Actress Octavia Spencer describes her process for reading a script and developing the characters she plays. Plus she shares how she communicates with directors during the prep phase of independent films.
Key Insights

  • Every actor has their own process for preparing a character. Here are some of the ways Octavia approaches the process:
  • Read the script only a few times as a whole so you understand the writer’s intent, but then break it down so you’re only looking at the information your character needs to know.
  • Create the life of the character before the script begins, and what happens after
  • Learn the lines and then throw them away so you can exist in the space
  • Determine who drives each scene.
  • Map out the character’s arc and track where they are emotionally in each scene (Octavia calls it a “Journey Map”).
  • Create memories and an inner life for your character (including their secrets).
  • When working on an independent film, the director and actor must have a lot of conversations via phone or video call before arriving on set because there is not usually rehearsal time due to limits on time and money.
  • An actor must trust their director to step in and drop the right note to help a scene move along.
  • In order to find the magic, both actors and the director must be open to playing and seeing what will happen organically in the process.

One of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents, Spencer has become a familiar fixture in both television and the silver screen. Her performance as Minny in the DreamWorks feature film THE HELP won her the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, SAG Award and Broadcast Film Critics’ Choice Award among numerous other accolades. Spencer recently starred in Guillermo del Toro’s Academy Award-winning fantasy drama, THE SHAPE OF WATER alongside Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins. Previous film credits include INSTANT FAMILY, A KID LIKE JAKE, HIDDEN FIGURES, ZOOTOPIA, and FRUITVALE STATION. more...

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