The 52-year-old actress, known for movies like “The Help” and “Hidden Figures,” talked about experiencing what she called racist behavior upon moving to L.A. during a recent interview for the podcast “WTF with Marc Maron.”
Spencer also said she had positive recollections of her childhood growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, which Maron found surprising.
“It’s a beautiful place and beautiful people. You know, I love being from there,” the actress said.
“But it’s like, it’s heavy, man. Right?” Maron replied.
“I think everywhere is heavy. Everywhere has its history. You know what I mean? It’s … I think everywhere has problems,” Spencer said. “You can’t deny that southern history is intense,” she continued, before saying that her experience in Alabama happened during a less racist time.
“Well, what’s beautiful for me is that stuff preceded me. You know, I was a child of the ’70s … You know, as you grow older and the things that you can remember. That wasn’t a part of my history. I learned about it. It’s not everything … anything that I experienced.”
“My mother definitely, you know, taught us about the world and the realities, the harsh realities of the world and history,” the “Self Made” star continued. “But growing up in Alabama, I’m going to be honest, I felt more racism when I first moved [to Los Angeles] than I ever, ever had in Alabama.”
Spencer said she expected Los Angeles to be progressive. She recalled thinking, “Oh, California is gonna be this free and liberal thinking place,” but claimed she was singled out while shopping in a store.
“It is so funny. It’s right out of ‘Pretty Woman,’” she said of the experience. “I remember going into a shop and being followed, like, at first, I didn’t even — I was just, like, so excited, like just walking around, and then I realized that I was being followed.”
She continued, “It was kind of strange in that way,” saying the incident was “glaringly obvious,” but that she doesn’t believe she’s been discriminated against since then.
Spencer made her film debut appearing in the film adaptation of “A Time to Kill” in 1996. She went on to appear in small roles for several years before her breakout role in “The Help,” which earned her several awards including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2012.