Octavia Spencer celebrates her 48th birthday on May 25, 2020. She has said that her aspirations in the film world were initially much smaller than being the Oscar-winning actress she became. In fact, she initially aspired to just work behind the scenes in the film world in an office capacity.
After working office jobs on a few films that shot in her native Alabama, Spencer eventually got a job in the casting department of “A Time to Kill” starring Matthew McConaughey. She convinced director Joel Schumacher to let her audition, and he cast her in a small role in the film. Her friend Taylor encouraged her to move to Los Angeles, and she began to get steady work as an actress. While she worked for 15 solid years in small parts on films and guest appearances on television shows, her career trajectory didn’t seem to be one that would make her a three-time Oscar nominee. Spencer has said she didn’t really even take acting seriously as a craft until she was once cast in a film only to have her part entirely cut out of the final print. She then began studying acting in earnest to improve her skills.
That all paid off when her friend Tate Taylor cast her in a key role in “The Help.” Spencer would go on to sweep the Supporting Actress categories that year winning the Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA. She would subsequently receive two more Supporting Actress nominations for “Hidden Figures” and “The Shape of Water.”
She could earn her first Emmy nomination this year thanks to the limited series “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker,” in which she stars as the titular trailblazing entrepreneur, who became a millionaire thanks to her haircare empire.
Tour our photo gallery of her 12 greatest film performances, ranked from worst to best.