After appearing in several supporting roles over the past few years and producing projects behind the scenes, like Green Book, Octavia Spencer is the top-billed star for the horror pic Ma, a rare sight for a Black actress.
The Oscar winner recently spoke with Shadow And Act and talked about her role in the film, upcoming projects and her reaction to the controversy surrounding Green Book.
Ma is a departure from much of Spencer’s previous work, considering her roles in movies such as The Help, Hidden Figures and even A Kid Like Jake. “What drew me to this movie was the fact that it is a departure, and we’ve not seen Black women in this genre as a lead. I think Lupita now has a film, but prior to that, there weren’t any [films] where Black women were headlining. And [I] also wanted young Black girls to know that as actors, they should be able to play every role that they want to play,” she said.
As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, she also spoke about the mental health state of her character, Sue Ann. She said in part, “She definitely has some issues. When you see the film you’ll know exactly what they are. I didn’t take on the role for social issues. I shouldn’t say that, but…because I’m an aunt, and I know in this age on the internet, kids do crazy things and hang out with people they probably shouldn’t. It’s a cautionary tale for me, and it’s also a fun way to tell a cautionary tale.”
On if Green Book criticism impacted her future storytelling as a creator and producer, Spencer said, “I think controversy is great, in that it fuels conversation. Discourse has to happen…I don’t make decisions like that [based upon controversy]. You can’t, otherwise…at night, when you close your eyes, if you’re literally thinking about what other people feel or what they’re going to say about you, how will you ever rest peacefully?”
Ma is in theaters now.