Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer Headshot

Actress • Producer

Birth Date: May 25, 1970

Age: 53 years old

Birth Place: Montgomery, Alabama

Possessing the talent to make even the most minor of roles memorable, Octavia Spencer became a fixture early on, on both the small and big screens, in supporting roles that called for either a caring nurse or a mouthy blue-collar worker. After making her feature film debut in the crime drama "A Time to Kill" (1996), Spencer went on to appear on such popular programs as "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002), and the hit comedy "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006-2010). Spencer's perfect timing and natural sass also helped her land roles in feature comedies such as "Big Momma's House" (2000) and "Beauty Shop" (2005), as well as a breakout role on Comedy Central's "Halfway Home" (2007), appearing as a loudmouthed ex-con who is always picking fights with her housemates. After many years of paying her dues as background or supporting players, Spencer garnered much-deserved praise and an Oscar for her glowing performance in "The Help" (2011), based on Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel of the same name. She was pitch-perfect as Minny Jackson, a determined and sharp-tongued maid who secretly helps an aspiring writer accurately chronicle the lives of African-American domestics in racially-charged 1960s Mississippi. The high-profile role finally thrust Spencer's talents into the forefront, earning her recognition as a truly multifaceted actress. Roles in films ranging from true-life tale of violence "Fruitvale Station" (2013) to dystopian science-fiction thriller "Snowpiercer" (2013) to animated smash "Zootopia" (2016) followed, as well as a second Oscar nomination for her supporting role in the biopic "Hidden Figures" (2016), highlighting a trio of African-American women whose work helped NASA win the Cold War space race.

Octavia Spencer was born on May 25, 1972 in Montgomery, AL. The sixth of seven siblings, the future star always knew that she would pursue a career in the film industry, but never thought that it would be as an actress. She attended Auburn University in Auburn, where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts. In 1996, Spencer made her film-acting debut in the crime drama "A Time to Kill," based on the best-selling 1989 novel by John Grisham. In the popular film starring Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey, she played a nurse who tended to Ellen Roark (Bullock) after her assault by members of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in a rural town in Mississippi. Adding to her résumé, Spencer appeared on a number of sitcoms such as "Moesha" (UPN, 1996-2001), and guest starred countless times as a nurse on dramas like "Chicago Hope" (CBS, 1994-2000), "Roswell" (The WB, 1999-2001; UPN, 2001-02) and "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002). Spencer also landed small parts in feature comedies such as "Big Momma's House" (2000) starring Martin Lawrence and "Beauty Shop" (2005) as one of the opinionated clients who frequent a new salon run by its equally sassy owner (Queen Latifah). Aside from her film and TV projects, Spencer was also a talented stage actress. She received accolades for her performance in the Los Angeles production of "The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife" (2003) opposite veteran stage performers Beth Grant, Dale Dickey and David Steen.

In 2007, Spencer became one of the most buzzed about stars of the comedy series "Halfway Home," an improvised show about the daily adventures and mishaps of five ex-cons living together in a rehab facility. Her character, Serenity Johnson, served time for armed robbery and was, ironically, the most aggressive in the group. She had delusions of fame after landing an interview for a reality show about criminals, only to find out later that the show was titled "America's Stupidest Criminals." On a definite career roll, Spencer next had a recurring role on the hit ABC series "Ugly Betty," as an immigration agent who stalked the father of Betty Suarez (America Ferrera). In 2008, Spencer delivered an emotionally charged performance in "Seven Pounds," playing the caretaker of Rosario Dawson's character, a terminally ill patient who receives the heart of a man (Will Smith) who seeks redemption by donating his vital organs to seven people.

After appearing in countless films and shows as a memorable supporting player, Spencer scored a major part in the highly anticipated film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel "The Help," as one of the African-American servants persuaded by an aspiring writer (Emma Stone) to secretly write a book about their lives in service to white families in 1960s Mississippi. Spencer played the feisty and defiant Minny Jackson, a great cook whose sharp tongue always landed her in trouble with her employers. Stockett apparently wrote the character Minny with Spencer with mind. The two women met for the first time while Stockett was in the midst of writing her novel, and incorporated Spencer's physicality and mannerisms as she developed Minny. Prior to the film's release, Spencer spoke out against controversy, mostly from the African-American community, regarding her role as a "maid" in the film. In interviews, she noted that critics should focus on the characters' breadth of emotions rather than just their occupation. Her hard work paid off when she won both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Supporting roles in dysfunctional-family comedy "Peep World" (2012) and alcoholism drama "Smashed" (2012) were followed by a key role in Ryan Coogler's indie drama "Fruitvale Station" (2013), a film dramatizing the last day of Oscar Grant, a young black man shot to death by transit cops in a subway station in Oakland, California in 2009. Another acclaimed film, dystopian science fiction thriller "Snowpiercer" (2013), was followed by "Paradise" (2013), a comedy-drama written and directed by Diablo Cody, and the James Brown biopic "Get On Up" (2014). Spencer also landed her first leading role on television in the medical comedy-drama "Red Band Society" (Fox 2014-15), but the series received middling reviews and ratings and was quietly canceled after its initial 13-episode order. A supporting role in "The Great Gilly Hopkins" (2014), based on the children's book, was followed by the child-custody tearjerker "Black or White" (2015), in which she starred opposite Kevin Costner. Spencer next appeared in the young adult action hit "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" (2015) as Johanna Reyes, a role she reprised in the sequel "The Divergent Series: Allegiant" (2016). Her first voice role came in the animated blockbuster "Zootopia" (2016). That same year, Spencer teamed with Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monaé in Theodore Melfi's "Hidden Figures" (2016), a fact-based drama set at NASA headquarters in Florida in the early '60s, where three brilliant African-American women fought racism and sexism while their engineering and mathematic work helped launch the U.S. ahead of the Soviet Union in the space race. A critical and commercial success, the film gave Spencer her second Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. Spencer's next big-screen appearance came as a manifestation of God in "The Shack" (2017), a religious parable based on a best-selling novel that proved to be a critical and commercial disappointment.

