Octavia Spencer has an Academy Award and a steady influx of film offers — but she scoffs at the very notion of shying away from television. “That’s not a reality in today’s world. You see Julia Roberts doing television,” notes the “The Help” Oscar winner — who will join the small screen action Sept. 17 with the premiere of Fox’s “Red Band Society.”
She adds, “Some of the most interesting characters out there for character actresses like myself are in television, so I would be shooting my big toe off, and not being able to walk very well, had I done that…I don’t see that there’s a difference, really. I think that stigma is quite gone.
“I’m not a snob, I’m an actor. And I’m a character actor, so I have to be realistic about the parts that are available to me,” she goes on. “So it’s about really and truly being a part of a show with a character I can grow with.”
Spencer plays a nurse with a sarcastic edge in the hospital dramedy centered on teens that forge social bonds while dealing with long-term illness.
Writer/exec producer Margaret Nagle (“Boardwalk Empire”) brings a wealth of personal experience, as she “grew up in a hospital,” as she put it, while her brother was in a coma following an accident. Still physically challenged, he is now an outsider artist, she told press at the recent Television Critics Association conclave. Stories are based on real-life situations, and Spencer and other cast members and writers visited pediatric hospitals around the country to absorb the atmosphere and get to know patients. Steven Spielberg is also an exec producer on the show.
Spencer says her character is “a lot of fun because you do assume she’s That Way — all business — but the children pull on her heartstrings…You see it played out differently. She only shows her true colors to a few people, and usually it’s kids.”
She does make it clear she “absolutely” will continue to make movies — having launched “Get On Up” earlier this summer, and having “Insurgent,” the second installment of “Divergent,” ahead. The studio and network, she says, “have been wonderful” about working with her film calendar. Spencer and the series’ “hot doc” Dave Annable are “interwoven throughout the episodes,” according to her.
As far as her life changing because of her taking home the Best Supporting Actress statuette in 2012, she says, “My life is still very much the same. I like a small manageable life. But my career, obviously, exploded. I have access to a lot of great material. I got offered a lot.” A series, she believes, is “a marriage, so you want to be married to a project that’s brilliant and you want to be married to people that you respect and whose work you’ve been a fan of, and who’ve influenced you. That’s what i have with Margaret and Steven Spielberg and everybody at Dreamworks and Fox.”
HUSH-HUSH: The Aug. 11 season ender of VH-1’s “Hit the Floor” is being kept secret — even from the cast. That’s the word from Don Stark, who costars on the steamy VH-1 show about an NBA cheerleader (Taylour Paige) and her world. According to him, show producer James LaRosa “is a master of keeping things close to the vest. The last half page of the script was redacted; none of us knows what’s going on. I don’t even think the NSA could have picked it out.”
Someone on the show will be meeting a bad fate, it seems, and different possibilities were shot. “We have a pool as to who it will be. Every actor thinks, ‘Is it me? Am I going to be out next year?'” notes Stark with a laugh. He certainly hopes it isn’t him, especially since the one-time “That 70’s Show” actor is having a blast on the show, which was picked up for a third season in May. “It’s a great group of people to work with — amazing dancers, Dean Cain, Kimberly Elise…. The writing is quite good. I hope to be along for the ride next season.”
Either way, Stark certainly has a full plate of activities. He recently joined Sally Field’s big screen comedy, “Hello, My Name is Doris.” “It’s a coming-of-age story for someone who is already of age,” he says. “She’s a woman in her sixties who lives out on Staten Island and works in the city. She’s a bit of a hoarder. When her mom dies, her life changes.”
And she winds up falling for a younger man — 33-year-old “New Girl” cutie Max Greenfield. Stark plays his uncle, a would-be suitor for Field. He also has the upcoming indie film “Safelight” with Christine Lahti, and returns to his role as Vinny the Scar on the new season of “Castle” this fall.