Octavia Spencer on her late mom: she taught us there were no limitations

Octavia Spencer is promoting Hidden Figures, which is out in limited released on Christmas day and in wide release on January 6. Advance reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and critics lauding this account of the female African-American scientists and mathematicians working at NASA in the early 1960s. She has several interviews out, including with People and Variety. Watching her People interview I was particularly touched by how she described her mom, a hard-working single mother who died when Spencer was just 18. The lessons her mom taught her and her siblings, that they could achieve whatever they wanted, stayed with her.

On her mom’s lessons
I had a very strong mom who made me and my sisters understand that there were no limitations on our lives except what we placed on ourselves. We were very sheltered too. My mom was very strict. A God-fearing woman… She taught us to see people as people. All people. Taught us to understand our place in the world. And our place in the world is, if you want to be a leader, you can be that. There was no glass ceiling until I got into the real world and realized there are glass ceilings everywhere!

My mom was a single mom. She worked as a maid. She had several jobs to put food on the table. It’s just a – very noble woman and I credit her for the person I am today. Feet firmly on the ground.

On losing her mom at 18
Now, there are so many things that I’d like to know about her. There are conversations that I’d like to have. I think she gave me the necessary foundation to be able to do what I do. I think you have to have blind faith in yourself and your ability. You have to not know that there’s a wall there because if you’re constantly looking for barriers, then they will be there.

My mother always made me understand that at the end of the day it’s how you feel as a person and how you treat the people around you… she really prepared me for the crazy that is this industry. You have to see the sky’s the limit otherwise you will never get off the ground.

[From People]

I can’t imagine losing my mom at 18, that must have been so difficult, to say the least. I’m close with my mom now but it took years for me to realize what she sacrificed for us when we were growing up, and to appreciate what she continues to do for us. Surely perspective has helped Spencer come to terms with her mom’s death, but the foundation her mom gave her may have been the most valuable tool. Her story really resonated with me.

Spencer’s Variety interview is quite in-depth in that she discussed her thoughts after the election – she felt alternately angry and sad (I can relate), on OscarsSoWhite, she thought the focus was on the wrong part of the filmmaking process, the end, and the fact that more slice of life movies need to be made about characters who aren’t just white. She said that these films should translate to a mainstream audience. “There are so many stories out there that need to be told, and just because the leads happen to be three African Americans doesn’t mean they won’t translate to mainstream audiences.” I can’t wait to see Hidden Figures and I hope it does well at the box office. Spencer and the film have already been nominated for the SAG Awards and Golden Globes, and you can assume the Oscars are coming too.

"Hidden Figures" New York Special Screening

'Hidden Figures' New York Special Screening

Octavia Spencer Sighted at LAX Airport on December 21, 2016

photos credit: FameFlynet, PRPhotos and Getty Images

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20 Responses to “Octavia Spencer on her late mom: she taught us there were no limitations”

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  1. lightpurple says:

    More Octavia, please! I just love this woman.

  2. Matador says:

    She’s great. More success to her.

  3. prince says:

    best supporting actress nomination for her work in hidden figures. academy awards pls make it happen. she already got a golden globe nod for her work in hidden figures.

    who has seen hidden figures? is it any good? I’m not a huge taraji fan cause she always plays her self.

    • TQB says:

      I’ve been amazed by Taraji’s range – going from Carter on Person of Interest to Cookie gave me whiplash!

      • SusanneToo says:

        I pretty much lost interest in POI after she left. It seemed to lose its way.

      • JFresh says:

        She does have an amazing range. The exact opposite of someone who always plays herself IMO. And she’s only just begun, God willing. Hope she gets a chance to work a lot more in the future.

    • Hazel says:

      I’ve seen trailers for it in theaters–it looks great.

  4. poppy says:

    so many feels for her. i am sad for her she is not getting to directly experience the joy of how proud her mother is of her. i am excited for her because she has made her mom’s hard work pay off with dividends. she is an awesome lady and a testament to what a great mother she had. bittersweet.
    this story is MAJOR. i will definitely be seeing this movie.

  5. TQB says:

    I love her comments about representation in films. We don’t just need more diverse casting, we need to actually tell stories of diverse people. Hollywood thinks white people only want to watch white people and I don’t accept that. I’m using my ticket $$ to show it isn’t true.

    • Betsy says:

      I don’t see many movies because theaters are way too loud for me, and lately the themes of movies seem to be limited to violence, sexual violence, grossout, sadsville so sad you’ll never break free of its gravitational pull, or SUPERHEROES. But you are right – more people. Different people. New people.

  6. Kelly says:

    I can’t wait to see Hidden Figures. It looks fantastic

  7. Lindy says:

    This movie is definitely on my must-go-see list (which is saying something–I have a serious, genetic hearing impairment and movie theatre movies are simply tough for me, so I only go when it’s something I really want to see and experience). I wish her mom could see her success today–it sounds like she would be proud of her talented, accomplished daughter. Yes to more Octavia!

  8. K says:

    I didn’t know that about losing her mom, I can’t imagine how hard that would be. Nope don’t want to even think about it.

    I can’t wait for this movie, I have been dying for it to come out since I read she was in talks and I found out this story happened and these women existed. She is right about the Oscars and storytelling it should start and greenlighting not at the awards. Also the idea that people don’t want to watch diverse stories has been disproven by tv. I don’t go to the movies anymore because I don’t care about superheroes but this month with Hidden Figures, Lion, Loving, fences and I know I’m missing one I’m excited about movies and it’s because they are telling interesting stories.

  9. Abbess Tansy says:

    I can’t wait to see this movie as I never knew this story. Octavia is a wonderful actress and person, hope to see more about her.

  10. Nameless says:

    My husband and I watch this show called Timeless, where people travel in time in a little pod to stop a guy trying to disrupt history.

    So he goes to NASA in the 60s and inputs a virus in the punch card computer to disrupt the space race. And, the lead cast infiltrates NASA and recruits Katherine Johnson, who is working from the basement, to help them with the computer.

    And I turned to my husband and said that she was a real person who worked on the space missions and he had no idea. The control room was all white dudes! We had a discussion about “make America great” and what that really means. 🙁

    I’m looking forward to the film! Love Octavia, and her mom. It’s nice to read something positive.

  11. TotallyBiased says:

    Nameless–now I have to go find that show! I am so thrilled that millions of people now know who Katherine Johnson is… I’m thrilled that NASA is so supportive of this movie, and POC / girls in STEM (see BlackGirlsCode) Of course, they aren’t diverse enough in their own modern day employees, but they are better than the private corporations.
    #VOTEyourWALLET at the box office!