Credits

The Making of Spirited

Self
Show
2023

The Lost Women of Highway 20Stream

Executive Producer
Reality
2023

Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter

Self
Special
2022

The Jennifer Hudson ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2022

SpiritedStream

Actor
Kimberly
Movie
2022
71%

Celebrity IOU: Joyride

Guest
Reality
2021

Thunder ForceStream

Actor
Emily
Movie
2021
22%

Right to Try

Producer
Movie
2021

EncounterStream

Actor
Hattie
Movie
2021
56%

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Narrator
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2020

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. WalkerStream

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Sarah Breedlove/Madam C.J. Walker
Miniseries
2020

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. WalkerStream

Executive Producer
Miniseries
2020

DolittleStream

Voice
Dab-Dab
Movie
2020
15%

OnwardStream

Voice
Manticore
Movie
2020
88%

Roald Dahl's The WitchesStream

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Grandma
Movie
2020
49%

Truth Be ToldStream

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Poppy Parnell
Series
2019

Truth Be ToldStream

Executive Producer
Series
2019

The Kelly Clarkson ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2019

Die Hütte - Ein Wochenende mit Gott

Actor
Papa
Show
2019

Today With Hoda & Jenna

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2019

Martha & Snoop's Potluck Party Challenge

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Show
2019

MaStream

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Sue Ann
Movie
2019
55%

MaStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2019
55%

LuceStream

Actor
Harriet Carter
Movie
2019
90%

Geniale Köpfe

Actor
Dorothy Vaughan
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2018

Big Boy's Neighborhood

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2018

The Jess Cagle Interview

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2018

A Kid Like Jake

Actor
Judy
Movie
2018

Green BookStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2018
77%

Instant FamilyStream

Actor
Karen
Movie
2018
82%

Live with Kelly and Ryan

Guest
Talk
2017

Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America

Guest
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2017

The Shack

Actor
Papa
Movie
2017

GiftedStream

Actor
Roberta
Movie
2017
73%

The Shape of WaterStream

Actor
Zelda Fuller
Movie
2017
92%

Small Town CrimeStream

Actor
Kelly Banks
Movie
2017
79%

Small Town CrimeStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2017
79%

The Making Of: Hidden Figures

Actor
Show
2016

To Tell the TruthStream

Guest
Game Show
2016

ZootopiaStream

Voice
Mrs. Otterton
Movie
2016
98%

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

Actor
Johanna
Movie
2016

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Actor
Ms. Harris
Movie
2016

Bad Santa 2Stream

Actor
Opal
Movie
2016
23%

Hidden FiguresStream

Actor
Dorothy Vaughan
Movie
2016
93%

The Free World

Actor
Linda Workman
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2016

Car Dogs

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Mrs. Barrett
Movie
2016

The Late Show With Stephen ColbertStream

Guest
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2015

Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter

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2015

The Late Late Show With James Corden

Guest
Talk
2015

The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Actor
Johanna
Movie
2015

B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations

Voice
Movie
2015

Fathers and Daughters

Actor
Dr. Corman
Movie
2015

Variety Studio: Actors on Actors

Guest
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2014

Black-ishStream

Guest Star
Self
Series
2014
92%

Red Band SocietyStream

Actor
Nurse Jackson
Series
2014
59%

The Meredith Vieira Show

Guest
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2014

Red Band Society: Extras

Actor
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2014

Late Night With Seth MeyersStream

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2014

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Actor
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2014

