Octavia Spencer's Vital Role in Showcasing Untold History on Screen


Oct. 1 2023, Updated 10:05 p.m. ET

Octavia Spencer is known for her unique talent as an actress. She’s starred in films like The Shape of Water and Ma, playing versatile roles that called on her to use her stellar performance skills.

In 2011, she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the film The Help.

Octavia is a unique actress not only because of her rare talent but also because she promotes historical narratives in film. The movies she has acted in are great examples of this passion for her heritage.

Octavia Spencer and Her Love for Historical Narratives

Choosing which movies to act in is one of the most important things actors and actresses do. For Octavia, selecting a part that promotes cultural and historical narrative is essential.

One example of this is the part she played in The Help. The movie is about a Southern society girl (played by Emma Stone), who dreams of becoming a famous writer. To achieve her dream, she goes about the untraditional method of interviewing black women who took care of white families in the past. One of these women is Minny Jackson, who is played by Octavia Spencer.

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Octavia’s role as Minny is a memorable one. The maid is sassy, bold, and unflappable. She’s also brave and loyal, characteristics that bind the character strongly with the actress. One who watches The Help will not come away with a warm, fuzzy feeling, but with an unsettling sense of injustice and a feeling that even today, racism is a thread that runs dark in the tapestry of life and society.

According to Octavia, movies like The Help are important because they tell the story of the past, where women like her own grandmother and mother lived on the fringe of society, taking care of the wellbeing of other people and families above their own. To her, these stories mustn’t be wiped out from our memories so that society can move forward and create a world that’s better for people of color and minority groups.

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Another example of Octavia’s love for historical narratives is her role in the film Hidden Figures. The movie is brilliant, and it showcases the part African-American women played at NASA during the launch of astronaut John Glenn into space. Octavia said yes immediately to the role of Dorothy Vaughan, not only because the story was compelling, but also because it was true. Dorothy was one of the black women in NASA who helped figure out the mathematical calculations for John Glenn’s journey into orbit. To Octavia, this movie would bring to light the intelligence of African-American women and their contribution to history.

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Octavia Spencer’s Bright Light for Her Culture and Heritage

It’s one thing to love playing a part in a movie. It’s another to make every part you play a mission to bring to light your heritage and the stories of your ancestors.

For Octavia, being an actress is not only a passion, but also a responsibility. She puts it on herself to preserve her people’s history, bringing her talents to something she considers worthwhile.

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