Octavia Spencer gave one of the most memorable speeches of this year’s Academy Awards when she accepted her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The Help star was given a standing ovation by the thousands in attendance and the response clearly moved her to tears. Immediately following her acceptance speech, the actress headed backstage and spoke to the press about her big night. To say she is as modest as she is excited is a gross understatement.
“I want to say fan-effing-tastic. It is humbling,” she proudly stated of how she’s feeling. Spencer was quick to thank the people behind The Help, especially those real life individuals who inspired the onscreen characters. “This love affair I’ve had with The Help — I am a benefactor of all of the riches that the real life Minnys, Aibileens, Constantines, Skeeters and Celias, that they basically repeated. I’m very humble because I get to stand here and accept this award and I haven’t really done anything.”
Spencer then delved deeper into how her castmates helped her not only hone her performance, but create an environment that was rich with inspiration. “It’s very rare that you have the type of ensemble that we had. You don’t get all the Academy Award nominees/winners and Cecily Tyson, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Viola Davis coming together to do a project,” she said. “Then you have the collaboration of Academy Award nominees behind the scenes. We just left our egos at the door and worked together as one beautiful unit from Emma, Viola, Bryce, Allison Janney. I mean, it was an award-winning cast. To be a part of that and to just sort of dissolve into the world that we were representing is something that we’re supposed to do as actors, but it was rare that we did it without judgment with each other.”
In her speech, the newly-minted Oscar winner thanked Steven Spielberg. Backstage, she further explained why. “Steven Spielberg is a luminary. And as far as I can remember in filmmaking he, in every decade of my life, has been creating brilliance. He has this little studio called DreamWorks that could have put any zaftig actress with acting chops in my role, but he allowed my dear friend, Tate Taylor, to cast me pretty much unknown,” Spencer said. “That’s the sign of a true filmmaker to allow a true filmmaker to do what he does. So he changed my professional life, and getting the opportunity to play this role changed life personally as well.”
Most Oscar winners have doors fly open for them after a victory. Spencer is no different, but she is — as she always was prior to winning — willing to just play parts, even in the background. She also wants to go behind the camera to provide opportunities to actors and actresses like the ones she has had. “I want to be an activist. I want to be proactive in bringing about work for men, women, boys, girls, everybody who is good at what they do and deserve a shot at it,” Spencer said. “I think my role post-Oscar is I want to have a presence both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. I’ll be the jack of all trades and hopefully decent at one of them.”