Octavia Spencer Says She’s A “Carefree” Black Woman, But Hollywood Only Sees Her As Nurses And Maids

November 8, 2016  |  

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There are certain actors and actresses who consistently play the same type of characters all of the time: drug dealer, the love interest, the sassy friend, somebody’s mother. But in her new interview with The New York Times, Octavia Spencer points out that many celebrities often take these roles not because they truly want to, but because that’s what’s offered and seemingly available to them. She knows this because for a good chunk of the 46-year-old’s career, she was typecast as nurses, mothers and maids. Blame director Joel Schumacher for the first typecast. Spencer worked with him as a production assistant for his film A Time to Kill in 1996. She asked about the chance to get onscreen and play a woman starting a riot in the film, but he had something else in mind for her.

“He said: ‘No, honey, your face is too sweet. You can be Sandy’s nurse,'” she told the publication. “It was so funny because I didn’t know that there was such a thing as typecasting. It’s like, ‘You’re just a nurse face.’ What is a nurse face?” As pointed out in the article, according to IMDB.com, Spencer has literally played a nurse 16 times.

You would think that after winning an Oscar for her work in The Help, the floodgates of opportunity would open in terms of roles. However, she went from one typecast to another and was asked to play more maids. Spencer admits that the characters she often gets pitched are quite different from who she is, but more of the same onscreen.

“I played Mother Earth so much that I can probably whip up some moss for you right now,” Spencer said.

She continued: “I’ve yet to play anyone who remotely resembles me. I’m carefree. I don’t have kids. I’m more of a romantic comedy, dating the wrong people and trying to find love.”

But Spencer is taking things into her own hands, doing more producing, starring in the upcoming film Hidden Figures (alongside Janelle Monáe and Taraji P. Henson), and trying to get more stories by people of color brought to the big screen.

“Since making ‘Hidden Figures,’ I don’t have a problem saying to a room of male executives: ‘I need a female writer or a female director,’ or ‘I need a black voice or a Latin voice,” she said. “I do not feel bad about it.”

This time, she’s calling the shots and providing the opportunities. No more Ms. Nice Nurse Face.

Image via Shutterstock

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