“Insurgent” star Octavia Spencer: Still America’s “Best Supporting Actress”

octoctaviaOctavia Spencer has spent the years since her 2012 Oscar night cashing in on the success “The Help” brought her.
She was the mother of a police shooting victim in the critically acclaimed “Fruitvale Station,” an alcoholic helping a much younger drunk change her life in “Smashed,” the fatalistically brave Tanya in the fanboy favorite “Snowpiercer,” the formative aunt in James Brown’s childhood in “Get on Up” and an enterprising mom who somehow raised a crackhead in “Black or White.” She headlined the cult TV series “Red Band Society.”
That’s a pretty good career, and that’s just the last three years.
“I’m very lucky to have great representation at WME (William Morris Endeavor),” the Best Supporting Actress winner says, as if giving another Oscar speech. “That’s their charge, to procure the most interesting work for me. That’s all I want. And they’re doing it, aren’t they?”
Critic fans such as Jackie Cooper of The Huffington Post admire her ability to “not rest on her laurels” and take low-paying, challenging films which “keep her relevant” and ensure she’ll “be around for a long time to come.”
But her newest film? Not low budget, not “indie.” She did “Insurgent,” the second film in the “Divergent” series, for love.
“Listen, there is no bigger fan,” Spencer admits. “I didn’t care what I played. I was just excited to be doing a part in a series that I really enjoyed as a reader. Not quite ‘Erudite’ of me, I know. But I’m such a fangirl!”
Spencer is Joanna, motherly leader of “Amity” in a post-Apocalyptic future where society has re-started, organized into “factions.” The smart, rational types are in “Erudite,” the truth-tellers are “Candor,” the fearless fighters are “Dauntless,” and so on. Spencer, the 44 year-old Alabama-born fangirl, has given some thought as to what Faction this future might sentence her.
“If they forced me into a Faction, they might give me credit for enough wisdom to be in Erudite, the selflessness of Abnegation. You hope that you can be Dauntless in your most fearful moments. And yes, I have Candor. Oh YES. Funny, but that was Joanna’s first Faction, before she moved to Amity. I have Amity. I can be easy to get along with.”
Spencer laughs at her intimate familiarity with the jargon and the world set-up in Veronica Roth’s novels.
“We’re all a little too complicated, as people, to fit into one Faction, aren’t we? And me? I must be DIVERGENT! Or ‘Factionless.'”
She’s too busy to be pigeon-holed, too much the polymath. The end of March sees her second children’s novel in the “Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective” series come out. And she was an unexpected star of last month’s Oscars, even though she wasn’t nominated. Host Neil Patrick Harris enlisted her to watch a locked briefcase where he allegedly hid his picks for all the Oscar winners.
“Not planned, at least on my part,” Spencer laughs. “That was fun, getting all that camera time for that ‘bit.’ I thought it was hilarious.”
So she’s not leery of getting that seat a little too close to the stage on future Oscar nights? Even if none of these critically-acclaimed performances find their to an envelope?
“Honey, if you go to the Oscars and you’re NOT sitting in the front row, that’s a reason to stay home.”

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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