The actress admits that when she first learned about the project, “I thought it was historical fiction,” because, “I hadn’t heard or seen anything about these women, through all of the iterations that we’ve seen about the space race, whether it’s in film or books or archival footage. They’ve never been made mention of.”
Spencer hit the awards circuit in a big way for “The Help” (2011), with victories at the BFCA, Golden Globes, SAG, and BAFTA culminating in an Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress. She recently competed at the Globes again for “Hidden Figures,” and is nominated for both Supporting Actress and as part of the Ensemble at the upcoming SAG Awards. Is she poised to reap her second Oscar bid?