Octavia Spencer biography

Instant Family

Octavia Spencer

Date of Birth: May 25, 1972

Just take a look at Octavia Spencer's background and you'll see that a love of film drove her to pursue a variety of experiences both in front of and behind the camera. She began as an assistant casting agent for extras, then worked as a production assistant, she's provided music for films and in 2008, directed and wrote her first short. But it's her strength as an actor that eventually won Octavia critical acclaim.

In 1996, while working as an assistant on the feature film A Time to Kill starring Sandra Bullock, Octavia asked Joel Schumacher if she could audition for a small part. She was cast as a nurse and started working steadily as an actor, with two films in 1997, three guest appearances on major television series in 1998, five guest appearances in 1999 and roles in both small budget films and major motion pictures such as Never Been Kissed starring Drew Barrymore and Being John Malkovich starring John Cusack and Cameron Diaz.

In 2000, she was cast in a regular role as Nurse Bernice in City of Angels, then played Ruby Rydell in The Chronicle (2001 to 2002). She was a regular on LAX (2004 to 2005) and in 2007, played recurring roles on three series—The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman (Cheryl), Ugly Betty (Constance Grady) and Halfway Home (Serenity Johnson).

Octavia made her stage debut in 2003 in the Los Angeles production of The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, by writer/director Del Shore.

In 2009, Octavia was mentioned by the Los Angeles Times for making a big impression in a small role in the Will Smith drama, Seven Pounds . In April of the same year, she was named by EntertainmentWeekly.com in their list of 25 Funniest Actresses in Hollywood.

However, it was her role as the feisty maid Minny in the critically-acclaimed movie The Help that earned Octavia the most attention she'd received in her career to date. For her work in the film, she won a Golden Globe, as well as The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress and Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. She's been nominated for numerous other awards, including an Academy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Prior to being cast in The Help , Octavia was introduced to the book's author, Kathryn Stockett, in 2003 by their mutual friend, director Tate Taylor, who would go on to write the screenplay and direct The Help . Octavia had known Tate since they were both production assistants working on the same film, years earlier. When Octavia and Stockett met, the author was in the process orf writing her book at the time, and she incorporated some of Octavia's mannerisms into a character named Minny. Octavia then was asked by Stockett to read the African American parts of the book on the author's national tour. She also played Minny on the audiobook and on BBC Radio.

Since The Help (2011), Octavia has played roles in several other movies, including recreating her role as LaSonia in the film version of the play The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife. In Diablo Cody's directorial debut, Lamb of God , she plays a karaoke-singing Vegas dealer opposite Russell Brand and Julianne Hough. She also appeared in Fruitvale Station (2013).

More recently, she appeared in The Great Gilly Hopkins (2016), lent her voice to the Disney animated film Zootopia (2016), starred in the drama Hidden Figures (2016), for which she earned nominations from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and the SAG Awards for Best Performance By An Actress in a Supporting Role, and teamed up with Sam Worthington for the drama The Shack (2017).

Her latest credits include the drama Gifted (2017) with Chris Evans and sci-fi/romance The Shape of Water (2017). For her work in the latter film, Octavia has received an Academy Award nomination, in addition to nominations from the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. She appeared as a social worker in the comedy Instant Family (2018) alongside Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne and more recently, played the lead role in the horror film Ma (2019).

Octavia, who was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, holds a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts from Auburn University. She makes her home in the Los Angeles area.

Octavia Spencer Filmography


Instant Family

Genre:  Comedy
Running Time:  118 min.
Release Date: November 16, 2018
DVD: March 5, 2019
Blu-ray: March 5, 2019
Netflix: August 16, 2019

Current rating: Rating: 4.22
based on 124 votes and 36 reviews
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Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Michael O'Keefe, Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz