It was previously announced that Oscar winner Octavia Spencer signed on to play a mathematician opposite Taraji P. Henson in Fox 2000’s Hidden Figures. Now, Empire Online confirms that the film will reunite the actress with Kevin Costner. The two co-starred in the 2014 drama Black Or White, which grossed $21.6 million in the U.S. against a budget of $9 million. Pop star Janelle Monae has also landed the third female lead in the space drama that is based on an adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s upcoming book, Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. The book will be published in September by HarperCollins.
St. Vincent director Ted Melfi is attached to helm and produce the film, which centers on Katherine Johnson (Henson), a brilliant African-American mathematician who, along with her colleagues Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Monae), served as the brains behind astronaut John Glenn’s first trip into space, and his safe return. Glenn flew the Friendship 7 mission in 1962 and became the first American to orbit the Earth, per Variety. Now audiences will learn who helped him get there. Costner will play the head of the space program in the film.
As the title suggests, Hidden Figures chronicles how three dynamic black women “crossed all gender, race and professional lines” while embarking on a momentous mission. The film marks Monae’s first prime role in a studio movie.
— Empire Magazine (@empiremagazine) March 1, 2016
Octavia is best known for her role as Minny Jackson in The Help, for which she won the BAFTA, Golden Globe, SAG, Critics’ Choice, and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She starred in Steven Spielberg’s Fox TV drama series Red Band Society from September 2014 until February 2015. Spencer co-starred as Johanna Reyes in the second installment of the Divergent series, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and it was recently announced that she will reprise her role in The Divergent Series: Allegiant.
Spencer sat down with The Grio to discuss her latest starring role alongside Idris Elba, Kristen Bell, and Jason Bateman, in Disney’s 3D adventure Zootopia. In her first animated role, Octavia lends her voice to the character Mrs. Otterton, “a desperate otter who enlists the help of the authorities in solving her husband’s mysterious disappearance.”
“My favorite thing about playing Mrs. Otterton is that my nieces and nephews will get to see what I do for a living because most of my work isn’t age appropriate,” she explained. “This is a huge plus for me. AND, I’m getting serious kid cache because it’s with the creators of FROZEN. I get to say I worked with people who know Elsa!!!!!”
Spencer created the character of Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective for a children’s book series, The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit in 2013, and The Sweetest Heist in History in 2015. Her hope is to turn the books into a live action or animated film.
“My book is for ages 8-12, and eventually I would like to produce it either as a live action or animated film. Directing is something on my radar, but I’m going to wait a minute before diving into those very deep waters. Right now, I’m not a strong swimmer,” said Spencer.
— The Root (@TheRoot) March 8, 2016
Back in 2004, it was announced that Octavia would star in NBC’s reboot of Murder, She Wrote, about a hospital administrator who self-publishes a mystery novel. Angela Lansbury starred in the original series for 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996. At the time the project was announced, Spencer told Deadline she had a “love for all things mysterious and Angela Lansbury.” However, Lansbury refused to support the project. While she praised Spencer and her work in The Help, she said it was “a mistake” to call the reboot series Murder, She Wrote.
“I think it’s a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote, because Murder, She Wrote will always be about a Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person,” Lansbury said, the Washington Post reports. “So I’m sorry that they have to use the title Murder, She Wrote, even though they have access to it and it’s their right.”
Octavia Spencer is set to play God in The Shack, which is slated for release this November. She also recently filmed Marc Webb’s Gifted opposite Chris Evans.
[Image courtesy Matt Sayles/Invision/AP]