LOS ANGELES -- After 15 years as "a rank-and-file actor," Octavia Spencer is stepping into Hollywood's gilded spotlight.
The 39-year-old actress was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe for her turn as sassy maid Minny Jackson in "The Help." Her co-stars Viola Davis and Jessica Chastain also earned acting nods from both groups, and the film is up for best picture at the Globes and best ensemble at the SAG Awards.
"The only word I can really use to describe this feeling is overwhelming," she said. "It is overwhelming and wonderful."
Though Spencer said she tried not to "invest emotionally" in Hollywood's awards process because "I just didn't want anything to diminish what we've all been able to accomplish," she was moved to tears by the SAG and Globes recognition.
"No matter what happens, the fact that we've had some stardust rain down on us over the past couple of days, it's just, it's pretty..." she paused, collected herself, "overwhelming."
She lauded director and screenwriter Tate Taylor, her longtime friend, and the cast mates she now considers family, including Davis.
"I'm thrilled for Viola," she said. "I consider myself a rank-and-file actor who's been kicking the can around for 15 years. Viola is a trained Juilliard actress who has been doing stage and now the world is getting to see what she can do... I'm glad that she's having her moment and she deserves this moment."
Spencer's "kicking the can" has included numerous appearances in such TV series as "Ugly Betty," "Big Bang Theory," "CSI," "Just Shoot Me!" "Chicago Hope" and "The X-Files," and in the feature films "What Planet Are You From?" "Halloween II" and "The Sky is Falling." Upcoming features include "Lost on Purpose," "Smashed," "The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife" and "Girls! Girls! Girls!"
But "The Help" is by far her highest-profile project to date – and the result of love and perseverance, Spencer said, noting the novel was rejected 60 times before it became a best-seller.
Taylor was lifelong friends with author Kathryn Stockett and got the rights to the book before it was published, but with only one feature film to his credit, most studios refused to work with him.
Finally, producer Chris Columbus signed on, then DreamWorks. "The Help" was a hit when it was released over the summer and has been showered with honors ever since.
Spencer wishes she could share the success with all of her acting colleagues.
"I wish this for all of my fellow actors, rank-and-file actors who have been kicking it around as long as I have," she said. "I hope that I am a beacon of hope for them, because really and truly, they know what it's like to have constant rejection and to have hope, so hopefully I will represent that for them."