Octavia Spencer on Diversity in Oscar Nominees: It's 'Not a Reaction to #OscarsSoWhite'

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In a candid interview, best supporting actress nominee Octavia Spencer gently corrects the notion that this year’s Oscar nominees are not a direct reaction to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite brouhaha because that’s not how movies work.

Spencer sat down with Deadline’s Joe Utchi to talk about her role in Hidden Figures with the candor and grace she has become known for. And, much like Moonlight’s Naomie Harris did in New York last week, she quickly shut down the notion that this year’s spate of films featuring people of color is a reaction to last year’s lily-white Oscar nominations. 

So now you contrast that with the urgent conversation we’re having in the arts today. This year has offered an eclectic mix of movies that some have argued addressed #OscarsSoWhite.

I think that’s what you guys are thinking, but when you know how movies are made, the explosion of films with people of color is not a reaction to #OscarsSoWhite.

I know, and I don’t mean to say that. But when I see a movie like Hidden Figures, I hope that it’s a sign that these kinds of stories won’t be ignored anymore.

I know that I have projects coming up, and I know that Viola [Davis] and Taraji [P. Henson] have projects coming up. I know Idris Elba is headlining a few things, and I hope Mahershala Ali and André Holland and David Oyelowo have things coming up. And also, you know, I’m taking a more active role in producing, and so is Viola. I can’t see this year being an isolated thing, but then, I thought Hillary was going to be president, so I can’t tell you for sure.


Speaking to the power that the public has via their money and what films they choose to support with it, she presented a simple strategy for seeing more of the diversity audiences desire on screen.

I mean, when I look at the people that are underrepresented in the film industry, I’ve got to tell you, if I look down a list of characters on a film, and it doesn’t have gay, African-American or Latin characters, I’m probably not going to spend my money on the ticket. I’m going to be real honest with you. I see enough of the homogeneity, and I don’t need to support it with my dollar. And when we stop supporting things with our dollars that don’t represent all of us, then you’ll see an explosion of diversity. Art is about reaching people that you wouldn’t normally reach. It’s about bringing us together.

Other topics discussed include how she first thought the true story behind Hidden Figures was “historical fiction,” the importance of optimism and the true meaning of diversity. Like Spencer herself, it is a delight. Read the interview here.

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