Spencer is a native of Montgomery, Alabama, which she claims is the proverbial buckle of the Bible belt. She's the sixth of seven siblings and holds a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn University. A "closet" lover of acting, this practical Alabamian knew that she'd someday work in the film industry, but never dreamed it would be in front of the camera. In 1995, acclaimed director Joel Schumacher changed all that by giving her a small part opposite Sandra Bullock in the hit film A Time to Kill, and Spencer was on her way. In 1996, she teamed up with Bullock again in Bullock's directorial debut of Making Sandwiches, a short film that premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival.
Spencer made her stage debut in Los Angeles and originated the role of "LaSonia" (pronounced lasagna) in famed writer/director Del Shore's, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, starring opposite veteran actors Beth Grant, Dale Dickey and David Steen (2003). The play garnered Spencer and her fellow cast mates critical acclaim and a bevy of awards. Since then, Spencer has continued to see success as an actor in both film and television, working alongside Hollywood's elite. In February 2009, she was lauded by Los Angeles Times publication: The Envelope, for her brief but memorable performance in the Will Smith drama Seven Pounds.
In April 2009, she was named one of the '25 Funniest Actresses in Hollywood' by Entertainment Weekly.
Is one of 9 actresses to win the Critic's Choice Award, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, and Oscar in the same year, winning for The Help (2011). The others to achieve this are Julia Roberts for Erin Brockovich (2000), Renée Zellweger for Cold Mountain (2003), Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line (2005), Helen Mirren for The Queen (2006), Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls (2006), Kate Winslet for The Reader (2008), Mo'Nique for Precious (2009/II) and Natalie Portman for Black Swan (2010).
Is one of 6 African-American actresses to win the Oscar in a competitive category. The others in chronological order are Hattie McDaniel for Gone with the Wind (1939), Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost (1990), Halle Berry for Monster's Ball (2001), Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls (2006) and Mo'Nique for Precious (2009/II).
Is good friends with Melissa McCarthy.
Between 1996 and 2013, Spencer has played a nurse at least 16 different times, including in movies such as A Time to Kill and Seven Pounds, as a regular on the TV show "City of Angels," and in guest spots on shows like "Chicago Hope," "The X-Files," and "Roswell.".
I was not a Girl Scout, but I try to be very prepared. I triple-Spanx!
[on 'Smashed'] To say we did it on a shoestring budget would be putting it mildly. We did it on a dental-floss budget.
I was always a closet lover of acting. My mom was very practical. She never, ever restricted our dreams, always told us we could do or be anything. Then I said, 'Maybe I want to be an actor'. And she said, 'Maybe not that'.
[on her role as an alcoholic teacher in 'Smashed'] The subject matter is so relevant.People have been having issues with substance abuse since the dawn of time, I imagine, since they started fermenting fruit and vegetables, for God's sake. It was definitely an enlightening part to play. I'll say that I don't think you can throw a stone and not come in contact with someone who knows someone or has problems with substance abuse.
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