Actress Octavia Spencer was a bit player in movies and on TV for fifteen years before her Oscar-winning role as sassy maid Minny Jackson in the civil rights-era drama The Help (2011, starring Emma Stone). Octavia Spencer grew up in Alabama and is a 1994 graduate of Auburn University, where she studied English and Theater Arts. She launched herself into the film business as a production assistant, but got her chance in front of the camera in 1996's A Time To Kill (starring Sandra Bullock). Spencer worked steadily in television for many years, including recurring roles in City of Angels (2000), The Chronicle (2002) and, as a persistent federal immigration officer, the second season of Ugly Betty (2007, starring America Ferrera). She also had small but memorable roles in the films Being John Malkovich (1999, starring John Cusack), Spider-Man (2002, directed by Sam Raimi) and Seven Pounds (2008, starring Will Smith). Spencer's path to her breakout role in The Help sounds like a Hollywood story itself: she is longtime friends with the film's director, Tate Taylor, who introduced her years ago to Kathryn Stockett, the author of the novel that spawned the movie. Stockett modeled the character Minny Jackson after Spencer, and Spencer managed to get the movie role, despite being a relative unknown. Critics and audiences loved Spencer as the comically cranky maid with a tongue as quick as her temper, and so did the Motion Picture Academy, who gave her an Oscar.
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