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonStream

Guest
Talk
2014

Off Camera with Sam Jones

Self
Show
2014

Get On Up

Actor
Aunt Honey
Movie
2014

Black or WhiteStream

Actor
Rowena Jeffers
Movie
2014
39%

Bardhezi

Actor
Movie
2014

The GoldbergsStream

Guest Voice
Felicia
Series
2013

MomStream

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Regina
Series
2013

The Queen Latifah Show

Guest
Talk
2013

The Social

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2013

Drunk HistoryStream

Actor
Series
2013

Drunk HistoryStream

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Series
2013

ParadiseStream

Actor
Loray
Movie
2013
20%

SnowpiercerStream

Actor
Tanya
Movie
2013
94%

Fruitvale StationStream

Actor
Wanda
Movie
2013
94%

Fruitvale StationStream

Executive Producer
Movie
2013
94%

Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersStream

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Martha
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2013
42%

Call Me Crazy: A Five Film

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Dr. Nance
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2013

Live! With Kelly and Michael

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2012

Entertainment Studios.TV

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2012

Oprah's Oscar Special

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2012

Movie Talk With Peter Bart

Guest
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2012

CBS This Morning

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2012

Smashed

Actor
Jenny
Movie
2012

Blues for Willadean

Actor
LaSonia Robinson
Movie
2012

Lost on Purpose

Actor
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Movie
2012

LIVE with Kelly

Guest
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2011

LIVE with Kelly

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2011

The Chew

Guest
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2011

Anderson

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2011

Dish Nation

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2011

The HelpStream

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Minny
Movie
2011
76%

Flypaper

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Madge Wiggins
Movie
2011

ConanStream

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2010

The Talk

Guest
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2010

The Nate Berkus Show

Guest
Talk
2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Actor
Madame Nora
Movie
2010

Watch What Happens Live With Andy CohenStream

Guest
Talk
2009

DollhouseStream

Guest Star
Series
2009
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Actor
Angel Angelique
Movie
2009

Herpes Boy

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Rochelle
Movie
2009

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2008

Raising the BarStream

Guest Star
Series
2008
22%

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Grace
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2008

The Spleenectomy

Actor
Nurse
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2008

Pretty Ugly People

Actor
Mary
Movie
2008

Wizards of Waverly PlaceStream

Actor
Dr. Evillni
Series
2007

The Big Bang TheoryStream

Guest Star
Octavia
Series
2007
81%

Today With Kathie Lee & Hoda

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2007

Chelsea Lately

Guest
Talk
2007

The Graham Norton ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2007

Halfway Home

Actor
Serenity Johnson
Show
2007

The Nines

Actor
Streetwalker
Movie
2007

30 RockStream

Guest Star
Octavia Spencer
Series
2006
78%

Ugly BettyStream

Guest Star
Constance Grady
Series
2006
97%

The One Show

Guest
Show
2006

etalk

Guest
Show
2006

Made in Hollywood

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2005

Entertainment Tonight Canada

Guest
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2005

American DadStream

Guest Voice
Shonteeva
Series
2005

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

Guest
Talk
2005

Wannabe

Actor
Lady Chanet Janney Jones
Movie
2005

CSI: NYStream

Guest Star
Child Welfare Rep
Series
2004

Tavis Smiley

Guest
Talk
2004

Breakin' All the RulesStream

Actor
Stylist
Movie
2004
31%

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Guest
Talk
2003

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

Guest
Talk
2003

Presidio Med

Guest Star
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2002

Little John

Actor
Waitress
Movie
2002

Grounded for LifeStream

Guest Star
Admitting Nurse
Series
2001

Follow the Stars Home

Actor
Hildy
Movie
2001

Sol Goode

Actor
Unemployment Clerk
Movie
2001

CSI: Crime Scene InvestigationStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

City of Angels

Guest Star
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2000

Malcolm in the MiddleStream

Guest Star
Series
2000

Missing Pieces

Actor
Elegant Guest
Movie
2000

Big Momma's HouseStream

Actor
Twila
Movie
2000
30%

Four Dogs Playing Poker

Actor
Waitress
Movie
2000

Blue StreakStream

Actor
Shawna
Movie
1999
36%

BeckerStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

To Have & to Hold

Guest Star
Show
1998

L.A. Doctors

Guest Star
Series
1998

Dharma & Greg

Guest Star
Series
1997

The View

Guest
Talk
1997

Just Shoot MeStream

Guest Star
Nurse
Series
1997

Access Hollywood

Guest
News
1996

MoeshaStream

Guest Star
Series
1996

ERStream

Guest Star
Maria Jones
Series
1994

Extra

Guest
News
1994

NYPD BlueStream

Guest Star
Eleanor Jackson
Series
1993
83%

The X-FilesStream

Guest Star
Nurse
Series
1993
74%

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Guest
Talk
1992

Entertainment Tonight

Guest
News
1981

20/20Stream

Guest
News
1978

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

Saturday Night LiveStream

Host
Series
1975

Canada AM

Guest
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1972

Today

Guest
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1952

News aboutOctavia Spencer

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Self Made Octavia Spencer
Q&A

‘Self Made’s Octavia Spencer on Telling Madam C.J. Walker’s Story Now

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