Octavia Spencer has a new interview with Deadline ahead of the Oscars. I’m so excited that the Oscars are coming up and am working on seeing all the best picture nominees. I’ve already seen Hidden Figures, it was one of my favorites so far, but we know it’s not going to win and that Moonlight or La La Land will get the top prize. Spencer isn’t going to win her second Oscar either, but at least she’s nominated and she’ll get more chances hopefully. Also, out of all the best picture nominees, Hidden Figures is top at the box office. We voted with our wallets and Spencer knows how powerful that is. In her talk with Deadline, she discusses how we can help encourage diversity on film – by boycotting movies that are all-white for instance – and how a more diverse Oscars slate this year is not specifically a reaction #OscarsSoWhite. I feel bad that people are even being posed this question, it presumes so much. This interview is incredible and I’m only excerpting part of it, so please read it at the source for more from Octavia:
My first thought, on hearing about this movie, was that these stories were too essential to have never been heard before. Did you have a similar reaction?
I totally thought it was a work of fiction. When history obscured these women’s contributions, they were completely occluded from everything. You could go to NASA and find mentions in the archives, but Google it—which is what I did when I heard about it—and you didn’t find anything. I thought it was like The Help—historical fiction.
And then I was a little angry when I realized it was true. I felt compelled to be a part of it, because it was an idea whose time had come to be told. It was disbelief, and then a great sense of pride afterwards.
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.
The tide has changed, but we still have a ways to go, because they still aren’t inclined to greenlight a movie that’s starring a person of color, without a long list of white box-office people. Are we where we should be? No. We have some ground still to cover, but I’m optimistic because of the year we’re having…
And when people say “diversity in Hollywood” they assume “black,” but diversity is all shapes and sizes, varying ages, varying backgrounds and socioeconomic levels, varying degrees of education, impoverished and elite. We see a lot of the elite, but very little of the impoverished that isn’t stereotypical. Moonlight is one of the few stories that cover what it’s like for the black, gay experience. Lion, that’s diverse, that’s out there now. There’s so many different perspectives and interesting stories out there. There are many, many meanings of diversity to me. I want to see more Latin stories told. More Asian stories.
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.
I really like what she said about what diversity means, and how it involves focusing on everyone, not just the elite. There’s a longer quote from Octavia I didn’t excerpt above which gave me goosebumps. I wanted to talk about it separately because it resonated with me. She said, of the women who were central to Hidden Figures:
They didn’t consider themselves second-class citizens; they knew what and who they were, so in spite of all of that, they were able to take our men to space and back. That is what keeps me grounded at this hour, given what’s going on in our country. If you aren’t inspired by that, there’s something wrong with you. They knew what they were capable of, they knew what their country was capable of, and they were at the forefront of something amazing. I don’t know if they really understood what their impact would be, but they were a part of something greater than themselves, and that is what’s inspiring.
This is why we Persist. This is why we listen to people’s stories and this is why the arts matter. I really hope La La Land does not win Best Picture, but this is marathon not a sprint. Now that Octavia is producing films, now that we’ve seen the success of Hidden Figures, we’ll hopefully see more broad-reaching changes in the entertainment industry to come.
Photos credit: FameFlynet and WENN
photos credit: WENN and FameFlynet