Octavia Spencer knows what it’s like to be center stage at the Oscars — she won Best Supporting Actress at the 2012 Academy Awards for her role in “The Help” — and she’s looking to get back in that spotlight.
The 42-year-old actress chatted with HuffPost about her upcoming flick “Fruitvale,” which just walked away with the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
“‘Fruitvale’ was a project that resonated with me on a personal level and I thought that it’s about time that we bring this issue to the forefront, so that we can have meaningful discourse about our humanity and how we interact with each other,” she told HuffPost, adding that the film needed some backup. “I jumped onboard because it was a very, very small project and sometimes if a project is that small, it won’t see the light of day if it doesn’t get the right people involved.”
“Fruitvale” tells the heart-wrenching true story of the events that led up to the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant at a San Francisco BART station on New Year’s Day in 2009. Spencer ultimately took the role of Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, after discovering the movie nabbed Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker as a producer and “Friday Night Lights” star Michael B. Jordan as the lead.
“I think my involvement sort of sealed the deal,” she explained. “We were able to bring in some friends that we worked with and it turned out really nicely for us.”
“I’m thrilled that it was the vision that [director] Ryan Coogler had and more than anything the family was happy with it,” Spencer continued. “At the end of the day, there’s a responsibility when playing someone that’s real, instead of a character, to live up to that.”
Spencer said she’s been focused on choosing projects that really resonate with her, despite what others might want her to do. She even confessed that she’d be willing to do a Tyler Perry movie.
“Oh absolutely, I’d star in a Tyler Perry movie. But for me, it has to be material that speaks to me,” she said. “That’s the way it’s always been, at some level, it spoke to me. If there was absolutely, positively something I didn’t want to do, I didn’t do it. I still choose projects the same way. If it’s a character that I’ve already done, I feel at some point I’m not interested. If it’s something that challenges me as an actor, and makes me go outside of my comfort zone, I’m more inclined to do it.”
Something she was inclined to do was appear in a Lifetime Network “Five” film entitled “Call Me Crazy,” which is executive produced by Jennifer Aniston and co-stars the likes of Brittany Snow, Ashley Judd, Melanie Griffith and Jennifer Hudson.
“It’s a Five series and I am in a short called ‘Lucy,’ but the story lines are all interwoven. I actually didn’t have any scenes with Jennifer Hudson, but her storyline overlapped with Brittany Snow’s,” Spencer says. “I was with Brittany Snow and Jason Ritter and Clint Howard; I played their therapist in our short. But I can’t wait to see the finished product, because I hear it’s amazing. There’s a lot of really, really good talent behind the whole project.”
As for what she plans on doing next, Spencer admits she’d love to work with Spielberg.
“I’m dying to do something with Steven Spielberg. He’s always been a part of my life as a kid and then as an inspiring artist, so to have done “The Help” and it to be at Dreamworks [the company Spielberg co-founded] was a dream come true and that just makes me want to soak up the magic that is Steven Spielberg,” she explained, laughing, “So, I would start there!”
“Fruitvale” is set for release on July 26.