Despite her adorable Betty Boop face, Octavia Spencer is versatile and talented enough to play some tough and complex characters. She’s nominated this year as Best Supporting Actress for her role as a very put-upon sign-language translator in The Shape of Water; she was nominated as a no-nonsense scientist in Hidden Figures, and she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as the wise but wary Minnie Jackson in The Help. All these roles were in period pieces, showcasing the plight of black women in mid-century America, but Spencer has appeared in vehicles as varied as Big Momma’s House, Bad Santa, Dinner for Schmucks, and an hilarious turn as Harriet Tubman on TV’s Drunk History. “You can’t rest on your laurels,” says Spencer, “because if you go in there and stink up the room, they go, ‘They gave thaone an Oscar?’”—Eve Golden

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