Octavia Spencer Says Winning the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement Is a 'Full Circle Moment' (Exclusive)

The 'Hidden Figures' actress received the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts at the 2024 Pell Awards Gala

<p>Jesse Grant/Variety via Getty</p> Octavia Spencer

Jesse Grant/Variety via Getty

Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer has a personal connection to the Pell Awards.

On Monday, June 10, the Hidden Figures actress received the Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts at the 2024 Pell Awards Gala held in Providence, RI.

The event was established in 1997 to honor artists whose careers "exemplify the values of Senator Claiborne Pell, one of the principal founders of the National Endowment for the Arts," according to Trinity Rep’s website.

Spencer was honored alongside painter Bob Dilworth, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson and philanthropist Charles M. "Chuck" Royce.

The actress tells PEOPLE that her award represents a "full circle" moment because she had received funding from the former senator’s National Endowments for the Arts as a child.

Vera Anderson/WireImage Octavia Spencer
Vera Anderson/WireImage Octavia Spencer

"I just think that the National Endowment for the Arts was very pivotal in my life,” she says on the red carpet. “It was integral to who I am. I was a burgeoning artist and I would not have had access to those resources had it not been for the endowment, so it was important to me.”

She continues, "It’s a full-circle moment. It wasn’t anything I had thought about until I put Senator [Claiborne] Pell and this award ceremony together. I definitely am a beneficiary of his life’s work."

Spencer went on to reflect on the people who have supported her throughout her career.

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"I had a lot of wonderful educators who were there as guides. All creative people, all who nurtured my curiosity and my ambitions as a young child," she says. "So, I owe a lot to a lot of people. I don’t think any person gets there alone. It’s a community of people and I’m thrilled I’ve had an amazing community."

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Teasing her latest project, she says she’s currently starring in an untitled action drama-comedy for Amazon with Hannah Waddingham.

"She is an assassin and we’ve been friends for 20 years and I learn about that … I am an attorney. It follows the shenanigans of unraveling who she is and why she chose that profession," the actress shares.

According to Variety, the series was announced in December 2023 and is based on an original idea by executive producer Tessa Coates. The show is said to contain eight episodes.

Spencer has starred in several movies and television shows throughout her career include The Help, which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Hidden Figures, Ma, and the Apple TV+ drama series Truth Be Told.

In April, Spencer opened up about choosing the projects she takes on with her production company Orit Entertainment, launched in 2019.

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“We like to read and develop things that resonate with everyone, but that there's always a little bit of light or hope at the end of it," Spencer said at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. "I want to be fascinated. I am John Q. Public. If I'm sitting down to give anything my time, I want it to either educate me in some way, give me a little bit of escapism, teach me something or entertain me until no end, and hopefully bring some light into the world."

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